Thursday, December 31, 2020

Finishing off the year with yet more tramping

I was getting a bit annoyed with myself continuously returning back to Wanaka between trips. Having somewhere to return to sure made it easy, but I wanted to be on the road full time, getting out of Otago altogether, and heading much further afield. Maybe even the North Island!! 

The unsettled weather wasn't helping things. Between windy weather and rain events, both situations this fair weather tramper likes to avoid, I wasn't having a lot of luck. Sure I got a good few days up the Huxley and Hopkins so it wasn't all doom and gloom, but after pottering around a few more days I found myself back in Wanaka over Christmas waiting for another front to pass over. I managed a day trip walking the water race on the Welcome Rock Trail though, and had the entire trail to myself.

Boxing Day the weather was crap, so early on the 27th I headed off again. I headed over the Lindis Pass, had obligatory coffee and scone at The Wrinkly Ram in Omarama, and then headed up the Quailburn Road to do a day trip up the stream to the bush line. Not much in the way of mistletoe around, but the stream was mighty pretty with lots of lovely cascades.

Once above the bush line there's a track of sorts that heads into the East Ahuriri valley. Rather than take that trail I stayed high, sidling around the tussock slopes to emerge higher up the valley to make my way down to a restored musterers' hut. This valley is on the Te Araroa, but I saw no walkers, probably because it's a bit too early for most of those who started at Cape Reinga.

I took a slightly higher route on the way back, which avoided a few gullies, but meant crossing a few scree slopes. One section looked like it had been raked into a zen garden, nature really is amazing isn't it.

I camped the night at Quailburn, enjoying dinner and a few wines with a couple from Wanaka also camping there in their cute vintage caravan, then drove north the next day up the eastern side of Lake Pukaki. I parked up near Mt Cook Station and began my walk up the Jollie River to Green Point Hut. The first part of the track follows a 4WD track through a pine plantation, with a quick detour to Jollie Hut before emerging at last onto the river flats.

The rest of the day's walk involved following the river upstream, on the rocky river fans, with two crossings of the river required to at last gain a terrace just prior to the hut. It was fairly tiring going, but the  weather wasn't too hot.

Once at Green Point I dumped my pack in the hut and continued walking up the river, hoping to get as far up the valley as possible, since it finished with a glacial cirque. I crossed the river again for easier travel on the true right, but after an hour and a half it was looking like back to rock hopping again. I decided I had had enough of that for one day, so turned around and headed back to the hut.

Not 15 minutes from the hut was a spectacular 4 tiered waterfall that I had completely missed on the way up river! I was joined by a young couple at the hut, so I sent them up there to also enjoy its grandeur.

The next day I retraced my steps. The temperature had risen, and I was grateful to at last reach the hated pine plantation with it's much appreciated shade! And then to enjoy the cooling view over the aqua hued Lake Pukaki.

Being the silly season I had booked a couple of nights' accommodation at the new YHA in Lake Tekapo, especially as the weather forecast before I left Wanaka indicated more rain on its way. But the rain didn't materialise, so the next day (after a much appreciated hot shower and comfy bed) I headed out on a day trip along another section of the Te Araroa trail. I parked at the locked gate on the road up to Round Hill Skifield and continued uphill on foot to join the Richmond Track to Camp Stream Hut. 

It's a bit of a slog up the road, but once on the track it's a lovely amble along a tussock terrace high above the stream. Eventually you descend quite steeply to the stream and then follow it upstream for a few kms before a short climb up to the hut. I met a couple of Te Araroa walkers along the way, and another chap with his dog on his way back from an overnight trip to climb Mt Beuezenberg. I stopped in at the hut for a quick look and then headed off along the 4WD track.

I left the TA trail, crossed the stream, and headed up and over a saddle back onto the west facing slopes looking down to Lake Tekapo. My goal was to visit the Rex Simpson Memorial Hut and then return the same way, but on my way there I had determined that it would be possible to just follow the creek back down to the carpark rather than climb back up onto the terrace above the stream and back down the road. But once I was back on the side of the hill facing the lake I decided to change my plans again.

Rex Simpson Hut bagged, I returned back along the 4WD track until the point where it headed back up the hill again. There was an alternative poled route directly downhill to another carpark near the lake, but that didn't suit me, so I headed off across the tussocks, sidling high, following deer tracks, aiming to reach the terrace above the stream on it's true right side.

The going was surprisingly easy, with lots of space between tussocks to walk, and very little boggy ground to negotiate. Once above the creek I followed it down until I could find an easy ridge to descend to the creek floor. Then a simple creek crossing and reconnoitre through some scrub back up the other side, and a 150m stroll back to my car. Job done!

Back in Tekapo I treated myself to a wee Japanese meal of gyoza and ramen, washed down with an Asahi beer. If COVID hadn't closed down the borders, I'd be in Japan right now working another ski season. Instead I'm having the rare opportunity, for me, of a summer of tramping.

After another night at the swanky new YHA, I headed north again. There was more rain forecast, but less if I headed north. Frustratingly, I was in two minds about this, because somebody had posted on one of the packrafting facebook pages I belong to looking for companions for a trip down the Huxley and Hopkins. I wanted to go, but I just couldn't drag myself south again. So I made other plans for the new year instead.

That's next!

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