The Greenstone, while undoubtedly a lovely walk, did rather bore me. The reason? It's another leafy, forested valley walk, and I'd had quite a lot of that already on the Kepler and Hollyford Tracks already. The solution? I hoofed it and walked all the way to the last hut, Sly Burn, in the one day, on top of the 11km or so from the last part of the Routeburn and the side trip up Key Summit. The views were wonderful most of the way, even though I was a bit tired of river valleys, and although my body ached and my feet throbbed, I made it to the hut to find there was one spare bed in the hut – mine! – and a refreshingly freezing swimming hole down the river bank. I almost felt human after my evening rice dish, and fell asleep on the soft, warm mattress the second I hit it.
The last day went beyond pain. The last couple of hours to the road end were sheer agony as I had some kind of muscle strain in my left ankle, and by the time I reached the road end, I really needed a rest. Quite how I was going to manage the next 25km along the road to my car, I didn't know, but then the gods smiled on me. On my first attempt at a hitch, I snagged a ride from a Japanese tramper who was heading to the Routeburn to drop off his car, which was perfect, as that's where I'd left Zed. As we bombed down the dirt road towards the car park, I realised just how far it would have been to walk, and I thanked my stars that I wasn't going to be left stranded... and sure enough, after a short drive there was good old Zed, in one piece and looking like home to me.
Before long I was showering, beard-trimming and clothes-washing in the Glenorchy Motor Camp, feeling that happy and healthy glow you get when another tramp is consigned to memory. When you return from days in the wilderness, it's surprising how acute your senses become. Without everyday chemicals, smells, culinary delights and washing routines to clog the senses, you really notice things that you normally don't spot, like people's perfume, from ladies' cologne to men's after-shave and deodorant; it hits you in the face when you walk in the door. The same happens on the track when you walk past day walkers, and it makes you really appreciate how much we pamper our bodies in everyday life. Then there are the good old taste buds; that Snickers bar and bag of crisps is never going to taste as good as just after a long tramp. Modern day noises, like car horns and telephones, all sound out of place, and real bedding feels like God's gift to the Insomniacs. If you want to appreciate life's little luxuries, opt out of them for a week and go bush.
And so ended my last bug tramp for a while, after walking a total of 278km on the map over 16 days (that's over 17km, or nearly 11 miles, per day). I'd never been this fit, this full of stamina, or this glad to sink back into the driver's seat and enjoy the world through a car window. I'm even tempted to pamper myself a little more, after all that dried rice and pasta I've been eating...