I found I had company last night, once I had slid into my sleeping bag and doused the lights.

I thought maybe a possum had invaded when my pot crashed on the floor, but it was just a rat. It hid behind a cloth on the bench and I tried to give it a tap with my walking pole to dissuade it from further interloping into my solitude. Not sure how it got in but I just slipped outside for a midnight pee and left the door open for a minute or two.

Many huts are rat-proof these days, so I don’t see them much, certainly not up close. The resurgence of wekas in the South Island keeps rat numbers low, at least around the huts where wekas prevail, but I haven’t ever seen wekas down here other than Ulva Island, and the more numerous kiwis don’t have the same rat killer instincts.

I didn’t manage to clunk it so left a candle burning at my end of the hut to encourage it to remain in the darker nooks. Not sighted again, so maybe there was a hole where it could enter at will. I never found it despite a good poke around in the daylight.

In the morning it was totally fine, not a cloud in the sky and that continued all day. Cold, with a cold wind, also for the day.

No complaints there, after all, it was mid-winter, but the weather forecast was for little rain for the following week. Similar wintry temperatures were predicted, which were down in the 3° — 5° C region as a maximum.

Being prepared I have my soft shell climbing pants to keep my legs warm and an old fleece vest, along with a wool T-shirt for tramping. I wear a long-sleeved summer shirt as well as I keep my phone in one of the top pockets.

While the DOC sign stated that Rakeahua Hut was five hours away, it took a little longer as there were a number of windfalls, including a couple of clumps where the trees had fallen along the track, making it hard to work out where the track actually went. And the flat second part has some quite nasty swamps to negotiate.

I also decided on a misguided variation once I came down to the flatter section mid-afternoon. My thinking was it might be easier to walk up the Rakeahua River on the sand rather than through swamp, but for 30 minutes I progressed through chest-high rushes that were particularly sloppy underfoot. It was centuries of decaying vegetative matter, not sand at all.

At one spot I went knee-deep, with real issues with suction on my big boots due to the combination of moisture and stinking murk, but I extracted myself and immediately cut back towards the track.

Not so hard negotiating the swamp amongst the manuka where at least I could see my feet and what I should stand on. Severe consequences await anyone making a poor decision about the appropriate trajectory.

Made it to the hut by 5 pm which gave me almost an hour of daylight to get the fire going and sort myself out.

It wasn’t long before the little Yukon potbelly stove was cranking out a few kilojoules. Helps to be in the middle of an extensive manuka forest in a hut with a savagely sharp saw.

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

A guide to the night’s accommodation: Rakeahua Hut

Rakeahua Hut, Southern Circuit, Stewart Island
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