I am sitting in bright sunshine with the smell of pine wafting over me in the slight breeze coming down from the mountains. As I sit I wonder by what fates we could not have had such weather in the last 3 days. Despite my best efforts of enthusing about good walking weather, nice to have it cool, clouds keeping the wasps down etc. I would have dearly liked to have a day where we got to see more than 50m in front of us. The views (as we kept saying) would have been amazing.
Our first southern trek – called tramping here abouts. We chose a 3 day affair with easy walking times between stops so that we could stop and enjoy the environment when we wanted. I think the longest day was meant to be no more than 3 and half hours. Between the tramping were Dept. of Conservation(DOC) huts. When I think of huts on walking trails I inevitably think of Scottish bothies – damp and dour that the addition of whiskey inevitably improves. Accordingly we packed sleeping mats, cooking equipment and over a kilo of porridge.
It was intermittent rain, the intervals were the sort of low cloud that manages to soak through your clothes faster than rain. Optimistic that the cloud was lifting we set of through the low land beech forests. The place was alive with the buzzing of thousands if not millions of wasps. They were flying across the path at a terrific rate and seemed to be clustering on the trees. The beech trees were secreting a honey dew and the wasps were taking full advantage of it. Wasps are an introduced species to New Zealand and so have increased in numbers to a level unseen in Britain. Poor Louise was mortified, having to walk past a tree with 30 wasps on it was very hard for her. We did not stop long to examine the different flora in the forest. We climbed up an old mine working and eventually got above the trees. Of course with the lifting cloud we still had to wear wet weather kit. The clouds did part toward the end of the day and although they still covered the higher peaks they did allow us to look down upon our DOC ‘hut’. Well I have seen smaller youth hostels; a modern built bunk house, with wood burner, running water and a proper sit down toilet. (I would not need that special trowel I have been carrying since last August.) It being mid-week we had the whole place to ourselves. I began to re-tell the Shinning to Jacob, and had just picked up the axe (from the wood pile outside) when a sharp look from Angela made me stop, chop some more wood and make everyone in the story live happily ever after. I did get in one “Here comes Jonny” before I was told I had to stop or sleep outside.
Everyone seemed to be snoring merrily as I lay awake listening to the absolute silence you get when there isn’t another sole around for 20 miles. I went out to look at the amazing night sky. The clouds had cleared to reveal the million + stars visible in New Zealand’s skies. I am sure I can see Orion, does he travel south for their winter? By the morning the clouds had descended, but not so far that we needed wet weather kit. A round lunch time we met 3 other trampers coming the other way, time for a brew and chat and then on to our last hut.
The last part of the day proved to be the hardest of the walk. I had sort advice from the DOC office as to what maps I would need. They had assured me that this trail was very clearly marked and impossible to loose. I did not buy the £5 map. We had climbed to over a 1000m and the cloud was really thick, and whilst the guy was right; the track was very clear, we had no way of seeing how far we had come or what was left to do. One 50m stretch of upland grass looked very much like the next. I gave myself to 5p.m. to find the hut before we stopped and did a re-think. (Maybe a bivy and tea, whilst I double back.) We started a steep descent at 4:45, with me thinking the bottom would be a good place to rest up. Within 5 minutes we had found our hut, I was very relieved. Chocolate all round.
We woke to a fantastic sunrise and apart from getting stung by one of them pesky wasps not a lot happened – or that is what Angela would have you believe, for I have photos to prove just how cold the water coming of the mountains were. Oh and after the glorious start we walked down into the mist missing views across the valley that I know were fab, ‘cos when we reached the camp site the weather had cleared and there was mount Somer looking lovely and just asking to be tramped all over again – I was told no, no and no by all the family – they have no stamina!