No clouds last night, the last quarter of the moon rising as the day dawned, I watched the night dew turn into a frost while organising my departure, cold air flowing down the valley.

Last time I came through here, in early September I see in the hut book, the river crossings were a damp experience, my previous boots also being on the last legs, today it was just skip over the rocks and the feet remained with only yesterday’s dampness.

My pack is as light as it has been on this grand tour, dinners gone, breakfasts ditto, except for two mornings of coffee, a small hunk of cheese remaining but the snack bag was emptied yesterday.

No matter, it’s only the morning’s walk at rapid pace to the highway, Lagoon Saddle not such a big deal, the track well travelled, almost benched by the numerous feet using the Cass-Lagoon Saddle, weekend-away-from-Christchurch, track.

There are plenty of markers, not exactly necessary and they are fixed to the trees in the forest, such a difference in ease of travel from recent days. Then you burst out, well above the actual Lagoon Saddle, maybe not really above the tree line, it’s too low for that, but the trees have been burned in the past to create pasture of a type for sheep which are also now long gone.

I’m in Arthurs Pass National Park.

And way down there is the Waimak, the Waimakariri River, another potentially huge river, but not much volume today, in any case there’s the one way bridge, Bealey Bridge, for all weather access.

The day is perfect, only low cloud further down the river valley that clears as I stopped to look, the view from 600m up from the valley floor is huge, the bigger mountains, Rolleston, etc, to the left with permanent snow, the others not exhibiting much white up top.

And right down there, a steady stream of vehicles is visible but too distant to discern anything auditory. I’ll be down there soon enough, at lunchtime, Except there is no lunch remaining.

Later, the cars zoom on past, my hungry grows, where is that ride when you really need it, but eventually an older guy, ie, older than me, stops and invites me into the front seat, which is strewn with various random items which I have to rearrange to make room for my posterior and feet. It’s a tight squeeze but at least I am finally in motion once again, my first car since before Queenstown.

My attempts at conversation make little impression but eventually he opens up on various random topics, of a peculiar eclectic type, like some failed potato crop in his veggie garden, maybe in the 1960s, or it might have been the 1950s, he didn’t wash his seed potatoes and gave up in the garden after that. There were a few similarly interesting topics such as his driving his marvellous 1954 side valve Morris Oxford over Arthurs Pass, back in the 1960s, or again it might have been earlier, that car was clearly a major joy with little improvement possible.

His most interesting story, and you could write a bestseller book about this one, was about his estranged daughter from his first wife, and his second daughter from a second marriage having no knowledge of her existence. He said there would be some major surprise at the reading of the will.

He was off to Hoki, so I waited at Kumara Junction for a while, shortly joined by a majorly tattooed, but extremely cheery woman from Austria.

Eventually a car stopped, room for one, if I put my pack on my knees.

I explained to the incredulous Chinese family, they had a reasonable command of English, about the famous bridge over the Taramakau River, one way on this significant national highway but also with the railway line accommodated. So much laughing when we came to cross, amazement at our New Zealand infrastructure.

And that’s how the day went.

Bigtime food, a long shower with much of my tan disappearing, internet and phone connectivity, all the accoutrements of civilisation.

Just for a few days.

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