Come Away With Me...
We say goodbye to Mike, who is walking back out today to the top of the Lewis.
For those of us who have formed a conclusion that the track today will be downhill cruising, the first 500m gets under our guard a little. No big deal, but I stop and fasten in place my knee support, and appreciate my sticks all over again. We emerge upstream and cross the creek.
It's more light bush and mossy carpet, but pleasant walking nevertheless and varied enough in its own quiet way to repay attention.
Just along from here the DoC reserve ends and the St James Station begins.
We track in and out of bush and meadow. The roundwood nutter in DoC has been busy here too, and as usual the response of trampers has been to beat a path around his work, even when it's wired together.
The moss is everywhere luxuriant. We even pass a moss poodle.
In this forest, very often, the young beeches occupy the niche that ferns and shrubs do elsewhere.
We emerge into more meadow and another bluetop day.
Back into the bush and over a stile and we are in cow country.
The track marker indicating avalanche zones is a large yellow-orange circle. The track is so far from the edge of the mountain that we find it hard to believe there can possibly be any danger, until we see largish boulders scattered around the meadow, and realise that these things can travel a fair way once they are dislodged.
We head down a long meadow which looks as if it should be boring but isn't. The sun is warm, the dew has evaporated from the grass, the air is clean, and there is just enough breeze to cool us. There are wildflowers growing in the grass, and part way down a huge hare about the size of a bull terrier leaps up in front of me and charges off to the side of the valley. No cows, but you can see where they've been and recently too. Likewise horses.
The St James Station hosts a herd of wild horses which are broken in as required for station work, and which also command very good prices if they get as far as the auctions. They are very highly regarded indeed and Carol is looking everywhere to see where they might be hiding.
We get used to South Island hills over the next week or so, and it is not until we get back to Auckland and see our own "hills" with fresh eyes that we realise just how little they are in comparison, even the "big" ones on the McKenzie estate opposite us in Helensville.
Up on the tops there are still pockets of snow and ice.
Miranda is humming "Come away with me", and when she gets to the verse that goes...
I want to walk with you
... I get the message. It's a sunny day but what the hell.
So that's how far into the meadow the boulders fall.