We sat around an outside bonfire last night.

The boys, being mostly locals, were aware that the timber from rata, even when wet, made the best embers. They prepared a post-dinner snack, while insisting that as darkness encroached that the voracious sandflies would go to bed. The fare was a type of pre-processed, pre-cooked sausage that I had previously been aware in a plastic bag on the supermarket shelves, but had not actually sampled. We knew when they were heated sufficiently on the end of sticks when a white goo, termed cheese apparently, started to ooze from the casing.

My contribution was the suggestion of warming over the embers rather than the smoky flame. It was a jovial gathering.

Yes, three were locals, two brothers, the oldest 17, and an older guy from Ohio, USA, early 20s, who had led a short prayer prior to them getting stuck into a huge amount of pasta, which proved difficult for them to eat due to the failure of them bring any eating utensils other than large knives.

Once dark the two more robust members took their crossbows downstream to kill a deer, all of which had no doubt left the district due to the racket, and the quantity of smoke drifting down the valley in the direction they had headed.

After a few pleasantries I listened to a long monologue from the older guy on the subject of Jesus, and God’s Perfect Plan.

Then I was given an unfiltered outline of why the government should keep out of ordinary people’s lives, and let private enterprise do their thing.

I didn’t interrupt his certainties by pointing out it was the New Zealand government which was providing the night’s more than adequate accommodation. The new Cedar Flats Hut was fully insulated, double glazed, running water from the water tanks. Saw and axe provided. An extremely unprofitable operation.

He went on about unworthy welfare recipients which finally caused me to point out that the US military budget dwarfed any concerns about a small proportion of any un-needy receiving assistance. His self-proclaimed compassion did not extend that far.

The subject then switched to the evils of Islam. I maintained low tones and eventually he tired and asked me whether I believed in Good and Evil.

My response: I had travelled the world and generally found that most people in whatever country are entirely decent, and that no, I didn’t look at the world in such Black and White terms. There is good and less good parts in all of us, and it’s up to each of us to encourage the good parts to shine, and control the less good aspects of ourselves, when it has an effect on other people. We shouldn’t need a stick, ie, eternal damnation and the threat of eternity in Hell to come to that conclusion. I didn’t mention that last bit.

The hunters returned with a juvenile possum which was considered for a while to be kept as a pet, but when it scratched someone the sad marsupial was quickly dispatched by breaking its neck, and they decided to roast it to find out what cooked possum tasted like. I shuffled off to bed.

If I was younger I would have been more confrontational with the American, suggesting he was missing an opportunity by arriving in a new country with a closed mind, not prepared to listen to a different view of the world. Isn’t that why you travel?

So much certainty in one so young. Or maybe I’ve just become less certain as I have become older.

It’s pretty clear to me that his Us and Them mentality has not been a success.

Maybe I should have mentioned to him the tramper who was airlifted out from Top Toaroha Hut earlier in the year after her shoulder dislocation. She was using government built huts on a DOC maintained track, and her rescue cost her exactly nothing. There are on average about three such rescues a day across New Zealand, about half at sea, and we do this because we want people to have amazing experiences, and we care about them if they get into trouble. We hope than they will use the emergency button if required, rather than die because of the worry of a $100k rescue and hospital bill.

That’s the world I want to live in, not an everybody-for-themselves approach where profit is the only motivation.

Then again, I’m a full beneficiary of New Zealand’s status quo, with my annual hut pass. I can stay here in many backcountry huts for no further payment, and in any case use the tracks for nothing.

I’m having a rest day today, it’s cloudy, the guys have gone. The hut weka is picking over any remnants from the previous night.

Shave day, huh? Ouch!!

And to find the second blue duck/whio that I was told was around. I only saw one near the swingbridge.

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A guide to the night’s accommodation: Cedar Flats Historic Hut

The old 1958 hut stands out . | Cedar Flats Historic Hut, Toaroha River, West Coast
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The historic hut is right next to the much bigger and light filled “new hut”: Cedar Flats Hut

The original hut was majorly extended recently, and totally upgraded. | Cedar Flats Hut, Toaroha River, West Coast
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