Writing by candlelight. I must’ve left my head torch on, or bumped it yesterday as the batteries are almost flat.

Today being a big day, seven hours by DOC, I thought it would be best to get away even earlier than yesterday’s 9 am.

So was up after 6 am. Checked for no rain, but what does it matter, my boots and socks were wetted by my dash across shallow Ruggedy Stream last night. I thought it was shallow enough, but hadn’t entirely got it right. The sand there is quicksand, and feet sink considerably into the terrain.

No worries.

My other clothes are damp from the combination of sweat and drizzle.

This is why tramping builds character. Having to put cold damp clothes on, in a cold damp hut.

I’m sitting on my sleeping bag to keep my posterior warm. I shouldn’t tell this, but have the gas stove on under the table where the deep rails keep heat in around my legs. My breath can be discerned in the guttering candlelight that is just about down to the final flickers.

This should all speed my departure.

I didn’t stay at this hut in my first two trips to Rakiura because initially it was not constructed, and second time around, the year it was built, not sure if it was here, but we stayed in the West Ruggedy cave as stated. The track didn’t go along the beach then, a hugely sensible decision once it was diverted, so we had fine views of Codfish/Whenua Hou. Rather, it took almost immediately to a significant swamp not far from the hut, where travel was over some mature windfall and rimu trees that had been on the ground long enough for the underlying bark to become particularly greasy.

The track was changed sometime between my third visit 1994, and fourth 2002.

Big day today, better start eating my warmed up muesli. The outside light is now better than what my head torches providing inside. Birds are singing.

The day? Typically gloomy.

Not far down the track I almost stepped on a kiwi, and spent some time attempting to become acquainted. One of the parties was less interested and scurried off.

Lots of tracks on the big sand dunes as I made my way to the beach: deer, kiwi, and cat.

Went to have a look at the cave at the north end of the beach, but it was a sad set up compared with the olden days. Back then it was a genuine place to stay with a well-equipped kitchen and fireplace. Now it’s looking a little sorry.

Waves were smashing in, and the Ruggedy Range was a splendid backdrop as I trudged to the other end of the beach. A few banded dotterels around. They are endemic and classed as “Nationally Vulnerable”. Seem a little smaller than the endemic New Zealand doctoral of which the southern variety are critically endangered, and the subject of considerable DOC work in the hills around Rakeahua Hut.

After leaving the beach I enjoy the walk on the east side of the hills. This wasn’t well cut for a long time, but this time around it was great, with a few mud pools towards the climb to the saddle. In one of the more open areas a deer sprang across the trail just 8 m from me with its long white tail swishing around. Guess that’s why they are called whitetails.

I don’t think I’d be much of a hunter if my reflexes were unable to snatch my camera out before it was far in the distance.

Shortly after I stopped to listen to the parakeets, and a red-crowned kakariki paid me a similarly abrupt visit. Plenty of noise from the species during the day, +3 in a tree outside the hut that stayed around long enough for me to get one image.

In the end I made it to the hut before dark despite all my dithering. I’d rather spend the time tooling around outside than inside a hut that I’ve never really enjoyed much. Probably because it is surrounded by big rata trees that stop much sunlight reaching it.

Not a huge fan of Mason Bay Hut either for some reason, and that’s going to be another decent day’s effort tomorrow. The DOC sign states a big 7 hours, but with a long walk down the beach light shouldn’t be much of a problem there, as long as I leave early on.

No surprise that once again I’ve slipped into my sleeping bag to eat dinner. My breath is visible, it’s chilly in the hut.

That pot on my lap feels very warm.

Time: 6 55 pm. Almost pitch dark.

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