The fire had been hot so we all slept in the crowded little hut with the window open. New Zealanders like their fresh air.

It was still raining when we woke and our wussy decision to spend yet another day off in a Ruahine hut just seemed sensible.

The trappers all had their breakfast and headed home. Because it’s a small hut only so much activity can occur in it at one time, so we waited until they left before we started getting our life in order.

The Whio Protectors head home.

That may sound a little uptight, but it really just meant going out and finding some firewood so we could wash and dry our sodden and revolting gear.

Paul, the hunter, went off to retrieve the meat from the deer he’d shot the night before and I wandered in the other direction to find some dead Leatherwood. About 150 metres down the track I hit gold.

A spikey, slimey skeleton of a tree sat in a thicket of beech. It was soaking wet and covered in moss, but it breaks up well and burns even better so I set about dismantling it. Fiona came along and we soon had a good pile of branches back at the hut. Breaking them up was easy and there were enough dry twigs from the day before to get the hut toasty again. By the time Paul got back our clothes and packs were clean and well on the way to being dry.

Aaah. That’s the life.

At about lunch time Harry and his father Tony arrived. Harry, a ‘stale turd’ from Taradale High School is on a hut bagging quest with his dad. I can’t quite remember the number of huts he’d visited but think he would’ve been at 54 once he got to Upper Makaroro that afternoon. His knowledge of backcountry life, geography and politics was impressive. He also managed to fix Paul’s iPhone with a flick of a switch.

Tony and Harry.

By the time they got back from their afternoon bag, we’d not really done anything other than eat a strange marzipan chocolate bar from our stash and half a block of dodgy-looking but delicious tasty cheese from the same tin. We all talked for a bit, then like all sensible people do, Harry and Tony buggered off to a life below cloud level.

Not for the first time on this trip, we spent the afternoon talking about the pros and cons of 1080 with a skeptical hunter. We don’t bring this tricky subject up by the way…hunters love to talk about it and we’re more than happy to supply an alternative view to the one most of them are used to.

Paul and the two of us started out in opposite corners on the issue but by the end had quite a bit of understanding (something that can only happen in real life and never happens on Facebook.)

You may have picked up by now that we’re staunch supporters of 1080, but we also put our money where our mouths are with our stoat trapping work…we do the job that 1080 isn’t doing in the Ruahine Ranges…something even the most ardent 1080 haters usually respect.

You could describe Paul as an old-school hunter who’s not afraid to use modern gear if it’s going to get the job done. His GPS is a good mate and a big part of the patient game he plays.

He learnt to hunt as a fifteen year old in the Kaitoki area near Wellington and remembers being told by Joe Gibbs, the guy who built the historic Tararua Field Hut to ‘leave my pet deer alone.’

He lives in Perth now but every December he starts to get the Roar Fever. By the time he’s ready to buy his plane tickets his wife is more than happy for him to bugger off back to the Ruahines for his fix.

He’s not a large guy, but he believes in taking out what he can of his haul. Harry had offered to take one of his heads down to the car park but he’d declined the offer. Obviously he can’t take everything he shoots back to Australia but he’s got a few old friends who are happy to take the tender meat off his hands.

Including his newest friends…us.

As we talked, the drizzle continued. Fiona went outside to check what the Norwegian Weather Gods had to say about it…and came back with some surprising news.

The email from Waipuarau Whio Protector Ben read:

Awesome team effort guys – patient is alive and going by the amount he shat on the vet’s floor and my arm – is in reasonable health. Meeting Janet in Takapau soon and from there he’ll go to Wildbase.



Ben and the injured Whio

We were gobsmacked.

After a meal of Venison Backstrap in a curry sauce, Fiona got the break she’d always wanted. She got to use a backcountry meatsafe.

Paul had given us about two kilos of venison rump. She bagged it and took it outside to one of the fly proof boxes that sit a polite distance from most Ruahine huts.

My knees wouldn’t be happy carrying it the next day but my stomach didn’t care.

The three of us slept with the window of the hot little hut open again. We were well and truly ready to move on.