Call me Mr Have-a-Chat.

I’ve discovered that despite a generally solitary disposition I don’t mind talking to the odd female hut warden, in this case Alana, otherwise a resident in Karamea. But eventually I was striding off for the three hour downhill.

Except progress can be further limited when you stop to talk to another park ranger, this time from the Golden Bay side intent on the new track works and Perry Saddle Hut, and cover a range of topics: the three 1080, ie, poison for the possums, drops in the last 12 years, another planned for next year, various birds have been monitored both before and after this event and have had major fledgling success in the following year; and, the topic I’ve been canvassing in my travels, the winter mountain bike experiment of the Heaphy.

The verdict from DOC staff was generally positive. Bikers can only come in winter months when there were few foot sloggers on the trail.

Bikers are different. They leave the huts in a mess even if they don’t stay in them, muck from shoes and general detritus from their adventure. They are perhaps more interested in the A to B style travel, not specifically concerned with the terrain traversed, that smeers past in a blur, cycle computers on, times noted and perhaps compared, not that all cyclists are necessarily fully competitively minded. On the other hand the number of walkers are in decline and for much of the year the average age is approaching retirement time. The number of mountain bikers is smaller but increasing and they are generally in the 30 to 50 age group who otherwise seem to find other occupations for their time if New Zealanders, screen interfaces perhaps. The three year trial is over, seems the season will continue permanently and be extended. This section down to the Lewis Hut is the better than average fun bit, all downhill, no doubt at a rate of knots, and a major adrenaline rush.

For those on foot the adrenaline is not as flowing although once across the Heaphy River on that newish suspension bridge there is one of the biggest surprises of the trip when the first immense rimu comes into view. A magnificent specimen, around 4 m in diameter, maybe 600 years old, or more. Then you are on a flat run through rata and nikau forest, more huge rata, one standing shaky on top of a large limestone rock. Then a cave with a stream flowing from it.

Yeah, all in all my favourite section.

Meanwhile the team I have been spending my evenings with, you jump to the next place of accommodation with the same group each day, have set up camp in this five star new Heaphy Hut and being resourceful, or at least well connected, New Zealanders treat everyone to an entree of whitebait followed by some venison steak all cooked to perfection.

Good conversation, plenty of laughter, just another day on the track.

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