Up before 6 am because that was already 12 hours horizontal.

I sat drinking coffee and munching my muesli with only the hut book to read. Still, you can get a bit out of it.

I noted that since March this year when the entries started, eight solo women had passed through, and I was one of 19 blokes on their own. The biggest group was seven, but most were couples, or two or three. Two groups of hunters had killed two deer each.

157 trampers in total over the previous five mid-autumn to late-winter months. That seems like a lot, considering in my previous tramps it could often have been a few weeks since anyone had been in the huts. This might explain why the tracks are way more smashed up than I remember.

A group of seven on this track is reasonably antisocial considering the huts generally have only ten mattresses.

Three kayakers circumnavigated the island. Some work was done on the dunes at East Ruggedy Beach where marram grass is being eliminated.

Hopefully, DOC spraying the hut back in April for bedbugs has removed them.

Yeah, breakfast here takes a while.

Quite cool this morning, with the sky reasonably clear. The roof was white from frost. My toes were feeling it.

They soon warmed up on the lovely track to the beach. This has to be just about the easiest and most pleasant walking on the island.

The tide was down so the bluff halfway down the beach was no issue. That meant I could muck around at the cave at the north end of the beach that I stayed in for a night with my brother when feeling in a Robinson Crusoe mode when I was much younger. It’s still damp but the sleeping platform at the back gets you up above the wet sand.

Couldn’t stay there now as caves really aren’t my thing.

Man, I now had other places to be.

The first third of the day is super easy. It’s great to walk down the beach with rolling surf and Codfish Island/Whenua Hau to the right. The rugged Ruggedy Mountains on show.

Then mud. Often in places where I hadn’t seen it previously.

On that very early trip with my brother we reached Hellfire Pass Hut prior to 2 pm and decided to continue to Masons, but these days it would be hard to do due to the track surface condition.

Coming down from the pass through the Ruggedy Mountains took a while due to the greasy/rootsy ground. 3 30 pm when I left Waituna Bay, but the climb up to 200 m is an easy grade and mud-free.

Once on the ridge, however, it is slow going during to the boggy nature.

While early on with the circuit the bogs can often be negotiated by hanging onto the shrubbery, and using my long stride to leap from root to root. Along that ridge, after a long day of muck hopping, it was just a case of ploughing through the middle of the morass to save time, assuming that someone had thrown something of substance in to support my weight in times past. That worked surprisingly effectively, until I had the occasional moment of grief.

Mud encased gaiters and over trou saved my boots from filling up with the worst of the muck.

In the end, I was again contemplating my head torch, but I knew the sandy Hellfire Pass wasn’t far off. Unfortunately, I was in the forest for a magnificent orange sunset, but was stunned to see the almost full moon had risen and still no cloud in the sky when bursting out of the trees at the pass.

My accommodation wasn’t far away.

The hut was cold, despite the wood supply I preferred to eat dinner in my sleeping bag.

Now that was a day.

Old memories. Magnificent scenery. Great effort.

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

A guide to the night’s accommodation: Hellfire Pass Hut

Big Hellfire Hut, North-west Circuit, Stewart Island
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