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Goulburn Valley Fly Fishing Centre

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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 10m away).

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 later.

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 quite enjoyable.

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 and 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 that.

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 falls!

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 people.

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,
David Moore.



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