The Swiss couple were up and away early, they had breakfast at the first hut. The others were slow, the ultra-light pretended I wasn’t there, the American bloke stayed around for a chat and eventually everyone was gone by 8 30 am.

I still had my soaked tent to pack so it was, err, quite a bit later when I finally took off.

The first hut, Stodys Hut, was too close, the second, well, ten hours was more than I was interested in. Someone heading south had said there were splendid camping spots along the river and so I could amble at my own pace.

Actually there’s a 4WD track all way to the door of Stodys Hut, an old muster’s hut by the looks. It’s kind of been renovated by DOC but still doesn’t have a full floor.

Maybe I should have been more enthusiastic yesterday in making tracks but it was fun to meet and talk with other TA enthusiasts.

Don’t know about that ultra-light approach, that’s code for not being at all convinced. Obviously the first thing to avoid is the cooker and any utensils, so no hot food, seemed like peanuts for breakfast, lots of muesli bars on the menu. Last night she was seen gnawing on a packet of dry noodles.

No tent, no sleeping mat either. She was proud that her pack base weight, that’s everything she carried except for food was a scanty 2.8 kg.

Sheesh, my pack on its own weighs more than that.

There was also a serious lack of wet weather gear, she donned a long poncho before leaving, it looked like it was from the $2 Shop and earlier had spoken about a poncho tarp instead of the tent, overall very poor weather protection. A down jacket that’s not much good in wet weather either, and you have to take your tent off to put it on.

Somehow the ultra-light approach is fantastic when things go well and there are huts to get to, not so easy in the rain with no hut.

You get away with it by covering twice the distance of those lugging more, each day a big 40, or 45 km. That way you are never carrying any more than four or five days food. You just pig out once you get to the towns.

It might work well in the good times, the problem arises when the weather deteriorates significantly and you are stopped in your tracks. OK in the predictable continental climate of North America, or Europe, but in the changeable New Zealand context it’s a high risk proposition, us old hands have seen too many sudden weather changes, unexpected rainfall events where the rivers rise unpredictably, we recognise that it can be your life at stake out here.

Just not for me.

Last night I noted every single person had low-cut runners for footwear, except me, boots and gaitors. No ankle support there.

I’m just the opposite, bulk weight, serious equipment, I put on my overtrou. That seems like a more sensible attire when you undulate along a 4WD track around 1400 m with some showers coming down.

There’s quite a drop down to the Timaru River from Stodys.

There have been notes in the hut books about how poor the track is along the river but it all seems typical New Zealand to me, quite good even.

Eventually I found a gorgeous campsite under some spreading beech trees adjacent to the river, dinner before the rain came.

Glad I’m in a waterproof tent not my poncho.

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