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Meg Hut Musings

I was back in New Zealand for a fourth Summer in a row. The whole of December was cloudy in the UK and I couldn't take it any more. The eject button was hit, along with my bank account and I was back in my happy place. Pretending Winter didn't exist.

A plein watercolour of Meg Hut on a sunny day with loose brush strokes and light colours

After my recent interactions with the Royal Geographical Society, investigating a future as an Expedition Artist, I was stoked to be back out in the mountains but as I booked my flights, I'd also landed a large animation gig that meant I would only have my weekends to play with! Aaaargh! In the words of my sponsor Nigel "Treat it like an expedition". Time to get on it!

After a quick gear shop, I'd made it on trail less than 48 hours from landing. (Thanks enthusiastic friends!) We would hike to Meg Hut as an easy to plan, minimal effort overnighter. Ignoring any jetlag along the way.

Except "minimal effort" in New Zealand terms is still a hell of an ask! I was knackered! Whilst house sitting around the UK it's really difficult to stay on top of my fitness, with my bike often ending up on the opposite side of the country. Some towns lack climbing walls. Yoga classes. I strictly reserve running for if somethings on fire. Don't even get me started with gyms! I patiently watched my friends cruise up hill ahead of me. Their local legs graded to eat hills for breakfast.

Three photos of my friends hiking into the distance carrying large packs

Sometimes being at the back of the pack can lead to wonky head games but in this case I knew exactly why I was slower. There were no surprises there. And cycling has taught me to never try to keep up with people, risking burning your legs out and ending up worse off for it. So I plodded along in my own little world of leg pain. They were only as fast as the person at the back after all!

After a couple of hours of fairly consistent uphill straight out of the carpark (classic Kiwi hiking), Meg Hut revealed itself in a nostalgic Otago looking valley. Golden tussock and rolling hills as far as the eye could see. I'd wanted to explore the Pisa Range for a long time as the drive to Wanaka always teased unusual rock stacks scattered across the landscape.

A strip of three photos. One hiker climbing a fence. Meg Hut in the sunlight. Solitary dead trees in a wide valley

We were delighted to discover the hut all to ourselves (at first) and people immediately settled into changing into comfy clothes, resting and cooking food. It was only 4pm and I was having none of it.

Knowing I was on a time limit to bag as many paintings as possible, I dropped my heavier gear and turned right around to explore up a nearby valley. I'd spotted a rock stack on the topo map and I fancied getting my eyeballs on it.

Being off trail and choosing my own adventure was fun with a sprinkling of mildly exposed sections of gully to keep things exciting. It served as a much needed dose of solitude and I found being surrounded by nothing but wilderness was surprisingly helpful to process parts of the previous year. I contemplated my last trip to New Zealand. How I'd like to improve on it. Which parts don't serve me any more. What my goals were etc. It's amazing what your brain does if you finally give it some space from every day life.

A plein watercolour of a rugged valley on a sunny day with loose brush strokes and light colours

Settling into a painting of Colour Burn (Photoshop pun for the design nerds out there!), patchy clouds moved quickly over the landscape, rapidly changing the lighting in front of me as a kaleidoscope of golden tussock and deep shadows. It was a heck of a challenge to keep up.

On my way back I spotted Helen on the horizon. Sent by the group to make sure I wasn't dead. We had a nice little adventure exploring a couple more scrambles and safely returned to the hut in one piece. Much to everyone's relief. Oops!

A second group of hikers turned up to join in the fun and everyone busied themselves with dehydrated meals, deep chats and games of Monopoly Deal late into the night.

Holding a half finished plein air watercolour in front of Meg Hut on a sunny afternoon.

As the morning sun revealed itself from behind the hills, the hut was bathed in sun so I squeezed in half a painting that I'd later finish back at the house.

We finished up with ice cold skinny dips all round. Ooph I've missed all this.


Thanks for reading!

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