I had high hopes for today. I thought it would be an interesting experience. Well, it was an interesting experience alright.
First, I had to tramp the 4 km or so of roading to get to Round Hill road, the entrance to the Long Hilly Track – which is neither long nor very hilly. The LHT is a historic walk through the bush site of old goldfields much favoured by the Chinese immigrants of the time. What was once a thriving little community – including hotels and pubs – is now gone, but there are some traces of the mining operations left. It’s a 2 hour return track, and is extremely well done, with information panels dotted around the place to tell you about its history. A lovely little walk.
About 45 minutes up, I came to the Port Water’s Race turn-off. PWR is a marvel of engineering – roughly 25 miles long (back before sensible metric) this finely sloping ditch channelled water for sluicing. Its gradient is so minimally perfect that the water moved slowly and easily through the bush, with no rushing or rapids – and for it to be hacked out of the earth and stone at the time (even tunneling through rock in some places) was no mean feat for poverty-stricken miners of the 19th century. Remnants of their presence are scattered along the track – like this old broken bridge.
A sign at the beginning of PWR assured me that the section to Cascade Road should take me 8 hours. I don’t know what roadrunner did this trail in 8 hours, but it must have been in better condition then! Mud, mud everywhere, broken trees and debris all over the path, and – it has to be said – a very lackadaisical attitude to marking said path or giving any signage at all meant that, close to 12 hours after I started walking PWR I had to camp out under the shelter of an enormous dead tree, completely lost.
At least it wasn’t raining and I had the sense to bring supplies, but still. Was not amused. Thank goodness no bears or other nasties in NZ! I might have been grumpy, but at least I could go to sleep secure in the knowledge that, like Granny Weatherwax, the most dangerous thing in those woods was me.