We head across the meadow towards a group of cattle, becoming aware as we do so that the path is going to take us right between the cows and the bull. He is a large and ugly fellow, but as it turns out, somewhat phlegmatic in temperament. I was brought up around Jersey bulls, who are anything but.
Nevertheless we keep our heads down and walk silently past as quickly as possible. There are bulls like this one throughout this valley and the next several, and though we see a number of them pawing the ground, bellowing, and digging great holes in the turf, none of them is remotely aggressive towards any of us.
We carry on into more light forest,
with the dapple shade welcome after our meadow trek.
Streams crossing the track are an ongoing fact of life, all of them crystal clear, and while the main rivers may be suspect for contamination by cattle, most of the larger sidestreams are safe for drinking, especially in forest and close to the side of the valley.
Another plus from the forest is the birdsong, especially bellbirds, and occasionally we get close enough for a photo.
Always with us along the valley is the abiding presence of the mountains on either side.
The Faerie Queen is ahead of us on the left and, even with almost no snow on top, is already a commanding presence that will be with us for some time.
We're back into bush, greener this time and more open.
One of the feature trees along here is referred to in the track notes as "celery pine". This has me puzzled as the celery pine that I know is tanekaha, and this is not tanekaha. I check later, and find it is toatoa, Phylloclades alpinus, or mountain celery pine, in the same genus as tanekaha. These leaves are about lifesize.
Tanekaha is tall and slender in habit. These cousins are a feature around the edge of the bush, looking more like big squat green beehives.
We pass Frank and Ray having lunch on the bank of the Ada River. It looks idyllic, and we immediately begin feeling hungry.
It's not too difficult to sort out another idyllic spot and we slip our packs off. I dip my cloth hat in the river, wring it out and replace it on my head. I can feel the Aah even now.
Carol gets organised.
In many ways this trip is just a constant bath in sensuous pleasure.
I can understand where the guy is coming from whose internet track notes described the track as cowdung, rain, mud and boredom. I was more likely to hit that frame of mind in the last half hour of the day when I was walking to get somewhere, not to be be somewhere. A 3 metre boggy patch started to look like half a kilometre, and I had taken in as much information as I could hold about plants and trees and stuff.
But as a rule, as a North Islander, I found the plant communities a constant source of interest, and the hills towering above me a constant presence I find hard to describe except in terms of my inner response. I recall years ago on my OE being incredibly homesick in London for weeks until we headed north one weekend and as soon as we hit the Derby Fells it was like being home again. There are three kinds of people, I reckon - plains people, mountain people and valley people and I am one of the last. Someone else adds a fourth: coast people.
The cattle and horses were in magnificent shape and Carol spent a lot of time just observing the herd behaviour, often very different from animals constantly limited by fences and hedges. The weather was kind for the most part, and we just enjoyed being out and away from every day.
None of us are geologists, even amateur ones, but I imagine the topography would also be a constant source of interest, given a minimal data base.
We did notice, however, that after lunch most days, a kind of somnolence intervened. We reckoned the ideal track would have a hut every 4-5 hours of fatman time. Today, however, was just about perfect,
even the details