7. Freshwater – Mason Bay – along the beach & back

Friday, February 17: Clouds overnight clearing in the morning to fine & sunny (hot) in the course of the afternoon

Tramping: 22.6 km

Mason Bay Hut (Doc)

Track to Mason Bay
Track to Mason Bay

Steve & Elliot were up and about by around 6:30 but not making much progress. I soon joined them to have my breakfast and was over to the boatsman before they were, to find out how the future connections would work. My trip out was no problem for 9:00 on Sunday, but I had to vouch for Søren for Tuesday, and he will have to pay a premium if there is no one else going in or coming out on that day.

Sleep was a little more fragmented during the night, but at least dreams started reappearing, and falling asleep seems to be more rapid without the ‘nap jerk’. I had packed all of my stuff together and was ready to go soon after 8:15. Will have to reduce the vanity bag and the battery bag for the Dusky.

Still cloudy when I left, so no great reflections in the swamp. There is quite a muddy section just after the bridge which goes on for about 4 km before the causeway begins. Dodging a mud pool I ripped apart the rubbish bag and collected everything again. The tramway was in good nick except for a section of about 20 m length which had been washed away. Spotted a bell bird but was unable to photograph him. A bit of mud at the end, and then the elevated pathway over the swamp, followed by intermittent board walk.

No one on the track so far, but just before the homestead I ran into three couples heading towards Freshwater; chatted with them for a bit and pushed on. Had an hydration break at the homestead and took some photos this time, then was pretty quickly at the hut.

I took the old room (first on the left) and had lunch while two younger blokes prepared to leave. They were planning to go from Freshwater to Oban in one day to complete their North-West Circuit (in up to now one day less than me, as they had not attempted Mt Anglem/Hananui). I told them it would be tough, but that they at least had the psychology on their side, of walking a really hard 11 km to be rewarded by an easy 12 after North Arm.

Google Map of the day’s hike. GPS quality: 30/30, coverage: 100%, download: Freshwater - Mason Bay GPX (52 downloads)
Can’t see map? Click here!

After everyone had left, including a family (mother Annie, son Dave, and girlfriend Rina) on hold for the Southern Circuit, I stripped off to my undies and went for a bit of a dip in Duck Creek – somewhat refreshing – and proceeded to wash sox, undies & trouser bottoms. I had decided on going down the beach in crox during the afternoon. Everything was hung up on the deck to dry, then I applied some sunscreen to the exposed body parts, followed by the deet. Packed in the camera, pol filter, glasses and sunglasses, and headed south along Mason Bay. Tried a couple of panoramas, as well as a couple of shots of the dunes, saw Dave returning, then met up with Annie all before the Gutter, and we were on our way back to the hut by 4:00.

Bit of a discussion with Dave (anaesthetist, AUS) about Into the Wild and Krakauer’s revision of McCandless’s cause of death, and then with Annie about thinking vs rote-learning. Managed to get her to do the species concept problem which she solved with flying colours.

Time was getting on and Annie started on her dinner, and I on course #1, spaghetti with marg & salt; soon followed by instant noodles (the bag had burst). Spag worked OK this time because the water had all been drained off. Washed up, washed my glasses, the filter and the lens (why wasn’t this done in the run up?). In the meantime a couple briefly appeared on the green but they wanted to move on in the direction of Freshwater.

Confirmed that I had left the small tripod at the hostel but decided to take pol filtered shots of the sunset while the family played some farming game with plenty of sheep and wheat, and the occasional offer of a peppermint biscuit in my direction while I sipped water. Big event tonight will be looking for kiwis, as has been advertised all day.

Spectacularly clear sky, very dry air.

Kiwi spotting was started at 10:30. We could hear some calls and some rustling in the bushes. Then some hunters came through (calling us the Gestapo because they thought we were from Doc). When they were through we picked up the rustling again, and a bird appeared – as if it had been waiting for the hunters to pass – & crossed the track very close to me before heading off a short way up the embankment which was its feeding ground. It was very much two legs & a beak trying to wrest grubs & worms from the ground. It disappeared from view after about five minutes.

We moved on with our red lamps fairly quickly to the homestead where we parted company with Annie who wanted to see if she could find kiwis at the old air strip. I stayed behind a while to admire the sky. No planets visible – Venus has swung quickly into being the morning star – but both Magellanic Clouds were quite visible. Dave had found another kiwi which we watched for a bit, then I headed off back to the hut. Annie & Dave were back about 30 minutes later and then sleep was possible around 11:30. Annie snored once & I retaliated.