The cows made an early morning racket. They didn’t sound happy.

I am.

That is, in a state of happiness, not in racket making.

There are tales in the hut book of people walking out to the highway at 4 am, or whacking up their tent to escape them mozzies.

Thanks to the coils I had a great sleep. I was tired enough.

The piles of the bloodsuckers in the morning were astonishing. Maybe 400 had expired, and lain on the floor, plus many more on the window sills, despite the fly screens.

Warning here. Be prepared with some fly spray, or coils when visiting Coppermine Creek Hut. After all, it is South Westland.

The morning is entirely beautiful, other than the auditory blasts from outside. The forecast is for two settled days. I’m hoping to be well on my way to Gorge River by then.

Then again, there’s always some sort of surprise so tend not to anticipate excessively.

No expectations give no disappointments. That’s a motto for life.

Something great happening is then a bonus.

Anyway, I’d better pack up and scurry down to the road and start hitching. Hope I have better luck than last year’s attempts when I ended up walking about 12 km on the way in, then almost to the Cascade turnoff on a very hot day on the way out.

In the end, it was the second most extraordinary day of tramping hitching I’ve had, after my nine rides from Takaka to the end the Anatori River, the last of which was on the back of the quad bike. Yeah, down the beach on a quad bike!!

Today had its moments.

And another quad bike experience, more unlikely than my very unlikely first.

But first I had to walk to the highway. That started well, on the four-wheel-drive track, but then for some reason, I took to the DOC track that led through gorse forests, and the worst pockmarked cattle swamps, except cattle hadn’t been there while, and the grass was high and covering the major changes in level on the super lumpy landscape.

After an hour or so of horrible negotiation, I rejoined the four-wheel-drive track that would have been super easy, except for the two reasonable river crossings.

Crossing a knee-deep river?

No worries, my feet were already wet.

I’m not complaining here, just mentioning with a little irony.

I popped out onto the highway, and almost immediately picked up a ride to Haast Beach that turned out to have a decent store. So I had a coffee, some savouries, and a few treats for the next few days. Actually, with the weight of my overloaded pack I really didn’t need to add too much more.

I plonked my pack down on the side of the road to scoff my second breakfast, now after 10 am, and an ice cream deliveryman took me maybe 5 km down the road. Then I walked for an hour, and a helicopter pilot, piloting a large four-wheel drive, took me to the Cascade Road turnoff. Actually, it’s called the Jackson River Road.

I didn’t get far before being picked up by two British women going for a walk to Lake Ellery, ie, only 3 km. Then I smashed out about 8 km on the dirt road, now pretty hot. I had a couple of chats with a front end loader driver doing roadwork.

In a lifesaver ride with a Fox Glacier builder who had been to Kohaihai, near the south end of the Heaphy Track yesterday with his three girls. Today he was going to the other extent of the West Coast road, because, err, probably because it was there.

I did worry about my smell!!

They took me about 15 km to the end of the official road where a locked gate stopped them, but not me.

I had another long walk on the slowly disappearing four-wheel-drive track alongside the Cascade River.

I was just about to cross the sizeable Cascade River when another four-wheel-drive appeared, with a trailer carrying a quad bike, plus a load of other stuff. It was the landholder with his offsider, and they offered me a seat. The only one available was on the quad bike, ie, on the trailer, and I also had to hold onto my pack as there wasn’t really any decent stowage for that.

“Hang on,” he shouted. We then charged across a very bumpy, thumpy countryside. At one point we were on the crest of a 2 m drop, and then we were going down, with me performing some rodeo style actions to avoid falling off.

Then we were in the river with the water coming over the trailer sides as we fanged downstream with the current.

Yeah, at times it was like riding a bucking bronco.

Then we stopped to strain a fence as they were starting mustering tomorrow.

The track was much smoother once we got into the forest, except where it wasn’t. I avoided the low hanging branches as we swept on by.

I really had little idea how far I’ve come, maybe 8 km, or how far it was to Barn Bay. We stopped at a musterer’s hut, the trailer was unhitched. They raced off before I even had my pack off the trailer. Leaving with a grin.

Yeah, that’s one way to cover ground.

From there the track obviously doesn’t get farm use, and it’s even wilder.

I’ve camped about 5 km in the direct line from Barn Bay so should be on the coast soon after 10 am.

The first clearing had no running water, but here at Limestone Creek there is a small clearing. Hard to get pegs in, but rocks help hold the tent down.

Yeah, a lovely little stream.

Man, it’s been quite a day.

I have managed to make way more distance than I had anticipated in my itinerary.

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