At Rocks Hut and the old Mt Fell site I started writing the day’s blog post before getting underway. Before leaving I confidently wrote Roebuck and Richmond Saddle Huts as appropriate as my destination. Plenty of time to get there.

When I left Roebuck I knew it was going to be a huge day. Today was the same. 36 km to Lake Chalice Hut with 950 m climbing to a saddle. I didn’t factor in an additional 250 m climbing shortly after leaving Richmond Saddle Hut.

I had slept in my tent despite there being only two occupants in the eight bunk Richmond Saddle Hut.

Ready for a quick start. I was the first to leave after a quick pat of the second large dog for this trip, a German Shorthaired Pointer. Somehow I had missed reacquainting myself with the original beast as I sat around waiting for my tent to dry.

The forest had a remarkable light in the early morning shadow of Mt Richmond. I didn’t do too badly with progress but stopped for a few photos and to contemplate things.

Halfway down the descent, it’s a nominal 900 m drop to the river crossing, I ran into a quiet but enthusiastic American young guy, who had spent the last three months tramping around the South Island and Stewart Island/Rakiura. We had a 20 minute chat. He was wondering if he could make Middy Creek Hut.

That’s a big ask. He was going to give it a go if you made it to the Mt Fell turnoff by 2 pm. Such is youth. He was on his sixth day of a circuit of Mt Richmond Forest Park, having left the day before me. Planning to be back in Nelson tomorrow however he did today.

In the end it was four hours down to the river. By the time I had lunch it was 1 pm. Now for the 950 m climb. The afternoon was just plodding up the decent four-wheel-drive road. I listened to some cricket on my little radio, then reception disappeared so switched to a podcast or two. Did it help that I knew it was a 18 km grind up to the Lake Chalice car park, ie, around six hours? Then an hour down to the actual hut.

Just one foot in front of the other.

I found I could close my eyes for 20 or 30 seconds at a time as the surface was so smooth. I was greatly tired.

Then I heard a noise. A four-wheel-drive was coming. Oh, down as would be expected on Easter Monday mid-afternoon.

More plodding.

Another noise.

This time a honking great four-wheel-drive was going up. I tried to hitch a ride but just made out a grim faced, bearded bloke as it thundered past. Room for six people but he wasn’t going to stop. I should note here that in my tramping travels I’ve been recently picked up by a couple in a two-door car, and by three people in a small four-door, both with plenty of luggage. Huge four-wheel-drives usually just plough on.

People have their problems and aren’t so keen on getting out of their bubble.

For once, knowing I still had another 700 m to climb on a long and tedious road, I discovered I was verging on being upset. But it didn’t last long. I didn’t expect transport up the hill.

And I didn’t get it.

I came down this road a few years before and know exactly what to expect. Basically a whole lot of nothing. Then again I rode my bike around Australia for a few years in similarly seemingly uninspiring situations. I can cope with this.

I plug in my iPod and put last year’s most played album on repeat: The War on Drugs’ A Deeper Understanding. “There’s a rhythm in the way that we’ve been moving . . .” that suits my pace. Thinking of a Place.

What’s the problem? I looked at the time. Well, I wouldn’t get to the hut so I would be making use of my tent for the third time of my five nights to date. I kept on trudging, but as it neared darkness I kept looking out for a). water, and, b). a flat spot where I could get my tent pegs into the ground.

I filled one water bottle and eventually found a grassy bank that was almost flat.

Looked like it would be my daily ration of nuts, and some cheese for dinner. A muesli bar for dessert.

It was surprisingly comfortable, and I was bone tired. I must have gone to sleep shortly after hearing a pig grunting away nearby. Maybe it was feeling the effects of hill climbing as well.

Must have conked out around 7 pm.

When I checked my GPS in the morning I found I had come a smidgen under 30 km and climbed more than 1000 m. No wonder I fell asleep quickly.

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