First day of autumn, officially, but for some reason, general gloominess of the skies, it seems like I’ve been travelling through autumn for the last several weeks.
The fishermen at Hurunui Hut had been talking about recent clear skies and warmth but it ain’t been the case in the mountains.
You notice the shortening of the days more particularly in the morning. Even after 7 am it’s too dark to walk in any forest, just light enough for the grassy areas. I, of course, still have to get through the major inconvenience of every morning, eating my porridge.
Consulting my photos with the timestamp I found that it had taken me more than 6 hours to get to 3 Mile Creek Hut from Hurunui yesterday, I might be slow but there were numerous impediments to speedy travel: many windfall both in the creek and forest, 20 or so creek crossings, a few swamps, the overgrown track and general lack of a path, not so many use this route, but it’s much more fun to have a less predictable track. In any case I’ve walked that Hurunui/Hope Kiwi section more than enough times, sometimes you just need to explore different territory.
With the extra dinner found I’m still on track for the Lake Man route to Doubtful Hut, just hope the weather obliges with finding other places to rain than where I’m currently standing.
The track to Hope Kiwi was well cut and much easier than yesterday’s efforts in the forest, when I made it to the Hope Kiwi Lodge it was time for lunch. Not so far around to St Jacobs where I might have made it last night, except I didn’t, also easy, much of the walking on an old 4WD track.
The Hope River valley is still quite wide so there’s mostly river flats. I realised I have in fact been there in my New Zealand Forest Service days, we dropped in to visit another crew, the two compartment hut is very distinctive and it feels somewhat weird, déjà vu, to pop back half a lifetime later.
It was just a short stroll up to the Pussy Stream turnoff to get up and over Lake Man Saddle, the track was well marked to start, but then it was the complete reprise from yesterday, windfall trees in a narrow valley, another gorge, only this time just half the length.
Today instead, there was a 550 m climb up a narrow forested ridge, and you acquire elevation speedily, at least when moving. Four and a half hours after leaving St Jacobs I’m staggering in to find the bivvy is already occupied, it’s almost identical to Harper Pass Bivvy except the window is in a more obvious wall and the banks are still canvas.
As it turned out I didn’t have the gas, or daylight to make it all the way to Doubtful Hut, but I reckon that the 26 km to the Lake Man Bivvy, complete with 1100 m climbing, isn’t so bad an effort for an easy Sunday.
No matter, I get the tent out, the food down, and then it’s time to get horizontal, I’ll sleep well tonight.