There were no snorers or rats last night so a very quiet hut for a change. We all got up at the same time and Kevin was out the door 15 minutes before me but I caught him in 50 minutes.
I was making good speed on the track but was having to concentrate as there was lots of rocks and roots. At one stage there was a crashing in front of me and there was a huge deer running off. The track headed downhill but at an easy gradient so it was a quick drop. It took 3 hours to get to Browning Hut.
From Browning Hut the trail followed the river, crossing it a few times. Near the junction to the Harper Road End I came across a large group of 15 to 20 mature trampers. I was surprised to come across such a large group in the bush. At talking I learnt they were a tramping club fit over 50's.
From the junction the trail headed uphill and them downhill and it seemed to take ages for the last 15 minutes. The DOC time for this section was very tight for the average tramper as it took me the full 1 hour to Hackett Hut.
I walked across the Bridge from the hut then took a break by the junction. As I was sitting there two mountain bikers went past. They asked which direction I was heading and when I pointed to Starveal they cringed and said good luck.
The track followed the river for nearly a km crossing it several times. At each crossing there were plenty of rocks to use to go across and in one place a log to use as a bridge. This meant I was able to keep my feet dry which Iwas greatful for later on the day. The trail then left the river and started climbing - 900 vertical meters in 4 km. The climb was constant but not as hard as I was expecting. At 1000 meters altitude I entered the cloud layer and it was neat walking through the misty trees.
Through the mist the hut appeared and there was a big red tent set up. As I approached a man emerged from the mist with an armful of wood. We went inside the hut and it was toasty with the fire going. The guy was also doing TA with his girlfriend and they were staying a couple of days at the hut. I was not sure why they were staying in their tent when they had the hut so comfortable with the fire going. It had taken 2 hours 15 minutes to get to Starveal Hut from Hackett Hut.
I filled in the Hut Book and then ventured back into the mist. The mist was now really heavy abs visibly was varying between 10-20 meters. The track was now above the trees and it was fantastic walking through this barren landscape airline by mist. It made me focus on the small area around me. I had to concentrate on reading the ground to tri and discern where the track was as I could not see the markers. The track went along the side of a hill and then over some rock outcrops and over some shale. It was dead silent as there were no birds without the trees so I noticed the sound of my footprints. The was the crunch over the small gravel like walking on firm snow. Going over the shale it sounded like walking over broken glass. As I descended into the tree line the green of the moss seemed super bright amongst the muted colours caused by the mist.
I paused for a break and add I sat there a Tomtit came and was flying around me getting closer and closer. I love these birds as they are round bundles of feathers and really inquisitive.
After climbing a few hills the track came into the open and descended through tussock to the hut. It took 1 hour 50 minutes to Slatey Hut. There I met Joe (from Queen Charlotte Track) and another guy whose name I forgot (sorry). I cooked dinner there as there was no water until Rintoul Hut which I would reach tomorrow, unless I wanted to go to Old Man Hut which was a 250 metre vertical drop from the track that seemed a waste of energy. I filled up with just over a litre of water over my normal 1 litre to last me for a final drink that evening and breakfast tomorrow.
I walked back into the mist and started a big climb. The misty started clearing as I descended down and I started to get a perspective of the landscape around me and it was great. I stopped to take some photos and take in the views. It was a little intimidating looking at the hill I needed to climb but it was nice to see into the distance. I started walking again and in the distance I saw two goats with identical dark brown coats. It is unusual for goats to be the same colour, usually they are a motly collection of colours and markings.
After 15 minutes the mist came back again and it was hard staying on track. I thought it strange that the big hill I had seen didn't seem to appear. It must have been a gradual climb. The track veered off to the right snd as I had no visual cies to my location I though I had missed the junction but this was the direction I was meant to go in so was not worried. The track went through bush for a short stretch then back into the open which matched what I was expecting. I climbed the hill and was surprised how high it was. There was no way to know if I was on track but occasionally a marker pole would appear through the mist so I was happy. At the top was the junction I thought I had missed so I had to reassess my location and continue on. From here the wind picked up and the trail got a little scary. I could see enough in the mist to know there were large steep, and sometimes sheer cliffs to one side as I was scrambling up rocks. Some of these I felt like I was rock climbing as I had to let my poles dangle and use my hands to crip the rocks, and I was gripping tightly with the drops below me. I was really relieve to get through this part amd into the trees. I walked past the first junction to Old Mans Hut 2 hours 50 minutes from Slayey Hut. From here I started searching for a tent site, though I didn't expect to see one until after the next junction bases off the map contours. Sure enough I arrived at the second junction with no suitable sites. Only a minute after this I found a suitable site. By the time my tent was up I was cold so I had a hot drink and OSM bar and snuggled into my sleeping bag and quickly went to sleep.
Answer: moss on rock