I woke in my backpackers’ room to find my possessions strewn in piles across the floor. Still some things needing to be stowed in Ziploc bags for my measured daily rations. Lucky I had the dorm room to myself, in fact there were only two of us in the whole 50 bunk establishment.

Eventually my mess was sorted, and I made my way to the road end through the showers. Some views of a snow-covered triangular mountain to the north of Hump Ridge that had the tops shrouded in cloud. Guess that’s common enough at this time of year.

At the carpark I loaded my pack aboard my shoulders, with 10 days’ food feeling considerably heavier than the two nights when I scooted up the Copland Track recently. I’m undergoing a slow conditioning after a five-month break since my last decent tramp. On this occasion it’s been an overnight climb to Mt Brown, two nights in the Copland valley.

I’m intending eight nights on the South Coast Track, and carrying sufficient food for two extra nights in case of rain. That’s all training for about two weeks on Rakiura to follow.

The weight doesn’t seem excessive due to my controlled amounts of food, and some constraint on clothes, ie, a pair of Jandals rather than shoes, etc.

This first two or three days is through an area that was logged in the 1920s. Port Craig was quite a village back then with dozens of buildings and a few hundred people.

The terrain is relatively flat, and a track that forms part of the Hump Ridge Track is in great condition. All swampy sections have duck boards, creeks have little bridges or bigger, and tons of gravel been laid for about three-quarters of the way.

Easy walking, although the small creeks need climbing down and up so it’s not without some effort required. Also walking on the beach, but less than you might think when so close to the shoreline. The track in the second half of the day is often way above the ocean.

Just before I left the beach a sleety shower passed by, with me questioning the veracity of my weather forecast. The next four days were supposed to be rainless, with a maximum temperature in high single digits. But that turned out to be the last of the day’s rain, and I could just enjoy my plodding through the mixed podocarp forest.

For some reason I’ve always most enjoyed walking from about 3 30 to 5 pm when I’m fully relaxed, and know the hut isn’t so far off. In general when the weather is fine it seems more enjoyable to spend time in the forest rather than sit around in a hut excessively.

Suddenly a clearing and the strangely proportion schoolhouse. It has three full height double-hung sashes facing east and nothing much else to provide light. Built in the 1920s from local timber with a brick chimney, although it has a huge woodburner these days.

I’d been following two sets of footprints, but maybe they’d been created by people at the nearby Port Craig Lodge, a private hut used by those on the Hump Ridge.

I was unsurprisingly on my own. After all, who else would be walking after a few miserable days in the middle of winter on a there-and-back track, at the end of the world?

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

A guide to the night’s accommodation: Port Craig Schoolhouse Hut

Yup. Looks like an old schoolhouse with a vibrant colour scheme.  | Port Craig Schoolhouse Hut, near Fiordland National Park
Day 2 | Wairaurahiri Hut →