It’s always a river, but it is never the same

The river is a body. Its braided ribbons change their paths, move the stones about, and round their edges. When the light is low, setting behind the mountain range at the western headwaters, the river looks silver. Sometimes the rocks break apart in the frost along the lines of cracks that water gets into and expands as it freezes.

There is a hut on the true right of the Waimakariri between the bridge and the top of the river just before where the Anti Crow River branches off to the south. Or, conversely, the rivers come together at this point, at their confluence. The subsidiary river flows down to the main channel rather than branching of it, which would imply it works like a plant, growing outwards from the stem or trunk.

Writing is a process of finding

The hut sits on a flat grassy tongue of land facing north onto the riverbed and looking over the river towards the Crow Valley. The Anti in the name indicates that it is named after something that is already named, and is a duality of sorts. The Crow River goes north from about the same point, passing through a wildly mossy valley with delicate snowberries growing along the track to the Crow Hut (blue-grey Colorsteel (Sandstone?) cladding and dull-red roof (Scoria?), c.2002).

In the Anti Crow Hut there is a book in which people write notes about their interactions with the shelter. Notes about where they have come from and their intentions. Things they have seen, time spent, weather and hut condition observations. Sometimes expressions of enjoyment. Notes on how many people in their party, or if they were alone.

Words die as they bring forth thought

Built in 1961 by the New Zealand Forest Service (displaced by the formation of the Department of Conservation in 1987), the Anti Crow Hut is not often used by trampers who usually go on to the bigger, DOC-serviced Carrington Hut a few hours further up the track. Hunters are more likely to use this basic hut, or people who only want to walk up the riverbed or along Turkey Flat and have the place to themselves.

There was another hut, also known as the Anti Crow, built by the Canterbury Mountaineering Club in 1941, that was situated about 800m further to the west of the current hut along the O’Malley track, on a small hill near a stream. This hut, coexisting with the other of the same name for 16 years, burned down in late 1977/78 on New Years Eve, the fire attributed to lightning strike.

The 1961 hut was known during this overlap as the Anti Crow Forestry to differentiate the two, and was used primarily by deer cullers who were employed by the Department of Internal Affairs to carry out this work from 1930 until the early 1970s. They, numerous professional hunters and paid per tail or skins to hunt for whole seasons, were keen for their own hut to protect food reserves from all-comers.

The smell of a stale hut fireplace

Metal walls, flat sheets riveted on, painted a cup-of-milky-tea clay colour. Corrugated iron roof, dull red, unpainted sheets to patch holes. One door, two small, high windows. Cable is used to wire the cylindrical blackened stainless chimney to the roof and the whole hut to the ground in case of high winds. All huts have huge fireboxes and axes, and bunks with vinyl-covered mattresses.

There is a bit at the doorway, an alcove, filled with dry firewood. It could be a space for orientation, transition. There is an ancient two-faced god of doorways and transitions, beginnings, time, passages, frames, dualities. Does anyone pray to them? Do they wait? Is waiting something deities – minor or major – ever do?

The outside world can be folded into the inside of buildings