Nelson Lakes National Park

Xmas Trip 2012 (Stage I) (Lee McKay) - Monday 26 December 2011 to Sunday 8 January 2012 (14 days)

What a treasure this park is. I had only tramped a small section of the park previously so planned a route for our Xmas trip that would encompass areas I hadn’t visited before and repeat a section I had enjoyed (it’s all about me). Owing to weather delays, we didn’t get to all areas planned so fortunately will have an excuse to revisit the park at a later date, probably several times!

In our 12-day, 175 km tramp we encountered most aspects of tramping I have experienced at different times with the exception of snow - however, some were seen going out of their way to paddle in patches of snow we passed. In other words, this tramp was the ‘Full Monty’.

I won’t attempt to describe the tramp in detail, just give a broad outline. Come to club night to see the photos and hear the stories.

Valleys: Travers, Sabine, Waiau, Ada, Matakitaki and D’Urville. Passes and Saddles: Travers, Moss, Waiau, Ada, Three Tarn and David.

The track standard ranged from walks, through tracks, and routes to off-track route finding. There were formed paths, board walks, soft beech-leaf-litter tracks, mud, bog, rock, boulders, scree, tree roots, grass, sand, gravel and any surface you can think of. There were river crossings, stream bashes, bush crashes, road bashes, rock climbing, snow grass slopes, grunting, puffing and sweating.

There were huge views (mostly) to no views (occasionally).There was sunshine, persistent rain (1½ days) and showery days but overall we had good, warm weather.

We had mostly long days, a couple of short ones and even a pit day. Our greatest distance was a 30 km effort down the Waiau and along the St James to Ada Hut.

We stayed in big hotel huts, tiny bivs, historic and character huts. There were also a couple of wonderful campsites. We had no trouble getting a bunk in any of the huts because there didn’t seem to be a lot of people in the park for some reason (recent weather, flooding and bridges out?). There wasn’t the normal number of sand-flies either - maybe there weren’t enough people for them to feed on.

There was a lot of birdlife including kea, kaka, bellbirds, tuis, robins and riflemen. Larger animals included horses in the Waiau and Ada Valleys and deer on David Saddle. There were wild flowers, alpine plants, spaniards, matagouri, different varieties of beech along with many other trees.

The park didn’t escape the heavy rain and flooding experienced in the Tasman District prior to Christmas. This was particularly noticeable in the D’Urville Valley where there were numerous large trees littering the river bed and huge river banks eroded away. DOC has really been on the ball and new tracks have been cut and marked where the old ones have disappeared into the river. The bridge below West Sabine Hut was destroyed and a river crossing chosen as a better option than crossing a greasy log others have used. Another bridge crossing the lower D’Urville was badly damaged but we used it instead of wading the waist-deep river (what sign?).

We met the usual mix of foreigners on our travels but an unusual number of Aussies. We met a dad and his two adult sons in Blue Lake Hut who had come all the way from Perth and were going to cross Moss Pass. When asked why come all this way to tramp when there is a huge outback in Australia the answer was - plenty of water, a system of huts and nothing that kills you with one bite. Never forget, or take it for granted, how fortunate we are to have easy access to, and great facilities in, our back country.

The success of any tramp, no matter what the location, depends on the people involved. Although our group of seven eventually split into three for various reasons, the humour, interactions with like-minded people and camaraderie during our time together, and with others, certainly made for an enjoyable time. On these longer trips you have a greater opportunity to get to know your fellow trampers better.

It takes a lot of organisation for a Xmas trip to take place. I would like to thank all those involved in the background, the leaders, the drivers and trip participants who make our annual pilgrimage to the South Island possible.

Members: Lee McKay (leader & scribe), Sally Johannesson, Darrien Cleal, Trevor Gilbert, Tony Walton, Willi Williams and Rob Worley.