Third time lucky…?

After my last two disastrous outings, this is make or break time for me. Three accidents in a row and I am hanging up my boots. So, in an effort to stack the odds, have picked a relatively easy tramp to hopefully get back into the swing of things: the Abel Tasman Coast Track, one of DOC’s Great Walks. Am taking it slowly, over the maximum five days (only about 4 hours walking per day) and everything’s looking good – the previously awful weather has suddenly broken into what looks like a week of perfect sun. It’s distinctly un-winter-like, but I’m looking forward to a peaceful track with few people or insects (the ATCT is buzzing with both in summer).

I caught a shuttle from Nelson to Marahau, the beginning of the walk. Crossing the wooden causeway over the estuary, it’s then an easy, pleasant hike through bush and over golden beaches to Anchorage hut. I mean, just look at this scenery:



Half a lake is no fun

Have not had a good time in the Ureweras.

Went to do the Lake Waikaremoana Great Walk and it did not go well. The first day was fine – a strenuous walk up to Panekire Bluff, a bit hairy in places, scrambling and trying not to look down (am not particularly wonderful with heights) and the track was not in great condition, but got to Panekire Hut okay. There are supposedly stunning views from there but the weather had closed in and could hardly see a thing. Oh well, it was a nice hut and there were some friendly trampers inside so it was all good. Views had cleared by morning and it was indeed stunning, as this photo looking up to the Panekire Bluff shows.



Coming down from the bluff wasn’t so wonderful. The track was muddy and slick, but I successfully picked my way down most of it before slipping. Which wouldn’t be so bad if I hadn’t slipped towards the edge of the track – I can still feel the sensation of it giving way beneath me and down I go, arse over tip, tumbling down the steep muddy bank until I smash into a tree and break my arm. I very clearly remember my thought processes during the fall: they went something like shit shit shit shit shit ow!

Have never had a broken bone before but there’s really no mistaking it. I had my new personal locator beacon on me, and briefly considered using it, but there was no bone poking out or anything so it didn’t feel emergency enough. Hauled myself (and pack) one-handed up slippery bank, and that was a job let me tell you. Luckily, ten minutes later, coming in the other direction, wander a pair of Swedish tourists, who happen to be a doctor and a nurse. They kindly strap up my arm and give me some really good painkillers, and off I trot to Waiopaoa Hut, hoping to find a ranger and a quick exit to hospital.

There’s no ranger, no radio, and no mobile coverage at the hut. There is, however, a helpful poster saying that if the hut catches on fire, please call emergency services. On what? Tin cans and string? (There weren’t any of those either.) There was however a ranger hut further around the lake, so I take a chance and make for that. Don’t get there before dark, so camp out overnight under stars. Cold and uncomfortable, arm not so bad as long as I don’t try to use it. Get to the ranger hut early next morning and of course it’s locked up and no-one there. Not impressed. Flag down a couple of boaties and they very kindly scoot me across the lake so I can get a shuttle into town and hospital. Arm is confirmed broken, hand swelled up like a balloon.

Now have a bright green cast. Didn’t finish the tramp. Seriously considering giving tramping up. Two accidents in a row! Will try again later. Maybe.


Rainbow Reach

The last day of Kepler Track, and I’m heading for Rainbow Reach, just a couple of hours away, in order to catch the shuttle bus back into Te Anau (where the hot showers are, and I can’t wait).

It’s more beech forest on the way out to Rainbow Reach – not that I’m complaining, mind you – and also some wetlands, with a boardwalk over 5 metres of moss, which was pretty cool. It was an interesting change of pace scenery-wise. Just over an hour later, I came to Rainbow Reach, and the big swing bridge there. I love those things – like suspension bridges, but when you jump on them (and I always do) they swing and bounce. They make some people quite nervous, but I’ve liked them ever since I was a kid – just what you’re used to, I guess.

A quick ride into town later, and I was done with Kepler. I enjoyed it, but parts were bloody hard work. I don’t remember Milford Track being this tough, though maybe I’m more unfit now than I was then. Either way, it was a little bit of a shock to look up at Mount Luxmore from Lake Te Anau (it’s that triangle peeking up from behind the hills) and realise that it looks a lot shorter from down here… it didn’t feel short climbing up it!



Moturau and Manapouri

After a very long day yesterday (although I was surprised and pleased to find that there were two girls even slower than I was, hooray!) I had a nice long sleep-in at Iris Burn Hut this morning. Then, plastering my blisters, I set off on what would be a day of comparative ease – six hours of bushwalking through to Manapouri Lake and Moturau Hut.

For once, my legs agreed with DOC’s estimate. Going along the flat, through lovely beech forest, I’m fairly speedy; it’s only on the big hill stretches (and both up and down have their own special little tortures) that I go all tortoise-like.

I didn’t take many good photos today, though. The weather forecast had come in at 8.30am, and it was continuous showers that would turn to full-bore rain early-to-mid afternoon. So I threw on my pack (feeling lighter as the days go by, all the food being eaten as I go and I’m just not that hungry anymore anyway) and try and make Moturau before the storm hits.

Which I do, by about ten minutes. Good timing, eh? At least the rain put paid to the sandflies, bloodthirsty little buggers.

Moturau is on the edge of Lake Manapouri, which is apparently quite nice to swim in, though I was too lazy and comfortable inside to go and get all wet.



Climbing Mount Luxmore

The second day doing Kepler Track, and this was the day I was most looking forward to – the alpine ridge section between Mount Luxmore and Iris Burn Huts. Luckily it was a very nice day, as the track can be hell in high winds and rain (people having to crawl along ridgelines with sheer drops either side).

But first, it was more uphill, as I wound along the hillside getting closer to the top of Mount Luxmore. More hills – you can imagine how pleased I was. Still, at least it was in the open so I could see where I was going, unlike yesterday’s forest hike. The track lay clear ahead, and the views down towards one of the arms of Te Anau lake were stunning.



Eventually I reached the point where you get to turn off the track and take a quick side trip up to Mount Luxmore’s top. I scrambled to the top, and was quite impressed with myself – I’m really not very good with heights, and there was a strong wind near the summit that didn’t help matters. I stayed long enough to take a photo and then got down as quickly as I could.



From here, it was mostly sidling along hillsides for a couple of hours, trying to walk daintily in clumping great boots through an avalanche zone. There were a couple of avalanche shelters along the way, where I stopped to have some chocolate and laugh at the keas (trying desperately to steal another tramper’s socks).



Once I hit the ridgeline, it was a fairly easy walk, with fantastic views, until I hit the zig-zag from hell – a steep, endless, rocky downhill track that turned my knees and ankles to jelly. I was very, very glad to get my sunburnt self to Iris Burn Hut.

Though it could have been worse. Robbie, the Hut Ranger, had some stories to tell about the alpine section that were a little hair-raising. Not too long ago he’d been helping a school group over it in absolutely awful weather – one poor girl was so terrified she was huddled in a foetal position on the track and refusing to move. At least those of us sharing the hut had had good weather – Robbie had heard from Jeff over the radio, and the people walking a day behind us were not so lucky – it was so wet and windy at Luxmore that the entire hut was shaking.

I’m so very glad I missed that.