Another day, another weather pattern, ie, rain, at least until Sandfly Shelter, and with a dusting of snow up top, down to 800m.

So the last day on the Milford was wet and cold. The various groups, not all offering much in any friendliness package, vacated the hut with an eye on the clock, the 21 km allegedly taking six hours, a conservative estimate I thought early on. In fact I came in just under, although that did include a cold three quarter hour lunch stop with the usual rations, cheese and cake, along with a cup of coffee and later, a cup of soup.

I caught up with early starter Bob, and we huddled under an inadequate shelter along with two wekas.

The Arthur Valley had a few pumping waterfalls, but it was the MacKay Falls and Giant Gate, flooded streams not dropping huge distances but making up with water volume and cacophony. The forest, as expected, was dripping with moss, lichen, old man’s beard, ferns, etc, the path surprisingly chunky, mostly around the still Lake Ada, just the rustle of rain, two beanies on, gloves, mostly soaked from top to toe.

Then, despite having a ticket indicating a boat later than the others, Bob and I were called out to board the first boat, we had a connecting mini-bus, Bob back to Te Anau, me just to The Divide, can’t hold that up, maybe we had to wait ten minutes in a warm cafe, still wet boots and wet clothes on but the bus was quickly heated up, and a chatty driver insisted on a couple of stops at scenic locations. Actually I was still freezing.

Before I knew it I was turfed out at The Divide, the start of the Routeburn, and for that matter the Caples and Greenstone Tracks. I’ll be here in a week or so hitching back to civilisation, once all this camping stuff is done.

I resisted any pull that way, ie, back to Te Anau, even though Bob offered to drive me back up here tomorrow morning, maybe I thought I’d just head straight back up north after remembering what a warm bed with sheets feels like. So instead I trudged up the hill towards Key Summit, rain completed today’s efforts, dropped my pack at the turnoff and marched on up to the top, plenty of snow on display, and, luckily, blue sky. The forecast is reasonable for the next two or three days.

Once again another stupendous view, straight down the Hollyford, around to Harris Saddle on the route rout burn, over to the McKellar Saddle, plus views over to Lake Marion and Mt Christina, metres, basically the full 360°. But despite the climb, you almost reach 1000 m, a chill was sitting in, lucky Lake Lake Howden Hut is just a 15 minute trot down the hill.

I’d heard stories of large numbers of people squeezing in the Routeburn prior to the upping of the hut fee to $54, so imagine my surprise when I lobbed into an empty, cold hut, plenty of wet logs to cut up. No, I didn’t bother, after dinner lounging in the sleeping bag seemed preferable.

Overall the second big day on the trot, well, fourth really. I’m making the most of this rambling opportunity.

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