It rained during the night, so my complete bundle was damp in the morning.

I was up early, still dark, and transferred everything to the kitchen structure, an ugly piece of architecture that slowly became visible as my porridge cooked.

I’m less grumpy today, but I still haven’t warmed to this track.

Once again, I’m walking against the flow. Most hikers start with the $70 boat trip from Picton to Ships Cove and head towards Anakiwa. There are a couple of women on mountain bikes who stop for a chat, but most of the rest of the walkers are retirees, not much in the luggage department, all well dressed, unlike this bloke who has failed to do much washing in the two weeks since St Arnaud. Well, I had a shave and tidied up in Havelock, so I don’t look too disreputable.

The one thing I notice is how different everyone smells compared with your average TA type. So fresh. We exhibit a very different look, more tanned, generally grinning and often looking more dishevelled. II’ve learned to pick us fairly easily.

As it moves towards April, it’s no surprise I haven’t seen anyone on the trail since Stu was back in Middy Hu. Moving south now will start to get cold.

In the end, I spend too much time chatting to a stray woman at Cowshed Campsite, but the reality of doing a couple of big 35 km days hits, and suddenly, I’m sensibly splitting the last of the walking into three 24 km days. Maybe when I turn around with less weight in my pack, I’ll really make pace on my way back.

There was someone to talk to at the campsite, so I find I’ve moved to a more cheery mood. English is her first language, so at least we can have a free-flowing conversation, even with some humour thrown in. Actually I’ve perked up considerably, even switched to full-on engagement in the Charm Department. There’s a whole lot of grinning going on.

Tomorrow’s efforts won’t be quite as far, and the weather is clearing, so maybe I’ll be able to dry the tent and sleeping bag more adequately. I guess you are also getting the picture that I’ll be happy to be finally tucked up in my own bed instead of this tent.

I sense I might have overdone this solitary thing. Or maybe it’s just the standard end-of-trail blues kicking in.

Day 1 on Stewart Island was early in the summer, and I’ve been on the go for more than three months, 95 days, not so many rest days, and while the food rations are more substantial and muscle wasting is reversed due to more adequate protein intake in recent times, overall I just have to think that I’ll be back in Nelson in less than a week.

Yay! for that.

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A guide to the night’s accommodation: Black Rock campsite

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