Windy morning and I lie in my toasty sleeping bag looking out through the large double-glazed window wall at the first light on the ridges heading down the inlet. A glimpse of silvery water with a high proportion of whitecaps, the bay down there shows it’s full-on low tide, the sandy bottom has a tinge of green from the seaweed, the manuka and flax on land vibrating wildly. There’s a moment of rosy glow tingeing a small cloud or two but they soon turn back to a surly grey. Some hazy blue sky up there as a couple of black-backed gulls manoeuvre dangerously, wings folded searching for breakfast and now after 7 00 am it’s time for me to forage myself.
Day 18, I guess my body is weary, my hands are sliced up somewhat, like a self-obsessed teenage secret body cutter, my feet swollen, my knees in a less than pristine state but the tide level on the pack is way down. 95% of my food has been gobbled but still a full day’s supply surprisingly remains. Man, a change to a varied diet will be appreciated.
I catch sight of my visage in one of the polished reflectors of the new style candleholders and get a fright, a grizzly, woolly-faced bloke stares back impassively—is that really the post-civilisation me?
No hurry this morning, it’s 12 km of the Rakiura Track, six hours they say. I can manage that, it’s a formed track, no more slithering tree roots.
Actually, the Rakiura is a fine track, this section has been mostly recut in January 2012 and would be the perfect introduction to Stewart Island tramping, 70% of the surface is gravel, admittedly imported from Bluff and a dark grey basalt, nothing like the coarse-grained granite generally found on the smaller island, but it eliminates the mud issue.
There are a few of the famous steps in the very steep stretches but mostly a narrow track meanders between the shrubbery, at first through the heavily logged parts with a few remaining rimu, with odd remnants from that era, some old tram lines are crossed and late some very heavy machinery abandoned in a ridiculously remote spot in 1931 when the demand for timber dropped away. It’s hard to imagine guys sawing down the big trees manually out here, they are mighty tough and in equally tough working and living conditions with a hard-to-believe level of danger for those tough human bodies doing the task.
Back then times were hard, life austere. We’ve traded that simplicity for an atrocious complexity. Life a blur, smeared at breakneck pace if you let it.