A typically slow start as I explored the rock tors around the hut, and re-read all the history about the construction of Big Hut that was prominently displayed on the walls.

Eventually, I packed up and trudged the final 100 m to the four-wheel drive track along the flat ridgeline. No clouds compared to North Island’s deluge because of the remnants of Cyclone Hale.

The rock outcrops were silent sentinels in an otherwise desolate landscape. Except, suddenly, eight four-wheel drives appeared, out on safari.

Imagine that! How old-fashioned: someone walking!

At least the guys in the trailing tiny Suzuki grinned and wished me well. They had all come up the hill after a comfortable night in Middlemarch, and most seemed comfortable now, with a thermos for coffee and a few chocolate biscuits. All about my age.

To my mind, you travel too quickly in a car. You focus on your immediate surroundings and conversation about where to go for lunch, rather than spending time sitting quietly every now and again and focusing on what’s around. The world rushing past a blur.

I was going down the track they came up, built for the most part by a bulldozer back in 1958 to access Leaning Lodge, a ski club hut built at the time, and rebuilt five years ago. Unfortunately, it apparently doesn’t comply with the Building Code and is labelled “unsafe”, despite double glazing and a great design. No one in authority seems to have noticed there are hundreds of DOC huts that don’t comply with the current Building Code, and people happily take shelter despite their less-than-perfect safety attributes.

For some reason, they are rebuilding the hut immediately adjacent, but only the setout is in place, and no actual building work has yet taken place.

I met a Dad and his son on trail bikes heading uphill and noted to them it was the coming down that would test the son’s bike skills.

I dropped in at the near derelict Botany Hut, before branching off from the main four-wheel drive track and bearing more directly towards my car.

Although it was a rough track, walking was easier than tussock bashing. I sidled around the top of a deer fence, then the track ducked inside, and I needed to clamber over the 2 m high fence.


I still needed a 500 m descent. Steeply down at times, my leg twinged but not too painful.

Of course, I needed to get back over the fence near the bottom.

I plotted a path through the thick matagouri from up the hill, but unfortunately didn’t take into account an undercut stream with no apparent way across due to a dense mat of bush lawyer. I had already had sufficient experience with that for the summer.

After some Little Adventures with prickles, I made it back to the car. It seemed too late to head for a $30 campsite at Middlemarch, after 6 pm after my mucking around and distraction, so I went on to the free Kyeburn Diggings DOC campsite.

Sadly this campsite had recently had its forest removed, so not the picturesque place it was. Slash everywhere and scarcely a flat space to whack my tent up.

But after a vigorous day, this made little difference to how I slept.

I was soundly sleeping before it was fully dark.

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