The 15km track from Mason Bay Hut to Freshwater Landing
(map courtesy of Google Maps)
At this time of year it doesn't start getting light until about 7.30am so the first two hours of our tramp were in the dark. The sky was stunningly starlit most of the time; just a few clouds breezing through but luckily no rain. It was cold though and crossing the Chocolate Swamp on iced-over boardwalk was a bit freaky. My new friends, Leanie, Madelane and Ise weren't expecting such a muddy track - they did amazingly well although we were cutting it a tad fine, arriving at Freshwater Landing only five minutes before the water-taxi. Phew! We had taken over 4½ hours (DOC time on signs is 3-4 hours) and whilst I never expect to achieve fast times (I stop frequently to take photos and talk to the birds), I didn't think we were walking that slowly either. Just as well we didn't see kiwi and stop to watch, otherwise Leanie, Madelane and Ise would be spending another night in a DOC hut instead of hot showers and soft beds in Oban.
|Yay! We made it - thanks, Leanie, for the photo|
I watched the water-taxi leave then climbed over the bridge to Freshwater Hut to have breakfast.
|Freshwater Hut and swing bridge|
Initially I had planned to climb Rocky Mountain, a 3hr return trip to the top of the hill; I've done it before but it was freezing cold, blowing a gale and visibility was poor. On a clear day the views would be spectacular - right over to Mason Bay on one side and Paterson Inlet on the other. The frequent showers and low cloud made it a no-brainer to shelve it for another time. Just as well I did as I was treated to a male/female kiwi duet at 10.45am and again at 11.15am. I grabbed my camera and walked 50m up the track...
|The track behind Freshwater Hut - wait for it...|
|What a beautiful female and such a poser!|
She walked right past me as I stood on the track and I got the whole close encounter on video. Pure magic!
I spent the next couple of hours cutting firewood. Freshwater Hut is on the cold side of the hill so doesn't get a lot of sun at this time of year. The wood in the woodshed was wet and green and although there's a lot of manuka 'top', there's not a lot of bigger stuff around that keeps the woodburner well-fed. I got enough to keep it burning for a while and also leave enough wood for the next person to use.
|Freshwater Hut and rainbow|
After lunch I went on a recce along the track I'd be doing the next day; I timed myself up to the first stream crossing and then slow-walked back taking photos so I wasn't tempted to have a slow start in the morning. The track winds around beautiful trees - I couldn't resist taking these shots...
|A magnificent rimu with outstretched arms|
...or these of the track...
To save battery power I had an early tea and curled up in my sleeping bag shortly after dark. Kiwi calls accompanied my dreams and thoughts of what tomorrow might bring.