Plenty of peace and tranquillity at Pell Stream Hut. I could easily have stayed another night and spent some time wandering further up the valley.

Then again I had places to be.

Instead, it was a big day. Huge.

I ended up with more than seven hours on the move, and almost 27 km. Considering a fair chunk was getting down the officially trackless Pell Stream my body was now officially tired.

I charged off down the river flats doing a cross-country rather than attempting to follow the occasional marker. There were a full assortment of marker types adorning the forest to direct my way: some official orange plastic isosceles triangles, particularly towards the road; white permolat, some with pink fluoro spray; red permolat; pink fluoro spray on its own; orange electrical tape; pink plastic tape; white plastic tape; plenty of old-fashioned blazes; even an old steel post.

Didn’t take too long to make my way down to the start of the gorge, and I chose to take to the track at that point. It was a steep climb up to a series of river terraces, then a steep drop back to the river. I took to the river for a while until I reached the benched track that started at McKenzie Creek.

I pitied the poor horses that had to trudge in with suppliers for the gold miners back in the day. I suspect few miners made wages.

It was relatively easy going in comparison with the previous day and a half where I’d been left with a severe dose of scratches on my arms, as if I’d been wrestling with a herd of cats.

The four-wheel-drive track looked a good choice for a fast amble out back to the car park at Marble Hill. Crossing the Maruia River washed some mud off, but I crossed Pell Stream about 20 times, on a few occasions just walking straight down in the water. The level was low, usually below my knees, but swift. Warm.

After an early-ish start I took about 6½ hours to get back to my car. That gave me enough time to catch up on some correspondence and eating prepared food back at Springs Junction.

I knew I had an hour or three walking to finish the day. Can’t muck around overly.

I parked at Palmer Lodge, the Deer Stalker Association’s retreat, somewhat after 4 pm and quickly got ready. A sign said one hour to the swingbridge, then two more to the hut. I should be able to crack that out.

I cranked up my pace but the swingbridge was nowhere to be seen.

Have I zipped past it?

No, eventually the bridge was sighted, and my mind was at rest. But that was significantly more than an hour, despite my enthusiasm for making tracks. I just hoped it wouldn’t take more than two hours from their. Plenty of daylight, but I was feeling tired.

Fortunately the track was easy enough, very different from the morning. There were some stretches of mud that could skip through using my experience in tree root hopping to great effect.

Suddenly, there was the toilet, and the hut behind. Certainly less than three hours, but I found once I sat down I could scarcely get my boots off.

I think I’ll sleep soundly tonight. Just hoped I had some gas remaining for cooking dinner, and more importantly, coffee in the morning.

Early start required. Christchurch awaits!!

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