Well. A fairly significant change of plan.

The continual dampness and cold must have finally got to me as my inclination for the Northwest Circuit subsided. Not due to lack of food or battery power. My own batteries, perhaps, although with those 14-hour periods of darkness I’ve had plenty of time horizontal, so I really should be running on all cylinders.

Maybe after seeing how the Southern Circuit has been churned up, the thought of battling more swamp-on-a-slope was less compelling. After all, I whizzed around the Northwest Circuit this time last year.

Of course, my pack was getting lighter, and I had no trouble going up hills. But the idea of smashing out a couple of ten-hour days in a row, being seven hours of actual walking time between the next huts, was not high on my priority list.

Hearing about the flooding in my hometown, Nelson, was also some disincentive for continuing. Particularly when my accommodation was so close to the flooding Maitai River.

A slow amble back to Oban seemed way more reasonable.

It was funny how I could slide into my sleeping bag thinking I would have to be up at 5 30 am to make a super early start when I first lay in my sleeping bag last night, and then be hit with the realisation I really didn’t need to do that. An easier path was on offer, something I’d seldom chosen. Not all that easy, some might say.

After some heavy rain around 4 am, by the time the sun came up, shortly after 8 am it was clearing and in fact turned into the most superb day.

Just after lunch, I went for a ramble through the pīngao dunes to the south of the hut via the track just across Duck Creek that is used by the four-wheel farm bike by DOC. Actually, now much of the marram grass has been killed off by DOC, the sand from the old high dunes had been blown further inland for the most part, and instead, it’s a pebbly plain. A few double-banded dotterels seem to find something of interest there judging by their numbers. I saw a dozen or more as I slowly wandered down to the beach about 500 m away.

On the top of the dunes overlooking the beach, about 10 m high, the view was stupendous. Hardly a cloud. Both sea and sky were bright blue.

I thought I made out two figures in the sea haze up the beach to the north. I waited around and met them before my Duck Creek turn-off, and this solved the issue of the stack of bags I noticed on the beach yesterday. Their plane had bought three guys in, dropped the gear, then taken the guys to the far end of the beach past Kilbride. They had then followed my earlier footprints up the beach to where they were staying at Martin Creek Hunters Hut.

No rifles, they were counting birds. I caught up on conversation in a hurry. They were all well retired and obviously enjoying each other’s company.

One was collecting small plastic pieces off the beach and had about 30 soft drink bottle caps in a plastic bag. Much of the rest of the larger plastic pieces had been picked up later last year after the lockdown interrupted the originally intended program.

On the way back to the hut I bought up some more driftwood, as much as I could lug. Later, I supplemented that with more fossicking in the manuka forest. Some I chopped up with my folding saw, and the rest I added to the woodshed.

That sure felt like a good effort for my arms.

By dinner time I was reconsidering the Northwest Circuit again and was going to see what my body felt like in the early morning.

The weather forecast didn’t sound bad for this end of the country. Code Red immediately above my house up north, however.

+++++horizontal rule+++++

A guide to the night’s accommodation: Mason Bay Hut

Mason Bay Hut, North-west Circuit, Stewart Island
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