Early to rise, still just first light.

Well, I had been to bed early, must have been tired last night from long-distance road walking. It’s lugging the heavy pack, I think. I find the firm DOC mattresses, foam covered in plastic, perfect for sleep, no complaints there.

Other than food, tent and sleeping mat I’m travelling reasonably light, and that food load will be diminishing each day.

I look out the window of Forbes Hut, as it has recently been renamed to celebrate a DOC staff member who used to work in the area, to check on my swallows, there are a couple of nests under the veranda, and notice a dozen rabbits bounding around, and then my second feral cat of the trip, not quite full-sized, tabby, well camouflaged. Maybe it can’t tackle a bunny yet, like your average feral cat can, even though the two species are a similar size.

There is some sunlight on the very tops of the hills upstream, it looks like it will be a perfect walking day. Time to pack up.

Rabbits still on full alert.

Just as I was about to leave three fencers turned up to do some work. We chatted a bit, they are sick of the continuing earthquakes. And hadn’t noticed Warden Hut, even when I described the two huts in close proximity, immediately adjacent to the road in. You tend to notice more when you are walking.

So after that delay I was off, down to the Clarence for the first of my three leg rinses. The water was surprisingly warm and over my thighs.

Another two crossings were also over a gravel bottom. My undies didn’t get a wash.

What’s that? Horse footprints. I was going to follow an occasional horse shoe print all day. Seems horse trekking is a thing around the Clarence, mostly by the station hands having a few days off.

Then it was into a hill climb to a low saddle, the start of a DOC track, well marked, having been cut up through the sweet briar and matagouri after which it disappeared. That scrub would be impossible to scratch your way through without a track, it’s particularly dense, and I might add has plenty of nasty spikes.

Once down into Elliott Creek there was surprisingly easy going, despite the lack of a DOC style track. Cattle tracks were fairly obvious for the rest of the day, at least till the start of Lake McRae.

I had some trouble finding Elliott Biv, a compact garden shed with a couple of bunks with mattresses in it. Time for some lunch.

Later, back on those cattle tracks in a wide valley that became steeper as I went up. At a marshy bit below the final short climb to the lake I encountered my fifth pig for the day, having a rub in the tiny stream. I got to within 20 m of it before it took off for the hills at a rapid trot.

Too many goats spotted to keep count, over 30. And that’s despite the numbers shot by hunters/cullers. They were getting 50 a day according to the Elliott hut book. Not many deer around due to the lack of cover.

Lake McRae was surrounded by willows, and covered with a few hundred Canada geese, which promptly paddled the kilometre to the other end of the lake. Later they paddled back.

Following instructions from the farm hand I stayed on the north side of the lake. I could see large swathes of gravel beach further along, and all the way on the southern side. Soon I came to major earthquake damage, deep furrows in the ground, the matagouri falling into the lake. I persisted for some reason and had about 500 m of serious bush bashing, well, if you consider the super prickly matagouri/sweet briar as “bush”.

Eventually, my bark well scratched up, I emerged and it was easy going from there. It appears the shore has dropped about 2 m into the lake, so I would suggest the south side to others.

Hah, those matagouri punctures will eventually stop itching.

No water at the hut so I wandered 200 m downstream to find something flowing.

The hut has been fully renovated, double glazed and insulated, and kept the afternoon heat well into the evening. Very comfortable once again.

Robinson Saddle, 1420 m, tomorrow and down Robinson Stream to Molesworth.

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