We reach the Christopher Cullers Hut.
About 40 or more years ago, when proliferating deer populations were threatening to destroy completely what forest remained, the government instituted a huge culling programme to reduce numbers. This was the era that Barry Crump immortalised in A Good Keen Man, a collection of yarns that Crump culled from others more closely associated with the outback. Cullers' huts were primitive shelters, with a bunk or two, perhaps a fireplace, and somewhere to feed yourself. The fireplace on this one has been removed, but the hut itself has been preserved as part of the area's history.
At a pinch, it would still provide shelter, but tonight we are sleeping on rubber mattresses and perhaps lighting a fire.
We carry on, across a fairly lumpy paddock. The large feature against the skyline is Mt Federation, which we shall be skirting tomorrow.
There's a patch or two of dappled shady bush to pass through, and
a few hundred yards of pasture
and there it is.
The women head down to the river for a wash, and a closer look at a small herd of wild horses camped on the opposite bank, accompanied by a few completely uncalled-for remarks in my direction which I studiously ignore for the most part. I do mention that washing encourages sandflies, but this is met with an (accurate) observation that there have been so far no sandflies evident to encourage. Maybe I'm doing the job for everybody.
Interesting. Maybe we are still too far up to be troubled by them, but I should have thought our riverside route would have been an ideal environment for them, as were the last several days of the Heaphy when we followed the river along.
Anyway, it is getting close to evening and I do not fancy immersing myself in a mountain stream at this time of day.
Up the valley, the sky is getting ready for sunset.
Frank and Ray are already settled in, along with Manfred. I make a cup of tea, then head outside to the toilet. The grass is carpeted in small pale blue flowers, New Zealand bluebells, (Wahlenbergia albomarginata).
Dinner is tasty - another of my dried efforts, reconstituted by Miranda and Carol. Theoretically, some of these should be accompanied by rice or pasta, and we do have a little cooked dried rice with us, but it is convenient only in terms of time. It weighs the same and occupies the same volume as uncooked rice.
Mostly we use instant mashed potatoes. By themselves, these taste rather like soggy cardboard, and Miranda has become extremely good at tarting them up with onion flakes, a little butter, and some dried tomato or celery. I experimented with drying mushrooms, but was never very satisfied with them and their keeping qualities are quite suspect, especially if it's at all muggy. Capsicum are fine for flavour but remain chewy. Broccoli dry OK but tend to go mouldy in short order.
After dinner, Miranda takes the camera outside for a last look at the sky.
We are early to bed - mostly soon after dark, which is not our usual practice - and wake soon after dawn. It's not as cold as we figured and the fire made the entire hut for a while almost too warm for sleeping bags. But eventually we drift off, and dream impossible and certainly improbable dreams. Both of us are dreaming far more vividly than usual, and we remember this at least, even if the dreams slip beyond recall.