Of course, the rain started straight away. I couldn't really moan, seeing as I'd had four days of glorious weather on the Kepler and Fiordland isn't exactly known for its sunshine, but it did mean that the first day, from the road end to the Alabaster Hut on Lake Alabaster, wasn't that thrilling; I couldn't see much of the Hollyford Valley that I was walking down, and the promised mountains weren't anywhere to be seen. Still, the motley collection of people I found in the hut soon dispelled all thoughts of the weather; if the Kepler had been full of rather predictable traveller-types, the Hollyford was full of New Zealanders from all walks of life. From the six Tararua Tramping Club members to the two mad adventurers who had braved insane terrain to get there from Queenstown, the conversation flowed as freely as the water down the panes.
I met a guy called Rick who had the same sort of plan as me – nine days to go to the end of the track and back – and a family from Timaru who provided their own little soap opera in family politics for us all to enjoy, with an ancient but tough-as-old-boots mother taking her three late-twenties kids on the track, as well as two tag-along American friends who were well out of their depth. The Hollyford, being constructed as a one-way track, ensured that I'd end up with most of these people every night (except the Tararuas who were heading south), and this seemed a reasonable prospect, as long as nobody snored. Luckily nobody did.