After a stressful few hours heading south from Christchurch, driving through heavy rain and manic traffic, I stopped in Oamaru for the night.

I had time in the evening to sort out my food for the following two weeks. Buying cheese and chopping it up. Weighing out my daily rations of nuts. Finding some fresher de-hy for dinner.

Turning off at Palmerston, I had lunch in Middlemarch.

Then it was retracing my route up the valley for a few kilometres to the bottom of the Rock and Pillar Range climb.

It’s a reasonably steep and continuous 1000 m clamber up the east face through some tussock with increasing views of the Strath Taeri Plain.

Middlemarch remained in view, so there was little sense of remoteness. Once I was towards the top, it became otherworldly, with a few schist tors dotted over the landscape. Apparently, they are around 3 million years old, but to be honest, the more critical issue was that some small schist lumps proved helpful in stopping to look at the view and gain some respite from energy expenditure.

The day was cloudless, what I’d expected from Central Otago, but with a haze that precluded visibility to the horizon.

I had no particular expectations of the hut as the online information was unclear, but even so, I had a surprise.

Big Hut is an old ski lodge built in 1946 and has passed to a trust who are restoring it, with a particularly big effort made in 2006 when it was re-clad with corrugated steel.

It has a large drying room, a large kitchen, two bunk rooms for 48 people, and a vast social room where the ping pong table doesn’t look out of scale.

Its heyday was only a few years when the ease of access to the Coronet Peak ski field, where you drive up rather than having to carry your skis, food, and gear a 1000 m up the steep hill.

I missed a couple coming down, and also a day tripper who stuck to the official track through the lumpy tussock, as I was well over on a vehicle track that proved smoother going.

I had the huge establishment to myself.

Day 2 | Kyeburn Diggings DOC campsite →