Stewart Island North West Circuit tramp Nov 2011

Ever since I arrived in New Zealand in 1993 I have promised myself one day I'd go to Stewart Island and walk one of the big tramps there. Finally, 17 years later, I have managed to get my act together, clear 2 weeks in my diary and made it down to the bottom of the South Island. A steady running programme hopefully got me fit enough for the demanding walk, at 53 I'm not in bad shape, but definitely not as fit as I used to be. Here we go:
Tuesday 9/11/11

Flew into Oban this morning on the 8am flight from Invercargill, after a very short sleep. I must have been too excited, I woke up at 4am and there was no way I could go back to sleep. So I made a cup of tea and watched a weird movie in bed instead, waiting for the day to get going. The early start also gave me some time to sort out my pack, and decide what I was going to bring along on the 10 day walk and what I could leave behind in the backpackers lodge at Oban.
I made one final pathetic attempt at reducing my load- removed a pack of wet wipes. Jee that takes a few grams off! The day before I had been a bit shocked by the weight of my pack at the airport - 19.5kg before the final extra bits of food, some more clothes, the 1L of fuel and the 2L of water bottles - that would add up to about 22 - 23 kg on the trail. Ah well, thats just how it goes when you do a big walk.

I had spent a lot of time planning my provisions and rationalising the weight vs comfort of items like sleeping bags (went for a summer down sleeping bag as I was staying in huts), tent vs tarp (ended up with a small handy tarp, great for lunch breaks on the always soggy ground), cooking (staid loyal to my trusty old Optimus liquid fuel burner, but added a small new Primus heat sink pot to save on fuel use - it turned out that was a great combo, especially as the new pot came with some lightweight extras - a plate and a plastic container, all neatly packed together).
There was muesli packed in small bags for breakfasts, mung beans (which proved to be another good choice, I’d cook a bit every other day, add some to dinner that night and keep a bit for lunch the next day, combined with an instant soup it was very tasty and nutricious), a bunch of Backcountry meals, where would we be without those, some compact pumpernickel bread from Mike, which went great with my stick of salami as an alternative lunch and the usual bits and pieces like chocolate, trail mix, muesli bars and dried fruit. There were some electrolyte powders, basically fancy packaging for fruit sugars, and a bunch of condiments to make drab food taste good. And just in case I brought a fishing rod, which helped me catch a bit of fish here and there to vary the diet.

Wednesday 9/11/11 Day 1 To Port William Hut
So, off I went, on the early plane. The flight was quite uneventful, but it was nice to get a feel for the scale of the island. Its a huge place! Living on Waiheke Island, which is not very large, you kind of start expecting other NZ islands to be similar in scale, but Stewart Island is very different. Not only is it much much larger than places like Waiheke, Great Barrier or even Kapiti Island, it is almost completely covered in bush.
Apart from the tiny settlement of Oban there is no permanent habitation, and the only large farm that was established inland of the rugged west coast, failed and was abandoned decades ago. A truly wild place then and thankfully protected (we hope) as a National Park.

Coming in to Oban we flew over the area where I would be spending my first two days, the coastal zone north of Oban - thickly covered in bush, interspersed with pristine looking beaches.
The plane landed on a small private airstrip and a van took us down to the Oban waterfront. Time to get organised: drop some gear off at the cosy Bunkers Backpackers, call in to the DOC office to fill in an intentions form, pick up the hut pass, rent an emergency beacon and select a nice walking stick (branch) from the bunch left by other walkers.
Then finally I had to buy some sandfly oil and fuel at the local foursquare shop, which by the way is excellent, everything you might need for your walk is here, including the dried meals. After a nice and lazy brunch at the Kiwi French cafe: two huge crepes with massive slabs of blue cheese, salad and walnuts, something to keep me going for the rest of the day there were no excuses left: the pack is hoisted onto the back and I’m off in the drizzle.

I was planning to walk the entire North-West Circuit, anti-clockwise from Oban, all along the northern coastline, down to Mason Bay and all the way back to Oban, which at a normal pace takes between 10 and 12 days.
The first section you walk on some of the Oban roads, which very quickly get really quiet, until a final cul-de-sac with the one Stewart Island rental car on it, which signals the start of the walking track which is marked with a chain sculpture by Russell Beck. A similar chain has been installed at Bluff. I would have liked to have a wee break here, but the sandflies spotted me a mile off and I wasn’t ready for them, so a quick lace-tighten and off I was again.
Phone tree • By jansnapnz. Licence: cc by-sa.

The first section of the trail is part of the Rakiura Track - one of DOC’s Great Walks, and its like a walk in the park: very easy grading, wide gravelled paths, a piece of cake. Nice way to get settled in though, especially with the heavy pack. That sure feels like its going to cause some pain in the next few days. Especially on the road and on flat surfaces the hips take a bit of a pounding and you need to really settle into a different way of walking. The bush is nice here - much of this area was milled to a certain extent in the 1800s, but you do get a taste of the stunning rimu forests you’ll encounter further along the trail. The final hour was a wee bit tiring, but apart from that this first day was not hard at all. Great, quiet beaches, especially Maori Beach with a lovely swing bridge at the end of it.
Chain sculpture at Lee Bay • By jansnapnz. Licence: cc by-sa.

Lagoon at Maori Bay, Stewart Island • By jansnapnz. Licence: C.

The first hut at Port William was quite comfy. I got there quite early and settled in, when I got there there was one young German guy there who had overtaken me earlier. He was running-walking the Rakiura Track and took control of the fire with aplomb. At the campsite an older bloke called Eric settled in with his new friends, the sandflies. At that stage I didn’t realise Eric was going to be my walking buddy for most of the route. During the afternoon several others turned up, alll of them walking the 3 day Rakiura Trail. There was a real buzz about these ‘limited time’ walkers - all of them were very keen on seeing kiwi! That night one after the other kept wandering outside with great trepidation, but unfortunately no-one got to see a live kiwi here. We did hear them at night though, the high shreek was all around us.
Port William Hut, North West Circuit, Stewart Island • By jansnapnz. Licence: cc by-sa.

Port William has an old wharf, this used to be quite a busy place in the early days, but nowadays there is not much trace of human occupation, apart from the gum trees (great kindling) and some other garden escapees. It has a nice long beach and the hut has separate bedrooms, which apparently was a bit of a bother a week before I was there, there was a cold blast with snow and very cold temperatures and people ended up sleeping in the large kitchen/dining space to keep warm.

Thursday 10/11/11 Day 2 To Bungaree Hut
Well, that was interesting! The first day on the REAL Northwest Circuit, or rather, half a day. I was forewarned by the track descriptions, so early this morning I thought I’d better try out the fancy gaiters I picked up from Trademe - I felt a little silly with the huntsman’s camouflage pattern on them, but never mind, they were tough and comfortable. And 2 minutes into the trail: bingo! almost knee deep in the mud, totally misjudged the first puddle. Turns out that was the worst of it though - what it did do was slow me down a little to take the time to have a good look at the mud patches coming up: are there recent footsteps anywhere, is that sand mixed in, does it look a little dried up, or very moist and juicy? Within half an hour you become quite adept at sussing out the best way forward and avoid the worst. So yes, there is lots of mud on the trail, but so far its not too bad, even managed to keep my feet dry this day, thanks to the gaiters - I’m sold, they are staying on the whole time.
The bush is beautiful, its what I call a ‘real’ walk, with a good variety of up and down, nice easy stretches and demanding root climbs and descents. The bush is getting more quiet and thicker, although we’re still in an area that was quite heavily logged in the 1900s.

I had been fretting all morning about what to do this day. I could consider just doing a short day and amble up to Bungaree Hut, or push on to Christmas Village hut so I could do a side trip and climb Mt Anglem the next day without the big pack. The 10 days I have on the trail are not enough to do everything, so either I need to ‘double up’ a few day walks, or somehow shorten my trip. Thats why I started early that morning. The first day had been not too bad, deceivingly easy really and soon I realised I was a bit ambitious thinking I could do two sections so early on in my tramp, the track was tougher than I thought and I was still quite exhausted from the hard work and lack of sleep in the weeks running up to the trip. I was very glad to roll up to Bungaree hut and crash out, after just over 3 hours and decided to be a sensible 53 year old and chill out at this lovely wee hut on the beach.

There was a young german guy, Dirk, who was just about to leave. He explained that he had taken an extra day here. Two days ago he had rushed all the way up here from Oban and arrived totally exhausted. He said that to his surprise he had not seen anyone in the two nights he was at this hut. All along the trail I would find Dirk’s notes in the hut books and he never met anyone, right up to Mason Bay. Near the end of the trail I started imagining him coming out of the walk wearing just rags, and a wild look in his eyes, embracing the first person he met at the Oban pub! But Dirk turned out to be a good remote companion, I was one day behind him for the rest of the trial and every hut I walk into was beautifully clean, with fresh firewood stacked up by the fireplace, danke shon Dirk!

As I had started early that day, I had loads of time, so I had a nice wash by the outside tap, which turned out to be a complicated affair, because the sandflies hang out by that tap. I had to keep as much skin covered as possible, while washing small sections at a time, I hate the damn things.
Bungaree Hut- looking out on the bay • By jansnapnz. Licence: C.

Never mind, managed it OK in the end. There was a wee Readers Digest short novel collection volume in the end, I never thought I’d stoop this low, but I totally enjoyed laying on my bunk and reading a story about a little french gipsy dog in WWII England. Good time to take stock of the body - feet doing quite well, no blisters. Neck & shoulders sore from the heavy pack. Legs OK. Just generally tired, something lots of rest will fix, because I know I have the basic fitness to do the trail. Tomorrow will be better, surely!
Bungaree Hut • By ledge.

After a long time Eric arrived, it had taken him about 5.5 hours to walk the 3 hour route. Eric is planning to spend about 3 weeks on the island and he has loads of food in his 2 packs. That, combined with ‘getting on a bit’ (he is 63 yrs old) meant that he is quite slow. But he’s coping.
We had a nice chat, I handed over the book to him when I finished my story and we just took it easy. I had a few strolls along the huge empty beach, spent some time draped over a huge flat rock, which was warm from the sun (it was a beautiful sunny day), great for the stiff muscles. The sandfly oil I picked up at the Oban store works for a little while, but after about 15 minutes you really have to get moving if you dont want to get covered in bites. Too lazy to try fishing today, that will have to wait.
Early that evening two young american guys turned up, they had walked all the way from Oban, and were here to see the kiwis! They had only a few days on Stewart Island, were heading back the next day. We hardly saw them that night, they were out on the beach kiwi hunting, but they talked so loudly, we could hear them from inside the hut! Not much chance seeing kiwis that way mate. Amazing how some people totally live up to their stereotypes.
Went to sleep very early that night, I had my own little bunk room with a sea view.
Sunrise at Bungaree Hut • By jansnapnz. Licence: cc by-sa.

Friday 11/11/11 - Day 3 to Christmas Village Hut
Woke up to a fiery red sunrise - not a good sign, that could mean a rainy day coming up. Woke up with a light headache, which had been keeping me a awake part of the night, so I had a panadol.
After being so tired the day before I’m not looking forward to this first long day at all, but this is what I came here for, no going back now. So, I just went through the motions - breakfast of cooked muesli with cranberries - yum! Big cup of tea, slowly pack everything and there I was, heading off in the rain.
Once I got going - very slowly at first- it was not that bad actually. And to my surprise, as the day went on I started to feel really good.
So far the track has been quite tricky, there are lots of steep sections with roots to clamber over, which are very slick in the rain, you have to be careful where you put your feet, and in those sections you definitely can’t walk and look all around you at the same time, before you know it you’ve slipped and lost your balance. But its nice to stop every now and then to catch your breath, listen to the birds and just enjoy the place. The bush is just stunning, the empty beaches are amazing, its such a wonderful place.
Murray Beach • By jansnapnz. Licence: C.

After walking all along a large bay, Murray Beach, I passed a summer fishing camp - flat grassy area, signs of cooking areas and long drops op the hill, and followed the route of an old logging tramline up onto a ridge. This was a steady climb though a very wet section - lots of boardwalks here.
Up at the top I had a good lunch break in the rain, just off a very muddy track. Pumpernickel bread with salami - very tasty!
Lunch up the trail from Murray Beach • By jansnapnz. Licence: cc by-sa.

The next section had obviously been beyond the reach of the loggers, I entered a section of bush that was untouched, with massive rimu trees and a beautiful understory of ferns. All of a sudden the birdlife changed as well, I heard the screeching of kaka in the distance and after while I caught up with them, happily feeding in the trees, beautiful to see these birds in their natural environment quite different from the gangs of birds than roam around Oban.
From there it was just a lot of up and down, out and around, crossing small streams and ridges and finally there was the sign pointing to the Christmas Village hut. I got there at 1pm, must have done it in exactly 6 hours, and with energy to spare.
The hut is lovely - it sits right on a bouldery beach, you have to walk across the rocks to reach the hut, which is tucked in from the water’s edge. Because I was the first person to arrive at the hut I could have a good wash by the kitchen sink, nice not to have to worry about sandflies.

The hut has one high room with one of those big drying racks you can hoist up. I scored a pillow and a book - cant remember what it was now, but used both to just chill out and have a lie down. Then I made a fire and washed some clothes, these should be nice and dry in the morning.
Waiting for Eric, who arrived after a very long day, it took him about 9 hours to get here. Another bloke turned up as well, he came from the other direction and was planning to walk up Mt Anglem tomorrow. Eric will do the same, while I will move on to the next hut.

Caught my first fish today - I had no bait, but got creative and gathered some limpets and little crabs around the rocks and I actually got a fish with a crab leg! It was a small blue cod, maybe a little too small, but it was my first fish, I just had to eat it. I cleaned it there and then on the huge rock I was fishing from and took it into the hut. I had already had dinner, but I fried it up in the pan anyway, and shared it with Eric - delicious!
Getting into the whole tramping thing now, and thoroughly enjoying the whole experience.

Saturday 12/11/11 - Day 3 to Yankee River Hut
I’m laying flat on my tommy, peeking across a rocky bank towards a little beach at Yankee River, because I might see some yellow-eyed penguins coming to shore here.
Its the end of the day, this is the time they come back from gathering food out at sea, waddle up to their well-hidden nests in the bushes, just up from the beach, and feed their young. You have to stay off the beach around that time, the birds are very weary of people and predators and won’t come in when they see any disturbance.
Yankee River Beach • By jansnapnz. Licence: cc by-sa.

I’m all wrapped up with gloves and all to keep the sandflies off, there is a bit of a breeze going so they are not too bad. The sun is still up, I have no idea what time it is, which is great.
This place is beautiful - a stony river bed curves into a smallish beach. These huts are all really well located, absolutely beautiful.
I’ve been at the Yankee River hut for a while now, this is the first place where I’m quite likely to be on my own all night, something I was looking forward to, but its taking me a while to settle down. Maybe its because you never know who might turn up all of a sudden. I had a go at fishing, but there wasn’t much happening.

It was quite a long walk today, it was listed as 6 hours and it certainly took me at least that amount of time to get here. I had a relaxed start, Eric and Matthias, the swiss guy who turned up from the other direction, were going up Mt Anglem and I waited for them to leave, cleaned up the hut and headed off.
I was in high spirits, as yesterday had been quite good and the first half of the day went well.
Its nice to take the time for regular stops and to really appreciate what’s around you. The bush is stunning. I shot some video today of what it looks and feels like in this area.
I saw my first bellbird(s) today! And I heard at least 6 different birds in one spot. There were lots of kakariki flying around in pairs and they were very noisy, constanly chattering away, like an arguing couple. No kiwis yet, but I saw a wild cat at Lucky Beach. It looked large and healthy and it was stalking something.

The weather has been good again, its started a bit grey, but got better quite quickly. Eek! had to put some more ‘goodbye sandfly’ on - they have really found me now, and the rocks are getting a bit painful, still no penguins in sight, but its a nice spot to hang out.

Back to todays walk. Halfway down the trail I passed Lucky Beach - yet another wild, deserted beach, all the beach entries are marked with driftwood, nets and buoys that have washed up from fishing vessels, that, and the summer fishing camps are the only signs of life you see on the trail.
I had planned to have my lunch just up from this beach, I have quickly learnt not to try and have a long break on the beach - no matter how beautiful they are, the sandflies are a real nuisance, cant stand them! So up I went, a very steep climb here, it looks like the route has recently been changed here, because it was quite a scramble. I settled down just up from the beach, still with a nice seaview, it looked sandfly safe, but unfortunately as soon as I had taken all my stuff out of the pack - its quite a mission to get lunch together, especially as today I was doing a hot lunch with instant soup plus some mung beans I had cooked the night before - anyway, as soon as I settled down, the sandflies came in hordes. I had to cover myself up again, but persisted, it just meant I couldn’t have long break.

The afternoon became a bit of a slog after that, I just about ran out of water, had to promise myself quite a few breaks and little treats to keep going, this sure is a bit of a challenge! But the track generally is in pretty good shape. Yes there is a lot of mud and it gets quite tough getting up and down the hills, but its not the mud nightmare some people have experienced. So far so good.

I’m sitting up now, all my muscles are sore and I dont think I’m going to see any penguins this evening. Never mind, it was very nice just sitting here with the sun on my back. Tomorrow will be day 5, already nearly halfway down the trail, its going fast!
Its been amazing so far, despite all the hardship, the huffing and puffing. Knowing you can do it feels pretty good. And hey, no blisters! The new boots are great, and the fleece between the toes - thanks Steve for the prime Shakespeare Park fleece- is working a treat.
It was a bit of shame I couldn’t wait for Eric, he’s a nice guy with a good sense of humour - ah well, life goes on! Its certainly quiet on the trail at the moment. Dirk, the guy who is one day ahead of me wrote this in the hut book last night: ‘3rd night alone - where is everyone!’.
Well, I’m going to head back to the hut now, make some dinner and settle in for a quiet night.

Back at the hut I sat up till about 9.30pm with a cosy fire going. I was keeping an eye on the river banks, many people had written in the hut book that they had seen whitetail deer roaming around the river at dusk, but I spotted none. Did hear some kiwi at night again. Had a nice time going through all my supplies, checking what I have left and sussing out how far the food will reach, actually I may have to think this through as I wont have enough supplies to walk the entire circuit and if I want to shorten my trip by catching a water taxi (which would take two reportedly quite boring days on the Rakiura Track off off the route) I will have to book one quite soon, there is some cellphone coverage at this side of the island, but from tomorrow onwards, the coverage might disappear. Food for thought.
Yankee River Hut • By jansnapnz. Licence: cc by-sa.

I finally gather up the courage to look under the plaster I have on my knee, not so good. A small pimple has gone septic, I had hoped it would heal under the protection of the plaster, but its actually becoming a bit of an open sore now. Damn! At least I have a lot of medical stuff with me - spent a long time cleaning and dressing the wound. Fingers crossed, see you tomorrow night. What’s next -a little patience on the iphone, reading everything in the hut book - so few people from around Auckland come this way, quite a amazing.

Woke up in the middle of the night by a loudly screeching kiwi, and I could have sworn I saw a white spot darting across the river.

Sunday 13/11/11 - Day 5 to Long Harry Hut
The huts are still getting better all the time. This one is very new, perched high above a wild rocky beach, with amazing views. The hut is situated very well - a real sun trap, with an interesting passive solar area out the back. I’m on my own again today, and I’ve set myself up with a nice book - found in the hut, its a funny thriller about a topless dancer - and a mattress perched on two wooden benches, in the best spot of the house. This is the right place to spend an extra night.
I’ve hatched a plan today - managed to make a call from one of the clifftops to the water taxi guy and booked myself a ride out from Freshwater Hut. This means I can spend an extra day on the trail - its just too beautiful out here to rush things - and I will have plenty of food. This should also allow Eric to catch up again, which would be quite nice.
Today’s walk was brilliant, a really nice range of landscapes. The coast is changing now the trail is going around the northern tip of the island - from sheltered, lazy beaches to more exposed coastal zones with big dunes and rugged rocks. This was one of the shorter walks, about 4-5 hours and many people do this day and the next in one day.
I’m quite happy to do one leg at a time, I’m definitely fit enough to do more, but its just really nice to take the time to enjoy the place. I am already feeling the whole thing is going by too quickly anyway.
There was a steady climb from Yankee River hut, through nice bush, then steeply down to Smoky Beach.
When you get down to the beach level you hit the dunes, which are obviously constantly shifting. The trail suddenly meets this steep fresh dune slope - a short but exhausting climb through knee deep loose sand, it was only about 10m up, but it took forever, every step brings down loads of sand, and you just dont seem to get any higher. With a big pack on your back that’s exhausting work.
Approaching Smokey Beach • By jansnapnz. Licence: C.

But after that initial climb you enter a magical dune landscape, the route is marked with poles and you meander through the dunes to end up on a huge windswept beach, which you need to follow right to the end. I dropped my pack for a bit and went for a wander through the dunes, which are a little more sheltered than the beach.
Signpost in the dunes at Smokey Beach • By jansnapnz. Licence: cc by-sa.

Beautiful place. Looking West I saw some rain ahead, so I put on my coat, wrapped up and headed along the beach. The rain didn’t amount to much in the end, its been pretty good so far.
At the end of the beach you can choose to wade through the river or take the detour inland and cross over the swingbridge. With my nice dry shoes I opted for the bridge, I’m a great fan of those structures and curious to see everyone of them. The detour is not bad, but there is a bit of a climb involved and in the end you still need to cross a small stream, which involves quite a clamber through the undergrowth. Another steep climb and you’re on your way to the Long Harry hut.
Windblown manuka at Smokey Beach • By jansnapnz. Licence: C.

And up there, in the last hour before getting to the Long Harry Hut it happened: I spotted not one, but 2 kiwis! They are awesome birds in their natural habitat. Totally unfased by people by the looks, they move very fast through the undergrowth, mostly ferns here, and you can hear them rustling around, they make quite a bit of noise with their big feet. Then suddenly they cross your path or wander on the trail ahead of you and as quickly as you see them, they are gone again.
After spotting your first kiwi, you walk around the bush in a totally different way: ears pricked, you are constantly looking out for movement, sounds, unusual things. I was totally excited, its such a treat! A little further along there were some massive rocky outcrops in the bush, and as I was sheltering from a shower under a huge overhang, I was feeling around in the leaf litter and uncovered an almost complete kiwi skeleton: huge leg bones they have. There are thousands of kiwi on Stewart Island and they seem to be able to cope with the small number of predators here.
Kiwi bones • By jansnapnz. Licence: C.

In the hut book Dirk wrote this:
“This is so funny. I am just about to leave and now there are 2 kiwis running up and down the walkway next to the hut. Looks like they are having a race or something like that. I love this place!”

I could quite easily spend a week here, but two days will have to do. I’ve had a good wash, did some laundry and am looking after my ‘war wound’, which has taken a turn for the worse, its getting larger instead of smaller damn it. I’m sitting on my ‘couch’ with the sore exposed to the sun, I’m trying to dry it out a little. I do have a normal antiseptic ointment, and hope it will start taking an effect soon. I’ll chill out with my book today and will explore the area a bit more tomorrow I reckon.

The rest of the day was very relaxed, no disturbance at all, had a nice meal, a low fire going, the sun streaming in right until sunset, beautiful views. Made a trip down to the beach and hauled up some driftwood for the fire, but Dirk has once again left ample supplies. In the distance I saw a cruise liner pass by, very weird to see that from this remote place. Just after dark I heard quite a lot of noise just outside the hut, must have been kiwis, but I was too snug in my bed to try and look for them. Had a great sleep.
Relaxing at Long Harry Hut • By jansnapnz. Licence: cc by-sa.

Monday 14 Nov, day 6 Long Harry Hut.
Woke up to a stunning day, no hurry whatsoever, this is my day off! I’m just mucking about today and will hopefully catch up with Eric again at the end of the day. After an early stroll up the hill I had one of Elizabeth’s instant capucino’s, very nice. With my book, in my sleeping bag on my home-made couch by the window, I was as snug as a bug. Then after a while I went down to the beach and tried my hand at some fishing off the rocks, which turned out to be quite exciting, There is quite a swell out here, its an exposed beach and I set myself up on a big rock with a bit of clear water out front. Every now and then a huge wave would roll up and cover me in spray, very exciting! Had to hold on for dear life, while keeping one foot on the kit bag, whatever is not secure gets washed into the sea.
Had some bites, but they were al quite small fish, It was quite awesome to see the fish moving through the swell, I had a small one on the line at some point and it seemed like his whole family was following him right up to the rock I was on. It actually put me off catching them. After about 40 minutes I called it a day. One more huge splash of sea spray and I hopped back to the beach. Still, glad I did this, I would never have stood on a big rock getting soaked by huge waves otherwise. Headed up to the hut with some big chunks of driftwood for the fire and made a nice pot of tea. Back to the book!
Beach near Long Harry Hut • By jansnapnz. Licence: cc by-sa.

Around lunchtime a group of about 4 people dropped by. They were heading for the next hut, and said there were 4 more people coming to stay at the Long Harry Hut, plus Eric, who turned up first. He was quite surprised to see me. The other 4 were part of a large group from the Otago Uni tramping club, a nice bunch of students, quite unusual to have a hut full of kiwis actually, nice to see the old tramping thing is still alive and kicking.
With all the smelly gear on the porch, the sandflies which had hardly bothered me the day before, were back with a vengeance. With all the milling about the hut was actually filling up with them, every time the door opened a huge amount of them came in and by the end of the day they were starting to bother us. There must have been a few thousand of them in the hut and I decided I had enough.
I started killing them by the hundreds, by squishing them against the windows, and before long everyone joined in, after about an hour we just about had the hut clear of them, but then we realised we all had to go to the loo before bed and this would bring in fresh clouds of sandflies.
In hindsight I worked out that having a fire going in the hut actually helps keep the sandflies away form the hut, the smoke swirling around the hut must drive them away. But this day we didn’t light the fire at all, the weather was great after all, and they were all hovering by the door, ready to stream in. So we hatched a plan: everyone lined up by the door, the person in front banged on the door to scare away the sandflies and then we all burst out the door in a crazy parade, all fanning out to do the business and lined up to get back in the same way. It worked pretty good - only a few hundred sandflies made it in that time and we dealt with them pretty quickly. Stilll, I pulled the silk liner right over my head that night and had another great sleep. Needed the earplugs, there was a bit of snoring through the night.

Tuesday 15Nov, day 7 East Ruggedy Hut