Let’s start again.

Back down the last of the hill crosscountry-style after packing up a stonking wet tent, due to overnight rain.

Comfortable enough in my little Coffin, but I’m now in a 12 mattress DOC hut, tent drying out. Feeling seriously tired, it was an 18 km walk, well, once I came down the last section of wrong hill and arrived at the start of the actual track.

I started at 9 am on my steady climb up over, first, Bushy Pass, and then Blind Pass, which proved to be not actually the top. Around 1200 m climbing involved.

There wasn’t as much damage from the earthquake as expected, at least until I was over the passes. On the Clarence River side there were a few serious spots. Car or bus-sized rocks with appropriately sized divots visible smashed into the terrain.

Near Warden Hut there are about 20 huge rocks on display with a clear path from whence they had come. None around the hut, and the landscape doesn’t look obvious where they might appear from. Add in here that during the night the hut was buffeted by strong winds gusts which simulated minor earthquakes.

About 12 pm I was woken by some crashing, smashing style thunder and then there was a huge thud that had the hut reverberating. At first I thought it might be another earthquake but realised pretty quickly that it was one of those house size boulders that had let gravity do its thing.

That made me rather thoughtful after seeing all those massive boulders in various new positions, with some giant scours from their passage.

It must have taken a while for the big bulldozer to clear the path, there has certainly been plenty of rubble relocated off the roadway. And yes, it is a roadway, albeit a single lane for much of the way. They can take cattle trucks over the passes to service the Muzzle grazing lease.

There is a locked gate not far from the Inland Highway turnoff, and you need to acquire the key from DOC for car access. Horses need a permit, and that key, but the occasional tramper has a stile to pop over the fence.

The hut book at Warden Hut, ie, where I am now, has another coast-to-coast tramper entry from last summer, that bloke heading Kaikoura to Karamea. And major hut bagger, Paul Kilgour, ticking off some of these remote lodgings.

There are a fair number of huts scattered around in the hills, but because of the lack of forest, they do not have tracks, you just bash up the rivers, I guess, or over the grassy ridges. I no longer have an interest in just getting to a hut for the sake of it, although when I mention that I had intended to visit three huts in Nelson Lakes National Park this summer: Mount Misery, a good view of Lake Rotoroa, Nardoo Bivvy, visited as a 16 year old, and Burn Creek, ditto.

After the Kaikoura Earthquake I will be assessing each night’s hut or campsite for rockfall potential, last night’s thud made me realise the consequence of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

But that’s just life.

Now I am watching swallows do some early morning formation flying. It’s a beautiful day. 9 km on a formed road to Seymour/Forbes hut.

Many would not consider this really tramping when you walk along farm roads, but to me it’s a total change from the gnarly West Coast. Easy walking, under blue skies.

It’s all concentration on the dramatic surroundings, with the smashed up landscape giving interest, rather than always wondering where to put my feet.

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