Weather or Not?!
I was dropped off at the
***** Car Park by ******* Shuttles, about 8pm, with
a 20 min walk to the (**1**) Hut. I settled in, set
up my bed, and was asleep pretty much as it went dark.
About 9:30 I heard another group arrive at the hut,
luckily the hut has two separate sleeping areas and
they went straight to the other room. About 9:35 they
came knocking on the door, asking to borrow a can opener,
then invited me over for beers!!! I'll always get up
for beers!!! They were some locals, two girls and a
guy, about 16-18 and they had brought everything including
their own firewood and marshmallows. It started to rain
pretty heavily, and they discovered a leak in the roof,
above one of their beds, so a quick chewing gum repair
was made. Anyway, my early night finished about 1:30am.
The next morning I hit
the track about 9:00, and was planning on getting up
to the ****** Lodge that day. I passed the ****** shelters,
which are fantastic. If I had some extra time it would
be great to stay in a couple of them, especially the
one with the swinging bench next to the fire pit.
The track here is wide
and flat, it took about four hours to reach the Lodge
(which it is, gas heaters and cookers!), where I met
three local guys who were staying there that night.
I was debating whether to keep going down to the (**2**)
hut, or to stay there as I had planned. They convinced
me that the weather looked like it was going to clear,
and I figured that being locals they might know what
they were talking about. Also, I had cut my trip short
by a day to ensure that I could catch the bus down the
coast the following Saturday morning, as I had a Monday
night flight out of Westport, and the bus doesn't run
on Sundays. Anyway, after a quick lunch I headed back
onto the track across the tablelands, which according
to my guide book have great views, but of course I didn't
see as I was clouded in. About half an hour from the
lodge it started to rain, and didn't stop for the rest
of the day. It took me another six hours to get down
to the (**2**) hut. I did meet a local at the *****
rock shelter half way down, he said that he comes into
the area by himself for about 4 weeks every year, and
had been in for two weeks so far.
If you ever do the track,
be careful of the times on the signs. There was a sign
on the tablelands that said the ***** clearing was 3hrs
away, and that the (**2**) hut was 3 ½ hrs away.
It did take me about 3hrs to get to the clearing, but
then took another 1 ½ hrs to get to the hut from
there, so if you start to think that you must have missed
the hut (as I did….maps out again and again) you
haven't. The track down from the tablelands is pretty
good, it used to be a pack track so it never gets very
steep, however once you reach the bottom the track can
be pretty rough, with quite a bit climbing and scrambling.
The (**2**) hut is very
impressive, it's brand new and very comfortable with
a view out the window into the (**A**) River (about
I met two guys from Denmark,
and an English guy at the hut. The two guys were in
the park for six weeks!! They had just spent a week
ferrying loads of gear down from the carpark and were
now going to spend 5 weeks fishing the (**B**) river!!!
The English guy had been
forced into an early retirement back home, and had discovered
that it was cheaper for him to spend six months traveling
around N.Z. every year than to stay at home through
the winter….so that was what he did. He would
buy an annual hut pass for $65 and would just drive
around and try different hikes for 3-4 nights at a time,
and spend the rest of his time staying in hostels.
The next morning I had
a late start as I was pretty beat from the previous
days hike, and the rivers were running very high and
very dirty, so there was no fishing to be had. They
looked more like the Yarra than a NZ river. I figured
that while they were high I might as well keep hiking,
and keep my free day for when the water cleared up.
The track follows the river
upstream, and I headed up to (**3**) Hut, again undecided
about whether to stay here or keep moving. The (**C**)
river was running pretty high as well, but was starting
to clear, so I figured that the following day should
be good for fishing. When I reached the (**3**) Hut
I discovered that there had been a large group there,
but they had been helicoptered out that morning….
and left behind a six pack of cold beers….. so
lunch was had at the (**3**) Hut, rather merrily. I
think it was the beers that must have convinced me to
keep going, so I moved on to (**4**) hut that day. This
is a two story hut, built into the side of a hill above
the river. Again there were people here, three people
doing the same hike as me, but going the other way and
spreading it over 14 days (I had seven). They had stayed
there the night before and had spent that day fishing,
they said they had managed to spot two fish, but couldn't
get a response from either of them. I had dinner upstairs
with them where the fire was, but then had the downstairs
rooms to myself for sleeping.
In the visitors book here
I noticed an entry from the previous November (2003)
from a local guy (from Christchurch) who was doing the
same trip as me, but had three young boys with him,
two nine year olds and a four year old!!! He mentioned
that they had been delayed by the weather, and had eaten
too much of their food while waiting, but were now headed
on, and should be out in a few days. More about them
The next day I decided
that instead of having a free day somewhere I would
have two short days, hiking a few hours in the morning,
and fishing through the afternoon. A two hour hike had
me at (**5**), where I had an early lunch, then finally
set up my rod (first time this trip!) and headed back
to a couple of fish I had spotted from the track. Of
course the wind came up in the afternoon, making the
surface of the water choppy, but having seen the fish
earlier allowed to me to find a nice looking fish at
the tail of a long pool. I tied on a green humpy and
managed to put it right over the fish a couple of times
without spooking it, but had no response. I then tied
on a black cicada pattern (a Goulburn Valley Fly Fishing
Special) which he took on the first cast. There was
no real fight with the fish, a couple of head shakes,
but I had him landed in a couple of minutes. He had
the length of a 7-8 pound fish (20+ inches), but was
very scrawny, and only weighed in at 3 pounds. I assume
that he was on the way out, and possibly couldn't see
the Humpy, but could see the dark black cicada?? I managed
to spot a couple more fish that afternoon, but none
of them were visibly feeding, and weren't interested
in anything that I offered to them. While out fishing
I had one of my socks stolen by the local Weka which
I had seen scratching around earlier! This was the first
time that I had a hut to myself, so a quiet night was
I heard quite a bit of
rain on the roof during the night, and was a bit concerned,
as the guide book warns that there is one specific creek
before the next hut that becomes extremely dangerous
to cross after rains. It turned out to be no major concern
though thankfully, and I was at the (**6**) Hut by lunch
time. There are some interesting lakes on this section
of track that were formed by an earthquake in the 1940's.
The walking was quite a bit easier through this section
as well, although the last 30mins of the track, after
fording the river were through very swampy land, and
my boots were under water most of the time (something
I was getting used to). The hut is set back from the
river quite a way, but has amazing views up and down
the valley, with its shear rock walls. This is another
new hut, and is very open and comfortable. There were
a local couple here, they were in the area for 12 days.
They said that they weren't trampers, they just liked
walking to the different huts, and meeting different
people! Sounds like tramping to me!
I spent the afternoon fishing
the river here, which is beautiful, the water was crystal
clear by now, and the river was shallow enough to be
crossable at any point. Again the fish seemed to be
very inactive, there were some fantastic lies that should
have been holding fish, but each one kept coming up
empty. Maybe they were still recovering from the last
flood, or maybe they knew what weather was coming? I
caught one fish for the day, a small brown that was
almost golden in colour, and he was caught by blind
fishing the seam of a rapid.
That night it started raining.
When I awoke in the morning at was raining torrentially,
so I decided that as I only had a few hours to the next
hut that I could wait for the rain to stop before heading
out. As the day wore on the rain seemed to get heavier
This was the view from
the (**6**) hut, you can see the water running down
the walls on the other side of the valley. The rapids
you can see are where I caught my brown trout. There
are mountains in the background, but they disappeared
in the clouds.
I decided that 2pm was
the latest I should leave, as the next hut was 2 ½
to 3 hrs away.
At 2 it was still raining heavily, but I decided that
I had better go, or I would have an impossible day the
next day to try and ensure that I could still catch
the bus. There was a new bridge over the (**B**) River,
and the map only showed a couple of streams, neither
of which had large catchments, so I thought that I should
still be OK.
As soon as you leave the
hut there is a small creek to ford, and this was running
at knee depth so I very quickly last any benefit from
drying my boots the night before. The track was often
a stream itself, and I think I spent more time that
day with my feet underwater than not.
These are the headwaters
of the (**B**) River, above the (**6**) Hut. The previous
afternoon I had been wading these waters. This was also
the spot that you were meant to ford the river to head
up to **** Flat Hut. Thankfully I didn't need to do
The first stream that I
hit was unnamed on the map, but looked more like a river
than a creek, and was too fast and deep to safely wade,
I tried in a couple of spots but quickly found out that
I had no chance of keeping my footing. I now had to
try and find a way over, or head back to (**6**) hut
and wait out the storm.
This is probably a good
time to finish the story of the man with his three boys,
as I had moved from hut to hut I had been following
his entries in the visitors book from the previous year.
It seems he had had similar weather ie. very wet, and
it was taking a long time for him to ferry the boys
across the creeks and river fords. His entries at the
(**6**) Hut were astonishing though. Apparently they
had been unable to ford the river between (**5**) Hut
and the (**6**) Hut, and had spent the night sleeping
under a fallen log, with one sleeping bag and a space
blanket! Once they reached (**6**) hut they had been
unable to go any further due to flooded creeks. At one
stage they managed to move on to (**7**) Hut, but had
been stuck there for three days, and had eventually
come back to (**6**) hut as it was lower down the valley
and therefore a bit warmer. They ended up being stuck
in the (**6**) Hut for 19 days, and ran out of food.
Eventually they were helicoptered out. Even if the weather
had remained fine I would never consider bringing two
nine year olds and a four year old on this track.
Anyway, I was now at one
of these impassable creeks that had stopped them for
nineteen days. I climbed down a steep bank to where
there was a fallen log across the river. I tried crawling
across it, but it angled up steeply to the opposite
bank. I thought I could do it without my pack, but decided
to keep looking for something better. I bashed through
the bush upstream for about 300m until I came across
a log jam of fallen trees and branches that looked like
I could crawl across. That was the scariest thing I've
done in a long time, I kept having mental images of
falling into the water and being washed downstream,
or pressed against a rock etc. Eventually I made it
across only to find that the opposite side of the creek
was a lot steeper, and the vegetation was a lot thicker.
It took me nearly an hour to cover the 300m back to
the track, I ended up having to take my pack off and
drag it under fallen trees after I crawled under them.
The whole creek crossing took me nearly two hours. At
this stage I was pretty sure that I would have to go
back over the log jam later that day, as this creek
was an unnamed one, and there were two named creeks
on my map that I still had to cross, so figured that
I would be forced to turn back at some stage.
As it turned out the larger
creeks had a single wire rope across them, which gave
you something to hold yourself up with while you waded
through the waist deep water.
It took me five hours to get from (**6**) hut to (**7**)
Hut and I was very wet and very cold. I had the hut
to myself, but there was no firewood there, so I got
straight into my sleeping bag and stayed there. The
rain didn't stop.
The next morning I had
the pass to climb over, and had been warned to start
early as it was a long day to the (**8**) Hut, at least
seven hours. The climb over the pass turned out to be
fairly easy, my pack was getting pretty light by now,
as I only had one days food left and had used most of
my fuel etc. I also think that my fitness level was
getting better by now. The rain held off for most of
the day, and I even had a decent view from the pass
out to the coast. There was one creek crossing on the
coast side of the pass, but as the rain had stopped
for a few hours the water level had dropped.
I reached the (**9**) hut
late in the afternoon, and had it to myself. There was
a huge pile of dry wood (offcuts from the local sawmill)
and a fantastic little stove. I had that place so hot
I had to open the windows to cool down and let the steam
out. That was the night that the main storm blew in,
the one that did all the damage up on the North Island.
I could hear the thunder echoing around the valley,
some times I wasn't sure if it was thunder, or rock
There was an entry in the
book here from a woman that had been crossing the creek
and had been knocked over and washed out into the main
river flow. She was OK, but that's pretty bloody scary!
The final day I had to
follow the high water trail, as the (**D**) River was
unfordable, so it took me about five hours in the rain
to get to the road end. I was picked up by the owner
of the ****** Hotel, where I checked in, had a shower,
then hit the bar!!
The track itself was fantastic,
and I would recommend it to anyone. It gets pretty rough
in places and is not a benched track. There are plenty
of places where you are climbing on all fours, or following
creeks beds. There are always tree roots, and you are
always avoiding something, I got quite frustrated at
times simply because I couldn't just walk. A good example
of how rough it is - there is one section of track between
huts that is about 6km, no creek crossings or anything,
and the estimated travel time is 3 - 3 ½ hours.
If I do it again (I hope
to) I would allow more days, if you were fishing you
could easily spend two weeks on the track. I think I
was fairly unlucky with the weather, but you have to
allow for these kinds of things though, so make sure
to carry plenty of extra food and fuel. If you get to
a creek that is impassable you may have to wait t out.
I wish I had had an extra day or two at the end of my
trip, so that I could have sat out a day or two.
I had problems with my
feet from the previous hiking I had done, and had numerous
blisters and sore toes, so this made the walking a bit
harder as well. I've since lost three of my toe nails,
and still have one black one that I'm hoping to keep.
There were a lot more people
on the track than I had expected, but that was good.
It's good to see other people around when you're hiking
by yourself, and they were all nice and interesting
I'm living in Vancouver
now, and hoping to get out and find some similar adventures
over here….as long as they don't involve any bears.
All the best,