Easier today. Cracking out the last of the four-wheel-drive track.

Sat around drinking coffee for a while, waiting for the sun to come over the hill, I guess. Maybe after yesterday and two days climbing with a well laden pack I needed a decent rest.

A few creek crossings as I made my way down to Black Spur Historic Hut, which is a pre-1920s slab hut with a more recent rough concrete floor. This time there was running water nearby and two rather lazy hares, and cattle mooching under the mature Lombardy poplars.

The hut still had some clay in places sealing the gaps between the slabs, slim saplings had been nailed over the gap and clay applied. Originally it had a thatched roof but it is now corrugated iron in the old eight-foot length sheets. Those steel sheets would have taken some getting in back in the day by a packhorse.

Once again, like Tent Poles Hut I had seen the day before, it had accommodated ten cramped bunks, but now it was just four, none with mattresses.

Then it was plodding off to Quail Flat which was the site for the original cob station cottage from the 1860s. The cottage had been damaged in the earthquake, but the sleeping/shower quarters, also built from cob, ie, mud, was seriously damaged and will be demolished I guess.

I ran into the farm worker who was coming in on a Monday morning. He usually drives the dozer, but it had taken something bigger to clear the road after the earthquake. He told me that they had cleaned it up in six days, just before Christmas, so it wouldn’t have been passable if I’d come through as originally planned. Some 100 ton rocks needed to be broken up with explosives to get them into sizes that could be moved.

He said a few things: a track has been cut by DOC to Lake McRae; you cross the Clarence three times to get there, but I had guessed as much; the Muzzle pastoral lease, ie, here, is a thirty-year non-renewable grazing lease, and most of the time is only farmed for the six warmer months of the year, it was probably the 1940s when Quail Flat was continuously occupied; oh, the road in was created in 1968, prior to that it was a narrower pack track, although it can be sort of accessed up the Clarence Valley; introduced broom is a big issue, but there is an insect that is knocking it back elsewhere; the sweet briar, very compact, with rose type thorns, was originally base stock for flowering roses, but went wild, now a serious weed, and was already noticed as an issue in the 1860s; the calici virus has dealt to the rabbits bigtime, which is why I haven’t seen any, once the whole hillsides moved. I learn that they used to grow carrots here to use with airdropped poison.

We agreed that the small plantation of Douglas fir I walked through yesterday will become a major issue in years to come. I predicted all Marlborough will be covered in conifers in 100 years time due to them being prolific seeders, with excellent dispersal, and able to grow to 1400 m, unlike endemic New Zealand tree species. Douglas fir can outcompete manuka. Agreement there.

Then it was a warm 3 km plod around to this hut, again on a fine four-wheel-drive track.

No one had been to the hut since 10 days before the earthquake, now around two months ago. Seems even the kayakers/rafters who were here last year at this time are not back again.

Earthquake, s’pose.

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