Up and out the door early. No time to muck around if I was gonna beat the high tide at the bluff at the north end of Mason Bay Beach.

Once back down to the south end of Little Hellfire Beach, it’s a 290 m climb, and more or less straight up and down. The climbing surface was great on the way up, you make altitude in a hurry, but coming down on the south, very shaded slope is a steep, greasy morass.

Near the bottom, I could see the bluff and an occasional stretch of sand that would be possible to dash around, after all, it’s only about 20 m, but by the time I made it down it there, it was clear that if I wished to live, I’d be needing to climb.

I’d missed a 20 m stroll around the little point by an hour, and instead could climb a full-on eroded sand dune with my pack and boots.

Then again, climbing up sand cliffs, with probably about 100 m elevation gain gives a major opportunity for views, and it was a splendid day.

Okay. Plenty of salt haze due to the strong wind, but I had an extensive view over the Mason Bay dune system.

Actually, the horizontal aspect, once the climbing is done, is not exactly straightforward. It’s reasonably well marked, except where it isn’t.

I had lunch high in the dunes, admiring the view before getting back on the beach. The sun was out and I could see forever.

Because of the full moon, the tides were high and coming right to the base of the sand cliffs at times and places. I needed to keep an eye out for rogue waves, but that issue disappeared before long.

Plenty of logs washed up and I was shocked when one of them looked entirely reptilian. I was almost right on it when it moved. A sad-looking sea leopard youngster, I suppose, not looking too healthy.

I skirted around without it noticing me somehow as it lazed in the sun. Once I was long past I watched it maggot its way to the water. They are certainly not as agile as seals on land.

More open beach and some fast walking for once.

The little bridge near the hut has been washed away, so I had the opportunity to rinse my boots from that foul-smelling slop from early in the day in Duck Creek.

Strange to arrive with Mason Bay hut completely empty. It usually has a few breeze-in type walkers who have taken the Freshwater boat landing option both ways in a bid to sight a daytime, or evening kiwi. That involves boat dropoff and pickup, and a four-hour completely flat walk across the island.

So, a full bunk room to myself.

The significantly better weather recently suggested Doughboy was a serious possibility.

I still have more than a week of food, even without rationing.

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

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

Mason Bay Hut, North-west Circuit, Stewart Island
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