After the day before’s late afternoon and evening continual drizzle it all cleared up by daybreak.

The others had been up late in their bunkroom, but I started moving around where I’d been sleeping in the warmer living room just after the 6 am news as usual.

Last day of my mid-winter tramping experience after what I worked out was a total of 28 days of walking, well, including my days sitting around in DOC huts. Last year my Rakiura fun was affected by the sudden Level 4 country-wide lockdown. This year, the historic floods in Nelson. Now over 400 homes had been evacuated, and probably my place included, although I was hoping because of access issues, rather than actual inundation.

With the five-strong crew heading to Port William, I was heading for civilisation, just a five-hour trudge.

So, just the easy walk out. Except, my pack was feeling particularly heavy, my shoulders sore. Basically just exhausted.

Suddenly I realised I should have a day or two to recover in Oban, before the long trip north. Surely the weather would have changed by the time I was nearing home, because some of the Nelson access roads were closed.

The decision to make a more direct route to Oban rather than smashing my way around the Northwest Circuit was clearly the right one.

Halfway to Sawdust Bay, I happened upon a heavily loaded guy who had camped at the old campsite. He was clearly thirsty as the shelter and water tank had been removed. Yeah, he was seriously loaded down, and quite keen on continuing without revealing much. Maybe concerned that I would tell on him. Okay. See ya.

Not long after I ran into a guy from Colac Bay who was a week into a kayaking trip around Patterson Inlet. He was considerably more talkative and we stood on the track and chatted for three-quarters of an hour. He mentioned he was off later to look for an old hut that was off the track down near Roy’s Beach. A spot on my GPS map indicated where it was and I thought I could go off-piste and check it out.

It proved a chance to have a more intimate look at the regenerating Rakiura vegetation as I went cross-country, unable to find any track. Having the GPS on my phone proved useful as I searched for any sign of the track. Huts always have a track. A few deer trails were followed to get to the approximate location, which turned out to be on a ridge. Some time was spent roaming up and down and around, passing right over the GPS spot on the map a couple of times, but little, or actually no evidence was found. My hunt was abandoned.

I found it was a bit easier on my return to the main track, but my detour had occupied another hour and a half of the morning, and I was still only a third of the way back to Oban. Once reunited with my pack, lunch scoffed, it was just a case of engaging remote control and staggering on.

Just as I burst out to the car park, a group of four daywalkers emerged after an hour or so on the Fern Creek walk and offered me a ride into town in their big hired four-wheel drive. I was initially somewhat noncommittal, thinking of mooching slowly down the road into town about 3 km away while collecting my thoughts, but within my first sentence thoughts shifted, and I accepted graciously.

They demanded a few yarns, so I talked about the Hunters Trust and my encounters with deer. They insisted on taking me right to the door of my accommodation.

Back with some intelligent, interesting conversation. I really missed that, but after those first nine days of solitude, from Freshwater around to Mason, I’d met some interesting people.

But, the track sure took a toll on my body and I sent a message to my friends: If they ever hear me talking favourably about returning to Rakiura, I’m to be restrained and reminded that I’m too old for this.

An excellent finale.

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