Yesterday’s vigorous exercise was just the prelude to today’s, possibly one of the more energetic days of tramping since I’ve returned to New Zealand.

There’s a few legends about the track between Olivine and Big Bay Huts that various people have outlined in the hut books: three hours walking in the dark, or, 15 hours on the move, or having to bivvy at Lake Wilmot with no tent in the pouring rain, or just camping at the Pike River crossing.

The DOC literature says 9 to 10 hours from Olivine Hutt to the Pike River crossing then another 3 to 5 hours to Big Bay Hut, ie, 9 to 14 hours overall. With my usual rate of travel well beyond those DOC stated times, mostly due to excessive investigation of extraneous bits and pieces along the way, I was nervous about any late evening bush bashing, or having to spend the night under the stars without a tent.

Paranoia can serve to focus attention on making progress a priority, and that meant a day of concentrating on making tracks for once.

So, the alarm went off early and although daylight saving time has been in operation for a few days I’ve decided to retain the old time to avoid confusing myself, I knew I should be going shortly after 6am and indeed I was wading through the knee deep Olivine River, rather than wasting time with the high-level cage, hand cranked, that can be used in flood conditions.

The track, at least to Lake Wilmot was surprisingly well marked and followed, it had been re-marked in February, the forest areas were easy, also some easy flats, the most difficult route finding was through the toi toi and flax which was thick with deer trails, my poor ungloved hands taking a beating with cuts and scratches.

At Lake Wilmot a large windfall suggested taking to the lake to circumvent, but unlike yesterday a slip had caused softness to the substrate, I quickly disappeared to crutch level in the ooze, not so easy to manoeuvre to terra firma.

The bivvy was somewhat of a misnomer, just a rock cliff with a minor overhand near ground level, barely discernible, at one stage I had contemplated staying there for a night to break the trip, but being barely morning tea, another outrageously pleasant walking day, truly not a cloud to the hills despite the forecast for rain, what was the point.

After the lake the track was considerably harder to follow, eventually I took to the river shingle for a kilometre or two, then after a forest section once again, nice to have views of the surrounding mountains after the confines of the forest. Eventually it proved to just as fast to hack through the toi toi. Then there were some grassy areas, an aeroplane landing strip, for the more adventurous pilot, rather lumpy landings with clumps of tussock here and there, no airport terminal visible and suddenly, there was the Pyke River crossing, and the usual campsite on the north side of the river. So far it had taken only 7½ hours including stops and with the track across to Big Bay both easy to follow, an old quad bike track, and easy to walk any concern of making the hut before dark disappeared. Actually there was more than two hours to spare.

Just the tidal Awarua River to ford, the underwear needing that rinse by Day 4, and the hut just a short walk down the beach. In the end I was there in less than 11 hours including a decent lunch stop and a few short breaks along the way. I guess one of the timesavers was to have the confidence to plough on despite not always seeing the next marker. That was an issue at the crossing of the Barrier River where changes to the watercourse had removed some important markers but the large orange triangle, the forest edge marker, was obvious, at least using a mixture of guesswork and my GPS. Then followed a relatively in the open area between Lake Wilmot and the Pyke River crossing, those stretches predominately toi toi, flax and manuka scrub.

The major investment by DOC in markers through the forest, and re-cutting the track where the river had encroached definitely saved a great deal of frustration trying to find the way. Actually there were very little windfall of consequence to impede your average determined tramper.

Still 35 km was a pretty good day in the office, particularly since I’m still carrying a fullish pack, 10 days food, I kinda had initially anticipated on coming over this track from the opposite direction.

No rain for two weeks, with the rivers as low as they go, certainly assisted speedy progress. Clearly it was good to do the easiest section last, no track finding requirement when tired, just plodding on.

Yes, I will certainly sleep well tonight.

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