Rain, that’s not supposed to happen.

Actually I have no idea of the weather report, for once I can’t pick up anything except that racing channel and they’re only interested in what the track is like in Geraldton, Ie, Western Australia. Even Radio Rhema has deserted me.

For all the walking I’ve done this year today is the first full day of the precipitation I’ve experienced in New Zealand since February and when I think back to the Australian experience of fully rainy day, well, who can remember, it seems years ago. But initially, at least, it’s just categorised as drizzle, my hood doesn’t even go up when I set off, lateish really, no great hurry with only four hours officially to the next hut. It always sounds worse inside the hut than the reality of traipsing through the forest.

The walk is about as great as you could hope for, beech trees this side of the divide, here a mixture of mountain and a few wiggly-woggly trunks of silver beech. There’s evidence of the big blow back in mid-September with plenty of these beech trees horizontal, the chainsaw has been busy clearing the track and with the upended roots, well, it seems there isn’t much attaching the trees to the ground, a mass of roots maybe 300 to 400 mm deep and a metre each direction from the trunk, it’s just gravel exposed, no soil depth.

The track is benched, ie, severe efforts were made in the distant past to form an even gradient, the sides of the track are not savagely cutback, verdant moss each side, with fallen beech leaves in that little worn foot track, real nice.

Highlight of the day: a tui that flew straight past my head, and perched, completely bedraggled in a branch just a metre above my beenie.

Other highlights were also ornithological: a pair of paradise ducks with three stripy ducklings, cup-sized, ie, small, paddling in a small lake, they might be tiny but they really have a good turn of speed. I shelter unobtrusively and enjoy the show, that first trio circuit their little lake, sometimes bobbling along terrestrially, jumping with a ping over small logs, then back out onto the water, attempting to imitate mum with the head-down, feet-in-the-air style, or, sometimes attempting to swim underwater, then, with consternation finding some considerable separation from mum, almost walking on water, a high-speed miniature churn as they make pace. If it wasn’t raining there could be hours of entertainment, but after 40 minutes it was starting to get substantially damp and I began to notice that up there above cloud level a minor sprinkling of snow had occurred, it’s been at 12° C drop in temperature from Sunday.

A kilometre later, the Ada River has appeared, another paradise pair with similarly stripy cup-sized progeny, five this time, paddling furiously, and futilely, upstream, they did better when they reversed direction, but unlike the seals last week where mum abandoned pup rapido, the feathered types stick together, the usual insistent, irritating call of the parents has for once got a sensible reason.

I was having a good day out, there was plenty of evidence of Canada geese, which I mostly avoided stepping in, and then I spotted a few, that’s actual geese, not their residue, three to start, later there were eight, those birds are getting bigger as the day progresses.

I stopped by the 1959 Christopher Cullers hut, a tiny four bunk place with a three-quarter door and a concrete floor, the fireplace more recently removed, many a tall story has been recounted here no doubt, but it’s an historic relic, the comfortable Christopher Hut is a kilometre away, 14 bunks, firewood supplied, tables and benches and the possibility of drying out the full overly damp shemozzle.

Looks like I’ll have company again, I’ve been caught up by Theresa, she stayed at Cannibal Gorge Hut last night, and later Tom and Sandi walked in from the opposite direction.

I started the fire to dry everything out, clothes dripping everywhere but for some reason the firebox refused to draw and the hut filled with smoke, in fact the fire works better with the door open. Tom sorts it out, can’t have that, there’s a momentary lull in the rain, well, heavy drizzle, he hops on the roof, removes the chimney cowl and thence a bird’s nest, bird not apparent, the flue does its thing, fire starts more vigorously, smoke exits in a fashion more accustomed, it air clears in the hut, we all start to strip off, man, we really beginning to cook.

A night of conversation with strangers in a hut, that’s much of what this tramping business is all about.

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