Sheep country?

No. Bees.

Yes. Bees.

I wasn’t up so early for me. I’d had a reasonably early night and just eaten some dry food, that didn’t require cooking. And crashed out early. The rushing around, off to Tauranga to visit my father, general preparation for a few months off had taken its toll. The heat. The weight of my pack.

My tent site wasn’t quite level but my body was exhausted enough to just conk out.

I waited a while for the dog walkers to head off prior to whacking my tent up. In the morning the tent had plenty of condensation inside as is common for small tents.

I’d better state at this point that there is little official DOC track through my intended route. I’m relying on obscure and deserted farm tracks for the most part, and I need to make my way past the farmhouses somehow. At a last resort I could go and ask.

Once off the road, away from people, there shouldn’t be much of an issue.

3 km to the start of my initial climb along the road, and then it was a cross-country, straight up 200 m in elevation. That was a heart starter. Then I hit an old bulldozer track that meandered through a shady pine forest. If that was the standard of the track on average my trip was shaping up well. Beyond that the hills were covered in manuka in full bloom, and the bees were busy judging from the activity around the hives.

Much of the day was simply plodding along the bulldozed track that had been kept clear for the bee servicing vehicles.

Water was flowing in Dog Stream, so no shortage there. With rain forecast for the afternoon and carrying a damp tent I thought it better to head for a hut.

It was a hot slog up to where I dropped down into Branch River. A whole lot of elevation lost very quickly. Excellent campsites at the bottom, but I forged ahead. I had one last steep climb then drop down to the hut.

What a surprise!!

It was an old cob hut, ie, made from mud, that had been recently restored, ie, in the last 20 years. A clean concrete floor in new bunks complete with DOC-style mattresses, despite not being a DOC hut. Fully furnished as well with an old Formica table and a comfortable chair with arms.

Considering it was after 5 pm, well, home sweet home.

With almost 1000 m climbed during the day, and 19 km trudged out, that bunk was appreciated.

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