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Monday 23rd October: North Arm to Invercargill - THE VAPORS "Turning Japanese"

We were woken for a second time by the sound of whispering and then John sneaking outside to use the long drop toilet. We tried to regain sleep for a while, but by 7.30 we had given up and were out of bed tidying up our bags for the last day of walking. Our breakfast was made up of a cereal bar and orange juice and we were ready to go by 8am. As we left, the sun was shining, but the clouds in the distance looked neither little, nor fluffy, nor white.

We set off in pursuit of the Dutch brothers' campsite at Sawdust Bay, just over an hour away. The walk began with a steep climb away from the hut straight into thick native bush. This whole section combined the worst of the first two days. The route had the undulations of that route on the first day, but suffered from the paucity of boardwalk and volume of mud that the end of the second day had brought. At least while it wasn't raining we had that going for us.

We reached Sawdust Bay after about an hour. The Dutch guys had already left, but as we arrived, the rain started to fall. It didn't let off until the moment that we reached the DoC hut back in Oban.

A picture from one of the only times that it wasn't raining on the last day of the walk.

The next section between Sawdust Bay and the old Kaipipi Road was the worst section on the whole track. Incessant rain, thick mud, slippery root systems and constant undulations brought a lot of pain to the calves. In fact, of the whole walk, this section was most dispiriting as it was surprisingly tough and long and not helped by wind fallen trees blocking the route on a couple of occasions.

So, the relief was palpable when the Kaipipi Road, an old stone road, since partially reclaimed by nature was reached.

Despite it being a road of sorts, the water liked to flow down its inclines like rivers and on bits where the stone base had worn away, mud had replaced it. Compared with the previous section it was fairly good going. After about an hour, the outer fringes of Oban were reached, and half an hour after that, the end of the tramp back at the DoC Centre was achieved.

Oh, the relief!

After a scrub up in the DoC toilets, we headed for the pub just in time for the Dunedin Eight to arrive at the DoC. Not long after, just as we were downing our "Ice Cold in Alex", they joined us in the pub. Also in the pub were the Dutch guys who had set off from Sawdust Bay at about the same time as we'd left North Arm. Hence, they'd been in the pub for about an hour.

The time was 12 noon. We were booked on the 6pm ferry back to Bluff as the 3pm and 3.30pm crossings were fully booked. Due to the fact there's little to do in Oban for six hours, and there'd been 1 cancellation of each of the 3 and 3.30 sailings, Jenny had arranged for her to catch the 3pm boat and myself for the 3.30 crossing - saving us two hours. We whiled away the time to the sailing by having a sizeable lunch before going on to an internet cafe nearby for tea, coffee, cake and to waste some time on the internet.

Before long, it was time to check in at the ferry terminal. Jenny was catching the Southern Express at 3pm and I was catching the Foveaux Express at 3.30pm.

After checking in our luggage, a group of concerned looking seamen surrounding the Southern Express suggested all was not well with the vessel. It turned out that one of its V12 Mercedes Engines was leaking like a sieve. The Southern Express was going nowhere.

The situation wasn't particularly amusing for the hundred plus people, including the scouts, waiting. Firstly, they said the Southern Express would be cancelled and 40 people would have to wait for the 6pm sailing. Then, however, the answer arrived in the form of a small flotilla of little diesel powered single-hulled boats, usually used for fishing trips or excursions to Ulva Island. The journey on these little boats would take longer, but we'd get there at about the same time as the Foveaux Express.

As the luggage was removed from the Southern and placed bit by bit on the Foveaux, I boarded the little Southern Star, leaving Jenny to catch the quick and comfortable Foveaux Express.

The time, the crossing was much calmer. Which was good, as I was somewhat hemmed in. In the meantime, Jenny was enjoying free tea on the Foveaux. After about an hour and a half, my boat started to enter Bluff Harbour. At the same time, the Foveaux Express glided effortlessly past us and into the harbour.

By the time I disembarked at Bluff terminal, Jenny had picked up the camper and the luggage was being removed from the Foveaux. Our luggage was on about the sixth carton off; and we were away.

Soon back in Invercargill, we picked up some food and alcohol and headed to the Holiday Camp called, somewhat dubiously, the Amble On Inn. We finally laid back, took the weight off our feet and relaxed. As the sun set, the all to familiar rain set in. As the sun set, the all to familiar rain set in. A quick supermarket pizza and some beers later and we fell asleep for a well-earned rest.

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