We woke to a couple of Weka rustling around the hut. An adult and a youngster that darted around from bush to bush showing great survival skills.
A Robin helped us do the dishes while swarms of Fantails flitted about.
As we walked down into the valley the mist was lifting into a clear blue sky.
Dwayne and Edith, the weather gods, were smiling yet again. We'd missed the heavy downfalls and flooding of the week before and only had to contend with moderately flowing rivers.
All of a sudden it felt like autumn.
The twenty-four kilometre walk that lay before us would've been pretty intimidating a couple of weeks back but we'd recharged our batteries and were determined to take it easy.
We soon met our first TeA walker, Edward from London - a Cape Reinga Sobo. He had sore knees that he attributed to all the tarseal he'd had to travel on in the North Island.
"All the road walking made me quite angry actually..."
Like many of the North Island Sobos we've met he really liked Palmerston North and the Tararuas even though the weather was pretty bad.
The walk up the Taramakau River to Harper Pass was pretty straight forward. There was a rough 4WD track that proved much easier than the official track markers and we made good time to the impressive Locke Stream Hut Number 4.
The hut is an early tourist hut that was put in by the goverment in the early 1930s as an alternative to the popular - even then - Milford Track.
There were four huts on the route which is why they are numbered 1 to 4. They were put in to encourage the nation to take up a healthy lifestyle by the wonderfully named Physical Welfare Division of the Department of Internal Affairs.
The amazing thing about Locke Stream Hut is that it was made of hand-hewn timber. Even the floor has been cut and shaped by hand.
This has been a fairly normal feature of many of the huts that we've stayed in on this journey, but Locke Stream Hut stands out for its sheer size. It sits well off the ground, has a large communal dining room that has two dorm rooms at each end. I assume that one was for women and one was for men.
Lunch was brilliant. Our usual crackers and cheese were supplemented by some wild Ruahine venison salami that arrived as part of a care package from friends (Hat Tip Simon and Damia). Apparently they were concerned about our weight loss so boxed up some chocolate Girl Guide Biscuits, red wine, the salami and some barley sugars.
Mmmmm...Girl Guide Biscuits.
Harper Pass was a breeze compared to some of the passes we've gone over. It only sits at about 900 metres and instead of the usual scree and tussock is covered in what we call Dr Seuss forest.
Strange sub-alpine trees with flax-like and serrated leaves that looked like out-of-control pot plants from The Cat In The Hat.
The path was bordered by similarly cartoonish greenery of actual flax, turpentine bush and dinner-plate sized mountain buttercups.
The walk down from the Pass was like a repeat of the morning's walk up to the pass but backwards.
We walked down through beech forest and onto wide, often open and grassy river flats. Again a 4WD track proved to be the best route with the "actual" track making detours into the bush and up and down spurs. A waste of energy.
At about the 22 kilometre mark we came across Cameron Hut. From the outside it looked like a good choice for dinner and a bed. The inside changed our minds.
The beds didn't have mattresses and the place looked more like an adventure playground for mice than a comfortable place for a kip.
We opted to just have tea - macaroni cheese and salami - then headed down to Hurunui Hut Number 3.
Another 1930s tourist gem.
As we went off for our wash in the river a 4WD party arrived. Five guys. Three trucks. BBQs. Beer. Freshly caught trout.
Vitaly, the first TeA walker we've come across from Belarus arrived soon after. He's a Sobo who's walking from Auckland to Queenstown on the trail.
Luckily the 4WD guys ate outside...we could smell their food but didn't have to watch. Having said that, our recent brush with civilisation meant we weren't tempted to hang around them like hungry dogs waiting to be thrown a scrap or two.
It's good to keep your dignity in the backcountry.
As the light faded and the Moreporks started up, the frogs joined in...croaking loudly like they did the night before. Only this time a local, one if the drivers, spoiled the effect by telling me they were just crickets.
Frogs would've been much better.