That question does come up with a long walk. Most huts have a large aluminium bowl for that purpose, and washing socks, and I carry a flannel for dealing with essential areas.

Today I went one step further and had a bath. Actually swim. And that’s because of the Penk River.

Many hunters, actually only a few, are choppered into the hut where there is a landing pad scratched out.

There is a reason why few people visit Penk Hut. I discovered there is no track, you just follow the river. Or follow yesterday’s route.

That works well for those who don’t mind getting feet wet. The flows in summer are easy enough to negotiate. There is evidence there can be considerable depth after rain however.

Despite the rain of Boxing Day, now more than 48-hours before, the hills are sufficiently steep to shed water efficiently.

It took me a while to realise the river was the route as the first few hundred metres are on a trail. Fortunately I have plenty of rock hopping experience, and today I added to it, for more than five hours. Certainly helps if you concentrate. Other than the numerous river crossings it was surprisingly easy. I expected gorges/waterfalls to get around.

There were only a couple of tricky places.

In a narrow gorge there was a big rock in the middle. On one side the water was a cataract. On the other a pool 2 m deep. I wrapped everything in their plastic bags, and my pack also has a polythene pack liner for just such eventualities, although sealing out any rain is the far more common occurrence.

That done I flung my still lumpy pack into the water, and jumped in after it.

My pack floated, my armpits received a much more extensive rinse than my usual ablutions. My pack seemed much heavier, and in the wind I had little option but to load up once more and keep marching on. My waterproofing seemed to work.

Later another obstacle was encountered. A 3 m drop with no footholds. Fortunately someone had lashed a rope to assist my descent.

After I had negotiated most of the way down the river a huge slip made an appearance and there were several hundred metres of boulder hopping over sharp rocks with plenty to contemplate hanging above, and also stacked up trees at the bottom to get through/around.

A real Boys Own little adventure.

Along the way I had some close encounters with more deer. The first was a few days deceased, but did not appear shot. It looked as if it had fallen from a nearby cliff. Midway down I watched the solitary deer for a while. They don’t seem to notice you if you stand completely still, and they don’t have a whiff of your scent due to the prevailing breeze.

Then a group of four deer crossed the river in front of me. They were very red, red deer.

Also a few goats, about 10 but I don’t bother counting them anymore. They are more curious than deer and you can approach closer. Then they take off up perilous places and quickly recede from view.

Eventually I hit the Awatere River that was not running clear after the recent rain. Over knee deep, and about as deep as I really want to cross when it’s running with that force.

Suddenly I was on a paved section of the Molesworth Road. My thoughts were just to cross the road and follow another farm track that heads up the hill on the way to the Clarence River right there. Also there was a house, but I avoided that and started along a steep track up past a pine plantation.

At the top I encountered the station manager coming back from bee duty. The permission thing was raised, not by me, and my explanation of the difficulties determining whose land it was sounded ridiculously lame. In the end we sorted things out. It is obviously better to have land crossing permission worked out before you arrive. I was given some advice about how to get into Clarence because there was a short missing section of linking track.

He told me a little of his experiences of taking horses on the same route to mine just before the Kaikoura earthquake. He didn’t sound as if it was any big deal. Or maybe he was just your average laconic rural New Zealand bloke where any obstacles are resourcefully overcome. Later I realised that the second explanation was more likely.

He asked that I didn’t use the next hut, 13 km away at that point. It was after 5 pm and I couldn’t see me getting there.

In the end I managed 20 km total for the day, mostly squiggling my way down the Penk. And had my bath.

I still need to cross the Clarence River in a few days.

Back on more farm roads tomorrow.


Well, you can have sufficient of the alternative.

I ended up camping adjacent to a stream, under a mature spreading willow to avoid dew in the morning.

A beautiful evening. Nice.

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