I caught the Tracknet bus to The Divide at 0715 and arrived there at 0830. All the other people that alighted, got busy applying insect repellent. I got busy walking! Don’t they know that sandflies aren’t fast flyers and don’t bite if you stay moving. Arrived at Lake Howden hut after ¾ hr, with a further 1 ½ hrs to McKellar hut. I lunched for an hour on the grassy river flats below McKellar, which included a little bit of shut eye. It was warm with a light tail wind. I arrived at the Greenstone hut at 1600, so it had taken 4 hours walking time from McKellar hut. I initially thought that I would have tea here before heading off to the Taipo hut. However, I was feeling rather tired, so I decided to stay there the night and had an early night.
Yesterday had been a long day! Prior to this tramp, I had done the Central Otago Rail Trail with Pam and 3 other couples. It was great fun. Yesterday I had biked the length of the trail from Middlemarch to Clyde and then driven around to Te Anau for the night.
The Greenstone didn’t do much for me, maybe I have seen too many other valleys the same? Some snow on the tops would make it nicer.
I am tramping this year in off-road running shoes. I wonder how they will go? They certainly are light and my feet don’t feel unduly sore.
Saturday 30 January (Day 2)
I woke the next morning refreshed but with the sound of rain on the roof. By the time I left the hut it was only raining lightly. I arrived at the Taipo hut at 1015 via the Saddle Burn, the rain having already cleared by 0930. It was another 3hrs to Boundary hut, where I had a pleasant break and a dip in the river. Boundary hut marks the end of the 4WD track from the Mavora Lakes end, and there is plenty of sign of 4WD antics on the surrounding banks. So from here onwards it is just a case of walking down a 4WD track to the Mavora Lakes. It took 1 ¼ hrs to Carey’s hut where I stopped for tea. Carey’s hut has been something special in its day, having had piped water, a coal range complete with wet back, and a shower! It reminded me of the Anatoki Forks hut in Kahurangi. To finish the day, I carried on for another 2 ½ hrs and setup camp down the side of South Mavora Lake. Quite by chance, I ran into the a DOC lady (Ruth) at the camping ground, who I had done a stint with in the Murchison mountains back in October. All up it has been a pleasant day, warm with a slight breeze, and the track is easy and progress very good.
Sunday 31 January (Day 3)
Today has turned out to be the longest stint I have done so far on this traverse, having departed camp at South Mavora Lake at 0740 and arriving in Te Anau just on dark at 2145. A distance of about 54km. It’s been another glorious day, fine and warm.
The first section was to the Kiwi Burn swing bridge, then I cut directly up the loop track to the Kiwi Burn and then onto the Kiwi/Whitestone Saddle. I had a lunch stop when I arrived at the Whitestone River. The first section of the river down to Glen Echo station pleasant, but from there onwards, it was rather monotonous. I tried to avoid disturbing stock as much as possible. There is legal access through the station if you stick to the river the whole way. I stopped for tea and a swim just short of the road. The water is so warm as the river is running very low. I arrived at the road bridge at 1900. Then I walked down the road for an hour before discarding the pack in a roadside shelter and walking the remaining 12km to Te Anau. I then jumped in the car and drove back to pick up the pack, before booking myself back into the motor camp for a soft bed and hot shower. The initial plan was to take 4 days to walk back to Te Anau, but with a lighter pack and easy country, made excellent progress to do it in 3 days. There’s no harm in being ahead of schedule.
Monday 1 February (Day 4)
I slept in til 0800 and checked out of the motor camp at 1000. After purchasing a couple of small packs of mince, I drove to Manapouri to drop off my pack and to suss out a way of crossing the Waiau River. The control gates were along way down stream, so walking wasn’t an option. However there is a water taxi service at Pearl Harbour that takes people across to the walking track on the other side. The operator was friendly and very flexible as to when he will take you across. He had to pick up a tramper at 1500 from the other side so I decided to cross at the same time.
After enjoying a lovely morning tea at the Church Café in Manapouri, I drove back to Te Anau and parked the car.
I departed Te Anau at 1230 and jogged the 21km back to Manapouri in the heat of the day! This could be my only training run for the Buller ½ Marathon on the 14th Feb? The run took 1 3/4 hrs and I was so hot when I arrived, I decided to swim across the river to cool off. That way, I could say that I had done the length of the island under my own steam. Well it’s a long way across there for a swimmer of my capability, but I managed it there and back. After a bite to eat, the water taxi then took me and my pack across to the jetty on the other side!
I departed the jetty at 1530 and arrived at the Hope Arm hut at 1800, somewhat tired from the long walk yesterday and the run today. The sandflies are thick here. I’m in bed at 2030 as I want an early start tomorrow for the climb up Mt Titiroa before the day gets too hot.
Tuesday 2 February (Day 5)
The day is fine and warm. I leave the Hope Arm hut at 0655. It takes 1:50hrs to cross the saddle into the Garnock Burn. I stop only to fill the water bottles and take a compass bearing to a prominent rocky knob that is my destination. Some maps show a track up onto Mt Titiroa from the Garnock Burn, but there is none. However, like most beech forest, the bush is open and the going easy. I did have to climb around a small bluff though. The bush line was reached after 2hrs. Mt Titiroa is quite distinctive for its rocky outcrops and white silicate sand, giving it a snow like appearance even in the middle of summer. Technically called feldspar (aluminosilicate minerals). The summit is reached at 1405, just over 7hrs from Hope Arm hut. There are good views all round. From the summit, I see an easy route into the Nth Borland via pt 1159. I arrive at the Nth Borland hut at 1730, where I find 2 cans of beer awaiting me. Thanks to whoever left them there.
Wednesday 3 February (Day 6)
After hearing a mouse in the hut, I set a trap. Result, one dead mouse in the morning. The weather is fine and warm. Departed hut at 0745 and arrived at the Middle Borland at 1000. Just a wee bit further on I passed a fantastic rock biv, probably the biggest I’ve seen to date. It has a wooden floor and mattresses, so would be very comfortable. Arrived at the South Borland at 1100. After a short break, I headed up the South Borland to meet up with the hydro road. This short bit of track that took 45mins, is very pleasant. It sidles through lovely ferny faces and under some nice bluffs. Then it was a long hot slog up the hydro road to the Borland Saddle, followed by a short sharp descent to the Borland shelter. The road section took 2:30hrs.
The Borland Saddle has an interesting display panel describing the world biggest documented landslide. At the end of the last ice age, 27 cubic kilometres of the Hunter Mountains slid into the top 1/3 of what was a much bigger Lake Monowai. It created the area that now contains Green and Island Lakes.
I had a short nap at the Borland shelter before heading off to the Clarke A frame at the head of the Grebe Valley. Apart from a fleeting look at Island Lake on the way past, I found this section rather tedious, though I was getting a bit tired, it having taken me 2:50hrs. I arrived at the Clarke A frame at 1845, but ended up tenting nearby as there were 2 DOC workers in resident. They were there track cutting, but you wouldn’t have noticed! The sandflies are thick here, so I am pleased to be snug inside my tent.
Thursday 4 February (Day 7)
Up at 0530, and away at 0700, I arrived at the Monowai Hut at the head of Lake Monowai at 0900. Fishermen here kindly allowed me to use their gas and make myself a coffee as they headed out in their boats. And their fly spray came in very handy when it came to use the long drop!
I departed the hut at 0945 and began the sidle around the western side of the lake. It wasn’t long before I struck the first bluffs on this steep sided mountain. It is just a matter of climbing over or under them as you pass. It didn’t seem to make much difference as to whether you sidled high or low. Eventually I reached the Electric River at1455. The original plan was to carry on to Eel Creek, but I wasn’t looking forward to anymore sidling, so decided to cut directly up to pt 1177. Departed river at 1530, and reached the bush line after 2hrs. Going was easy, but I was wet with sweat. Stopped for a 15min break, then it was a further 30mins to the tarns beside pt 1177 where I setup camp. The water in these shallow tarns was really warm so I had a lovely bath. There was cell phone coverage as well.
Friday 5 February (Day 8)
As I am ahead of schedule, and the weather is really nice, I have decided to have an easy day. It is lovely up here in the Kaherehoau Mountains and the tops are easy going. So I sleep in til 0700, then I went for a 2hr stroll around the tops, and to get a look into Lake Hauroko. The valleys and all of Southland are covered in low cloud. The Hump looks like an island in a sea of cloud. Beautiful! The cloud lifts off Lake Monowai later in the morning.
I break camp at midday and move camp to a new site near the saddle into Eel Creek. There are a couple of small tarns here not shown on the map. It’s only been a 2:30hr walk to here. I’m in bed at 1900.
Saturday 6 February (Day 9)
Up at 0530 and away at 0650. The day is again fine and warm. It is an easy 4:30hr walk to Oblong Hill, with about an hour of that time taken to traverse the bush saddle immediately before Oblong Hill. Departed 1215 and followed an old steep track down toward Lake Hauroko. Lost the track halfway down and after negotiating through some bluffs, made my way to the lake shore and thence onto the shelter at the jetty, arriving at 1445. Departed shelter 1510 and followed the lake edge track around to the peninsular. I enjoyed the track across the peninsular as it was a mixed beech/prodocarp forest, a nice change from the pure beech everywhere else. There were Matai, Rimu, Totara and Miro. It makes one wonder why only in this area? I set up camp in the bay on the other side of the peninsular at1700. I will try and reach Te Wae Wae Bay tomorrow since I am making good progress. I have a big tea to lighten the load.
Sunday 7 February (Day 10)
It started to drizzle just before 0600. Broke camp at 0655 and arrived at Teal Bay hut at 1105. I’m now back in pure beech forest and enjoy the walk along the ridge in the misty conditions. I pass a party of 3 heading the other way. It is a steep descent into Teal Bay. Departed Teal Bay hut at 1135, and arrived at the bush line in 2:10hrs, just as the sun was breaking through the cloud. Made the hump in 3 hrs, but the mist and wind made it rather cool so I only stayed there 15mins. Departed at 1450 and arrived at the south coast at 1800. The track down from the Hump is rather overgrown and I’m now in leatherwood country again! It’s very unforgiving stuff! Then it’s onto an old 4WD track through regenerating beech forest to the coast. I walk down to the shoreline and take a picture to record the occasion. I’m happy to be here, after all this is what I have been tramping toward these last 6 years. But I’m not as elated as I thought I would be, perhaps because I still have quite a walk to get to Tuatapere.
I continue along the beach, then onto the track to the road end. It’s not suitable to camp there so I carry on to the start of the tarseal at the Rowallan Burn, arriving there at 2045. There is a cold wind blowing off the sea, so I was pleased to get the tent up and get inside it. It’s been a long day.
Monday 8 February (Day 11)
I slept in until 0715. I had just finished breakfast when I saw the Hump Ridge Track van drive past just before 0800, earlier than I would have expected. Hoping that I might get a ride to Tuatapere on its return, I hastily pack up and start walking along the road. I had only gone 200m when he picked me up and took me into Tuatapere, even dropping me off at the holiday park.
He wouldn’t take a fare; thanks mate. But I’ll be back at some stage to walk the Hump Ridge Track with my wife Pam in relative luxury.
I gladly paid $5 for a hot shower at the holiday park, and morning tea was a pot of English breakfast tea and a whitebait omelette. The rest of the day was spent relaxing and drying out wet gear. The bus arrived mid afternoon and took me back to Te Anau, and from there I drove back to Franz Josef to stay with my son Phillip.
Well I didn’t regret the decision to walk in running shoes. What with the dry conditions and relatively easy terrain, they were ideal.
The highlights for me this year were the Mararoa area, Mt Titiroa and the Kaherekoau Mountains.