Got up early and finished packing. I'm carrying the lightest possible pack. I put all the stuff I was leaving behind in a box and wrapped several layers of tape around it for security. After I finished I realized that I only left one pair of underwear out! Uh oh. I put the excess in storage then hiked to the park office. I still had a half hour until the shuttle left so I left my pack and quickly ran into town. Bought some way overpriced underwear (expensive hiking stuff) and grabbed a quick breakfast. Barely made it back to the bus in time. The ride was short, just 20 km to the ferry terminal. The hour ferry ride was to the north end of Lake Te Anau and very beautiful.
I started up the track as soon as the boat landed - at 11:35. Because I was starting a day late I had to do the fist two days of the trail. The ranger at the office had told me it would start getting to dark to hike at around five. That meant I had less than five and a half hours to walk over 13.5 miles (21.7 km) - the estimated time is seven hours spread over two days. I set a fast pace - I made it a bit of mission.
Since I'm deviating from the accepted way there was a Ranger waiting for me on the trail at the first hut to check me off (I am so special). About four miles in I stopped for five minutes to wolf down the leftover pizza. I stopped a couple times to take some photos, but never took off my pack or sat down. Got to the Lake Mintaro hut at about 4:55 - mission accomplished! Of course it was still plenty light enough to hike until after seven - I could have taken my time.
The really great thing about doing the hike this way is that I hardly saw anyone. I passed a few right off the boat, the ranger at the first hut, and a few more hikers near the guided walk (big $$) hut - but except for that (a total of five minutes) I went the entire day without seeing another person - my ideal hiking conditions.
The dynamics in the hut were a little awkward - every one else had met and sort of gathered into groups last night and on the trail today. I felt a little like an outcast. I talked to a few people, but I was too tired and my feet were really starting to hurt so I headed to bed early.