In the middle of the night of the stars were bright, not a cloud in the sky, a quarter moon.

This morning a frost and somehow I woke after 7 am.

Wasn’t long before I was taking off layers, the sunscreen already on.

You don’t exactly follow Bush Stream down, at least to the leaky Crooked Brook Hut. Instead, being Te Araroa, there’s some hours of climbing, mostly trackless, snow poles every 400 m, to a saddle at 1560 m, then you zip down some scree and onto a suddenly visible track.

On the way up to the pass I spotted a group of thar, later I find out it’s all the nannies and their offspring, they are some distance off so I count the numbers, 21, from a camera shot but I sense others were hidden behind a ridge blocking the full view. A few days ago someone else had counted 30 in a bunch, probably the same group. Apparently the males take off for the much of the year, only showing an interest at the start of the mating season in autumn.

At the hut was an as yet unsuccessful hunter of said thar, except he’s after the bigger male variety. I stayed for a chat for an hour or more, another musterer’s hut, but the urge to cross these big rivers while low is high so eventually I moved on. Might as well walk for another couple of hours on such a beautiful afternoon.

I soon met two older guys, in the mid-60s, on the steep slope up from the Bush Creek crossing. Then a group of five who been travelling TA more or less together, and then another woman who had left Cape Reinga on the same day and hadn’t quite caught up with them again after four days off, or the other way around.

They had all crossed the Rangatata together this morning without much stress.

So ten in the hut tonight, a few will sleep outside.

I’ve been lucky to have these last two rainy nights in a hut by myself and now I’m snug in my tent, sun down, dinner eaten, clear sky, maybe another frost tomorrow morning but with this wind probably not.

I’m camped under some ancient poplar trees ready to make an early crossing of the Rangatata tomorrow.


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