Lake Matiri has a fair scattering of swans, I can recognise those, even went up ended, paradise ducks, ditto, although they don’t do the foraging underwater in the same way, and various unidentified brown ducks, it takes a dedicated ornithologist to correctly identify those specific species.

The early morning view from the hut was very fine, straight up the valley, across the lake and said birds. A few squawks from the paradise ducks which always like to make their presence felt.

I was thinking an early start would be an idea, but there’s thoughts, and then there’s actions.

It was easy packing up: not much left in the way of food.

I hadn’t realised it was marked as three hours down to the two wheel drive carpark where the gravel track became what might be called road as popularly defined.

The first bit was okay, a bulldozer had pushed a farm track through more than 50 years ago and other than a few washouts, one which required plenty of rock hopping, the trail through the forest was excellent, and best of all, mostly level.

Once I burst out of the forest, into unkempt grassland, no longer grazed being still in Kahurangi National Park, oh, those blackberries and it’s late summer and they are ripe, well, here and there.

Once I got out onto the four-wheel-drive track, that’s after crossing the sometimes gnarly west branch of the Matiri River, today I just danced my way on some granite boulders which had suddenly appeared, the blackberries were in full sun and in profusion. I stopped every little while to feast, wondering if I was starting to look vampire-esque, black juice dripping from my mouth like blood.

From the car park it was just stride out on a gravel road in the hot sun. 19 km after leaving the hut I was picked up by the milk tanker who took me the last 8 km to the highway, and within minutes I had been picked up by young Israeli couple for the short ride into Murchison.

Yup, my 12 days from Nelson was over.

Let the eating of fresh food, and pizza, commence.

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