Not so many do the Southern Circuit and if they stay in Doughboy there’s a good chance air transportation is involved.

It’s a fair day’s hike from the Mason Bay hut but it starts as easy as can be, a 5km stroll down the beach, just less than completely firm sand, a cool morning, say 5 degrees inside the hut, but little wind, and, another day of a surprisingly cloudless sky. The vest has to come off.

The track up Adams Hill is what you hoped the North West Circuit could be, evenly graded, mostly, through rimu, kamahi, and miro forest with a fair sprinkling of rata and totara. Easy enough to plod on or take a break on a mossy pozzy, to, err, listen to the birds in this direct sunlight. The track itself is not hacked up, too much, by marching feet.

At the top there’s a huge payoff for the effort expended, views all the way back to Codfish Island/Whenua Hou, strange to look back to those distant hills near Big Hellfire Hut. It was like only 30 hours ago I was sitting up there contemplating this point in hazy indistinctness, then around to the Ernest Islands that protect the southern section of Mason Bay, over to the trackless Tin Range to the south, and around to the western slopes of Mt Rakeahua.

You can’t see Doughboy Bay itself but the hills to the south are clear enough. Above 300 m the flora stops being defined as forest and becomes scrubby. Towards the top, 400 m, it’s more heathland, chest-high shrubbery with areas of moss and low ground cover between the larger vegetation.

Those closely shorn areas are, err, boggy, maybe even bottomless, it’s hard to tell with the dark brown porridge, and the task becomes one of finding your way across those gaps lacking vegetation at all. You can jump near the edge, I have a large stride which comes in useful, the entire landscape shudders and oscillates on touchdown.

On the other side, on the southern slopes, the first 40% of the descent becomes a test both physically and mentally. Swinging on the shrubbery, standing on slithery, slippery tree roots, and not always successfully avoiding the deep morass that for some reason is here labelled “track”. It’s a very shady south side of the hill, the route plunges straight down the slope but for some reason, the thin porridge of a liquid is retained on said slope. Eventually, there’s a sidle around to a ridge, and, voila, back on a beaut, if steepish track devoid of rotting vegetative soup.

And you pop out onto a long, lonely beach that has had its share of visitors over the years. Maori paddled down here on their way to the Titi Islands, looking for muttonbird, 200 years ago sealers stayed in the cave but tonight it seems I’m the only Homo sapiens present.

Still no cloud in the sky.

Paradise indeed.

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

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

Doughboy Bay Hut, Southern Circuit, Stewart Island
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