An extraordinary vivid sunrise through the huge rata trees. Looking out the kitchen window Benson Peak had a sliver of moon above. Clear skies.

A cool start to the day. My breath is thick, steam also flowing from my coffee.

I’m up 11 hours after slipping into my sleeping bag. Not all was actually asleep. This time I woke at 2 30 am, and realised I just slept my standard seven hours. Fortunately I immediately managed to drift back to sleep.

This is what re-calibration of your body and mind means.

I’m not connected to the rest of the world, having left my little radio back in Nelson. No phone connection since the morning I left Christmas Village, now almost five days ago.

My mind is not required to dwell on the goings on of things that barely concern me.

My body is getting a daily workout, although the tide level in my pack is slowly going down.

Since I’ve left Nelson I’ve had 23 days tramping, with two rest days in the bush. There have been a few others when I’ve travelled, or done little at Tuatapere. 21 days of carrying a fairly weighty pack, my maths might be a little wonky here, and remembering I have a body.

And the lack of civilisation’s overstimulation has allowed my mind slow down.

That helps concentrate thinking on the here and now. What is immediately in front. The next bit of track I can see. Listening for kiwis. Or the taste of this coffee.

The speed at which life sped on by the big city in Australia, with all my Must Dos, and Lists, and commitments is long gone. That time where life happened in a blur of sensation.

Long tramps allow for recalibration. Where mind and body are re-appreciated, and cared for.

A good dose of austerity and meagre rations, with a little hardship thrown in reconnects me to what really matters.

A balance between body and soul.

Sunlight finally streaming into the hut at 7 15 am.

Not long after I started walking I met another creature out for a stroll. A kiwi mid-track, coming towards me. I stayed stationary and it ambled nearby before veering off into the crown fern.

Around lunchtime I had a different encounter. Hearing rustling I sat down, and a kiwi charged over a little ridge, then did a little 270° tour around me, keeping in cover for most of that time. It must have been able to discern I was there, checking out for intruders, but their eyesight is poor.

I didn’t bother investigating more kiwis after that. I had places to be.

The views from the top of the hills were as good as I could hope. The snow in Fiordland was clearly visible. Codfish Island/Whenua Hou, Freshwater Valley with its lakes, and to the south, the grand view of Little Hellfire Beach with rollers cruising in, behind that Mason Bay.

Adams Hill that I should be over tomorrow was way in the distance.

Really? I would be up there? That’s a lot of distance in a hurry.

I ate lunch at the Little Hellfire Beach hunter’s shelter that was occupied by a local, of the human kind. We had a great chat, once he recognised I was actually interested in the place, and knew something about it.

It turned out I’ve been on a fishing trip with his father and his brother. The paua and crayfish quotas had mostly been sold to overseas interests: Australian, Japanese, and Chinese, and now they leased the quotas to a few islanders, the owners of the quotas took more than half, meaning the locals had all the risks, both financial and physical not much money.

Then he mentioned a bluff I needed to get around at the north end of Mason Bay, and it was clear I should make haste. Changes to the beach meant it was more of an obstacle these days, well, at high tide.

One more hill to climb, around 300 m mostly steep, and then a sharp drop to the bouldery beach on a not so much fun greasy-swamp-on-a-steep-hill. One of the memorable bogs on the North West Circuit.

The bouldery beach was okay, but head-sized and shaped boulders ain’t so good for speedy travelling.

An occasional ocean surge came quite a way further up the beach. Best to keep on eye on the surf, just in case.

Big sandhill cliffs are being eroded at the base and dropping into the sea at the north end of Mason Bay Beach.

In the end the bluff wasn’t so hard to negotiate. I ran for the 50 m involved, and the water never came close, although it did soon after that.

Then there was just the vast expanse of Mason Beach, the sand part to cruise down, with the sun getting lower in the sky.

I made it to the hut in the light. Still not a cloud in the sky.

The temptation is high to just strike out the North Arm Hut tomorrow night, and be in Oban for lunch the next day, but for some reason I feel the need for the Southern Circuit detour.

You can’t have too much of a good thing.

I’m thinking two nights in Doughboy Hut, then a night each at Rakeahua, and Freds Camp. I probably need to stay at Freshwater Hut, and I guess I can walk out from there, although not for lunch.

So, that’s five more nights after tonight, a lot of work each day, except for my rest day at Doughboy.

I say this. My body is feeling quite tired after two or three reasonable days’ effort.

The hills aren’t high but they take effort with the soft nature of the terrain.

Maybe I’ll come right after a good night’s sleep.

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