Blue skies for the fifth consecutive day, well, at least until I made it to the hut, now, umm, it’s raining, not West Coast heavy, yet, but it’s coming down.

Maybe I should have keep going, but it didn’t look too bad when I arrived.

I managed to not roll out of my bunk overnight despite the bivvy being on a solid lean, even enjoying my best night’s, ie, uninterrupted, sleep for a while, no hunters crashing in at 12:30am. The lack of anything to sit on, other than the concrete step cut back the relaxation possible, lying slightly scrunched up on the bunk was the most comfortable option.

Here at Kiwi are a couple of plastic barbecue chairs, with backs and armrests and nothing low-flying to occasionally smash your forehead against, plenty of bench space, and most importantly, at neither place has the been any other customers, indeed since my night with Grace and Tom and Sandi at Christopher I’ve a eight nights with only two shared, at Anne Hut then the hunters at Hurunui. That’s about the right proportion.

Met the local weka up at the bivvy, poor lonely bird, very curious but also flighty, if that’s possible with a flightless bird.

Much of the interest was in the vegetation today, the pass is at 965 m and there’s some sub-alpine species, two dracophyllums, an oleria, a hebe or two, flowering flax, flowering celmisias,

Good views at the pass and then later clear views back up to the pass, that makes a difference. Then down in the valley, I inched my way down the steep slope with my dodgy right knee, I perform much better in the rock hopping once it levelled out somewhat, strangely some huge red beech trees, without the black parasite coating, now I understand why it’s called red beech, some huge broadleafs, a monster rata or two in the end, along the river, some NZ cedars, the first I’ve seen in a long while.

Locke Stream Hut was built in 1939, Harper Pass was going to be the next Milford Sound, apparently, constructed from local bush hewn material is which gives it quite the rustic look and it was renovated in 1993 it could do with some more attention. Te Araroa has given it a new meaning, many stay there coming in from No 3 Hut, I noted from the book, last summer November to May, 81 trekkers on that Te Araroa wrote their names in the book, it might be more but here is as good a bottleneck as any to catch the numbers.

But it was onwards, the next section to Kiwi Hut is just following along the river bed, there’s a couple of huge rockslides either side, another river crossing but it’s scarcely more than mid-calf deep after this good weather spell.

Somehow these huts only three hours or so apart, maybe four hours, aren’t quite the slog of some of last week’s accommodation options. With the sun today it’s been inspiring to see how scenic the valley is, when the tops are shrouded in cloud, as in the other time I came down, there’s little of today’s grandeur.

Well, rain wasn’t so much, stopped now, a misty drizzle won’t do much to problematise tomorrow’s river levels, fingers crossed, there’s a story of someone trapped here for six nights last New Year, the entries make worthwhile reading, he resorted to eating bracken roots, etc, but took his delay with good humour. Then a couple of months later, March this year, the big summer drought, the Taramakau account dried up completely here.

Don’t need quite that, just low enough to safely make my one required crossing, then even if the Otira is up, it is smaller but steeper, more channelled from recollection but it does have a swingbridge, needing a two hour diversion, but at least you can get across.

Then I need better luck, than on Monday with the hitchhiking, ie, an immediate ride to Greymouth.

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