We had lunch at the hut and a hot cuppa (I'm tramping with Jude remember!) and then headed off at 1:53. I can't quite believe I wrote down the times so accurately but forgot to take a picture of the very tidy hut.
We arrived at ABC Cave at 4pm. It's an awesome dry spot with a wooden platform to sleep on and seating and a bench, and there's even a little fireplace in one corner. Jude discovered that she had not brought her bivy bag, but in fact had brought her Helinox chair instead. I had brought my bivy bag, so lent her my poncho tarp to use for a little bit more protection, though she had a much warmer sleeping bag than me. Despite being foggy outside, we were completely protected from the weather and wind and it was quite cosy in there. Overnight the clouds cleared and the night sky was stupendous.
Jude had second breakfast whilst I had my long anticipated coffee, and visited the loo, and then we headed off on the main track back to the car park. We met a local couple out for the day. They had a rifle and were looking for deer, unsuccessfully it transpired.
After recrossing Cave Creek the track began the brutal climb up the Devils Staircase. The weather was amazing, bluebird and hardly any wind. We stopped for lunch somewhere near the top and continued the climb up to Pt 777 which was the highest point on the trip. The views were spectacular, right down to the coast both north and south. From Pt 777 the track descended onto a lower ridge, passing above the painted forest. I'm not sure why it is called that because there was nothing colourful about it.
The track continued across to Pulpit Rock and then to Green Hill before descending into the forest for the rest of the trail. Even though we were still following ridgelines, the track remains within kanuka forest with glimpses across to Swampy Summit (perhaps called that because of the perpetual clouds usually shrouding it). We met a track volunteer doing a hard cut with a chainsaw, and we also passed a few other trampers on their way to Jubilee Hut.
The final kilometre to the car park seemed to take forever, but at last we arrived back at the car around 3:30pm. The hunters we'd met earlier near Jubilee Hut passed us on the way back down, and when Jude found their wallet dropped in the carpark we recognised them from a picture. We knew they were going to a local pub for a beer, so we managed to reunite them with their wallet at the local brewery after contacting them on Facebook.