Sorry to go on about mice all the time but last night's adventures need to be shared.
As the snoring started the mice did too. We had them running all over us, behind us, between us and under us.
Our packs and food were tucked safely inside the mouseproof and modern Anne Hut, but sleeping under the verandah on the deck, we weren't safe from them at all.
We pulled our sleeping bags tightly around our heads so they couldn't get in with us.
At one stage I looked out across the deck and a rat wandered past. I could've reached out and picked it up.
The cyclist, sleeping out in the open, watched as a possum climbed up the verandah post beside him and contemplated doing a tightrope walk along the clothesline.
The hunter, a professional possum trapper, considered giving it the bash but was a bit worried someone might get upset and call the SPCA.
Eventually the novelty of us and our gear wore off and the wildlife left us to it.
The stars were beautiful.
As we had breakfast the next morning Whiona recognised one of the women in the kitchen.
We'd been hiking in the Italian Dolomites with Jenny, her husband and a group of kiwis a few years ago.
It was good to catch up and reminisce about Italy.
FYI: Italian tramping accommodation is a bit different to New Zealand's. For a start they're called Refugios. They also have central heating, espressos and apple strudel...things that are usually lacking in DoC huts.
But they don't have the same level of creature comforts we're used to here in NZ...creatures like mice, rats and possums.
The hut soon cleared out with the hunters and us being the last to leave.
We've spent many a night with hunters but these two were something else.
Richard was Swiss, wealthy, un-fit and looked to be in his mid-sixties. He'd been dropped off at a nearby hut by a local helicopter company.
He had his suitcase and a gun, but had very little English and absolutely no idea what he was doing or where he was.
They'd given him a rescue beacon in case something went wrong and a time for a pick-up - twelve days later.
Luckily he'd bumped into Sean and his horse No Name who'd taken pity on him.
No Name carried his stuff and Sean brought him to Anne Hut for a look around.
"Some of those helicopter outfits are rogues," Sean said as we all left the strange little Swiss guy waddling in our wake.
"He'll be alright...you can't get lost around here," was Sean's reply when I wondered out loud about Richard's ability to find his way back to his suitcase.
In stark contrast to Richard, Sean, also in his sixties, knew exactly what he was doing in the backcountry. He'd joined the Forest Service at sixteen and had worked for them as a deer culler.
It's not every day you get to walk through New Zealand with someone who packs as much heat as Sean. No Name carried his rifle, ammunition and a large machete. A piece of rope that seemed to be more interested in carrying knives than holding his baggy trousers up sat on his thin hips.
Reading between the lines, his Forest Service career ended up in a desk job that ended when DoC was formed. That desk job may even have had something to do with the formation of DoC.
He's not a fan of 1080, but backs his dislike of the chemical pest control with a hefty amount of knowledge...and commitment.
True, as a professional trapper, he earns a living from the possums 1080 is aimed at, but unlike many 1080 haters, he's got a good grasp of the problem the poison is being used to control.
His knowledge of possums, stoats, rats, deer, pigs and the rest of the pests destroying our native flora and fauna was almost encyclopaedic.
Scoffing at recent news of a new breakthrough in rodent control that involves peanut butter, drones and radio transmitters he walked with us preaching the old ways from the old days. Days when the hills were full of professional killers...doing the good work.
He doesn't believe technology will save our rapidly disappearing native birds. Good old-fashioned hard work and commitment are the only real options we've got.
How do I know all this? It's all he talked about as he walked with us for fifteen kilometres to the turnoff where we said our goodbyes.
The time had flown and we were already half way through our day.
You see I've been through the desert on a horse with no name
It felt good to be out of the rain
In the desert you can remember your name
Cause there ain't no one for to give you no pain
We stopped for lunch and a wash then ploughed on.
The last half of the day went a lot slower than the first. Perhaps Sean should've stuck around.
The country we walked through was the same, but we'd left the Saint James Walkway and the track was a lot rougher.
When we finally got to our destination, we were shattered.
We'd been following a French couple since Arthur's Pass and thought we may actually catch them up at Caroline Biv...which would've been awkward because it only has two beds.
But we needn't have worried. They'd moved on.
Caroline Biv was a hole.
An unloved, mouse infested, sandfly infested hole.
The beds were old saggy canvas relics that collect mouse shit in their slumps.
The window was a seething mass of sandflies...on the inside.
Outside in the gloomy forest that surrounded the biv was a large fire place full of beer bottles, burnt tins, burnt tools and burnt chairs...metal ones.
There was no toilet, so the surrounding forest was littered with toilet paper and whatever accompanied it.
Bivs like this are designed to save lives so aren't usually roomy and comfortable...but Carolyne Biv is in a class of its own.
It's a long way from any other huts so has become a focal point for the burgeoning numbers of Te Araroa walkers coming to and from the challenging Waiau Pass. But unfortunately this unloved biv offers them nothing but a place to shit...in the woods that surround it.
Or shelter in a storm...which I suppose is a good thing.
We pitched out tent in the meadow away from the mouse and turd-filled forest, then hung our food bags on wires we strung from trees.
I think I quoted Brian Turner a few weeks ago. He had a line about any hut being better than a tent...we agreed with him until we came to Caroline Biv.