After Collingwood, where the other passenger got off at Excellent Road, there was only the solitary passenger, ie, me, and the driver Colin.

We chatted merrily about everything Golden Bay: the work on the access road up to the start of the Heaphy Track, two bridges are going in over a couple of troublesome creeks, I heard stories of various people either getting cars stuck expensively midstream or, foolishly, wading through the flooded water; the economies of taking a lone passenger, keeps competitors out, gives our driver a job, the flat rate, $33, hardly going to pay the diesel let alone his wages, well, it all evens out with the full bus loads imminent, ie, once the season gets into full swing; the various Europeans spending their southern summer up remote valleys, like that place there; the unusually located country store, ie, as far away from paying customers and passing trade as is possible, run for many years by a woman, now her great niece; he even offered relationship advice, women are like a bus, there will be another one along soon enough.

The mystery of the two competitor’s shuttle buses we passed in Takaka was resolved, two guided groups were preparing to leave, each a couple with their guide.

There’s less people than the seriously infested Abel Tasman that being slightly more rugged not so many walk the Heaphy, after all this first day is one unceasing four or five hour trudge up an incline to the highest point of the track.

Once I was going I could hear, err, voices, actually considerable mirth early on in the day, a group was behind me, having way too much fun.

As proved common over the next few nights there was also much merriment in the hut, all were congregating in five star luxury in the brand new Perry Saddle Hut, three bedrooms, double glazed, obviously. The two guided parties provided six bodies. Another group of four, the cheerful lot, staggered in. Another camper, 18 years old but looking younger. And me, making 12 people in all, and, perhaps surprisingly only one foreigner.

I peeled off to my tent after 10 pm but the banter was continuing.

Day 2 | James McKay campsite: what's the deal, that wasn't the weather forecast →