We emerge from light forest into an area that DoC is somewhat anxious about
We wander on beside the river. The cowpats are becoming decidely more common, and as the cows have a tendency to walk along existing tracks, a degree of circumspection is essential.
Matagouri is starting to show up in quantity
I don't know of any plant that more sharply evokes the biblical thornbush or, especially on a cloudy, drizzly, and windy afternoon, Macbeth's blasted heath.
I think I prefer them though to the sweetbriar which has overtaken vast areas further south in Otago. The Maori name is tumatakuru, and I imagine matagouri is a colonial corruption of that. It's also known as Wild Irishman.
We continue to pick our way along... From time to time the track heads up into the bush as the river cuts in against the edge of the valley.
Ahead of us and to the left, the Christopher Valley opens up. The Christopher River joins the Ada as it heads down and picks up the Henry before joining the Waiau.
A lone horse appears on the other side of the river. We suspect it is old and may have been pushed out of the herd. It follows us for some distance as we head down the valley, so it is probably lonely. Horses do not do solitary very well.
Up into the bush, again, as the river cuts in close to the edge of the valley. "If it wasn't for me hiking poles where would I be....?" I have been humming to myself trying to fit hiking poles into a revised version of Fred Dagg's gumboot song, but it's hard to capture the mood.
The extra stability on hilly or sloping tracks is invaluable, to say nothing of the load they take off knees and ankles.
And down again. Sometimes you just have to stop for a minute or two to let it all in.
(We calculate later that at 10-15 seconds per photo, I spend about 3/4 of an hour every day stopping to let it all in.)
The next little while as we begin a wide circle to the right towards the Christopher Hut, is partly valley floor and partly bush, but beginning to rise steadily and leave the edge of the river.
Here and there are boggy patches, bridged by boardwalks which DoC has provided to protect the fragile wetland ecology.
Here's what lies ahead of us. The Christopher Hut is about a couple of kilometres down the valley, past the next bit of forest.
It gets a bit rougher underfoot and I realise I am feeling the first signs of tiredness. It's been a grand day, but I'm looking forward to the hut.