Extended Trip - Saturday 2 March 2019 to Saturday 16 March 2019 (15 days)
by Teresa Janssen
Our combined Hawaiian and ATC South Island tramping holiday left from Christchurch Airport on 2 March with the early birds lucky enough to view the nearby International Antarctica Centre before leaving.
Stage 1 - Mt Somers/Haketere Conservation Park
We were off to Mt Somers Holiday Park for 4 nights and began our tramping the next day with a day trip from Lake Clearwater in the Canterbury high country. What an introduction!
It was a scorching hot day (30 degrees predicted) with little breeze. The highest temperature in New Zealand this March was recorded around here during our stay. The steep 600m climb straight to Mt Guy soon had us worried about what we were in for in the next two weeks. We lunched and admired the stunning clear views and all opted to return on what looked like an easier, gentle unmarked route along the tussock ridge and then connect down to the Lake Track. This also turned out to be tricky with a more gentle descent, but still challenging and slow for many. With several just off the plane from Hawaii it was a tough start. Like many, my 2 litre water bottle was emptied as we finished. Some were empty by the summit.
Ian’s takers for the next day’s overnight trip plummeted but we were all proud of our efforts and the huge landscapes and fine weather were a great taste of things to come.
Photo - Tammy taking a breather above Lake Clearwater from part way up Mt Guy
Overnight Buicks Bridge to Boundary Creek Hut through to Potts River Carpark
Panorama of Boundary Creek Hut
Only 7 of us remained on the list for the next day’s overnight trip. Fortunately it was a relatively easy and flat 14 km hike in. We came over a hill at the end of the afternoon to a gorgeous classic old hut by a stream. A great hut experience was shared by all and the stars were amazing. Someone going outside in the middle of the night got the fright of their lives when they disturbed an opossum which clambered up the roof waking everyone with the racket.
The second day started with a decent hill and more to follow as we headed out towards Potts River where the others joined us in the bus. As always it was a delight to see Big Blue. We had great views including reflections in Mystery Lake and finished with a refreshing rinse in the river. A great hut overnighter in beautiful hot clear weather.
Stage 2 - Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park
So it was off to stage 2, staying at Mt Cook Lodge for 3 nights. A new habit formed that was to become a daily pattern. Jump on the bus and share our photos via airdrop, a new skill for many of us. A stop at Tekapo gave us the tourist experience at the famous church, and another stop at Lake Pukaki, the chance to buy the best sashimi salmon ever! What a treat. On to the Tasman Glacier where we explored and pondered the loss of ice on these glaciers particularly after such a great summer.
Most of the party were booked for the Mueller Hut overnight challenge planned for the next day but the 120km winds put an end to that idea. Instead a day trip to Red Tarns looking over the village was enjoyed and local walks.
A group of us tackled the Mueller Hut trip the next day as a return day trip, while the remainder aimed for Sealy Tarns part way up, apparently over 2000 steps! We then had a steep climb to the top. We were in the clouds all the way up and even lost sight of following members of our party even though they were in shouting distance. None of us were tempted to take an early return to the village as we were enjoying the challenge and keen to see the hut and tick it off our list. Keas were there to greet us, but there were none in evidence around the village where they used to be common. On our descent we delighted in a gradual improvement of the weather and fantastic views when we got to Sealy Tarns and below. Each corner unveiling a new view and bringing a thrill.
Mueller Hut day trippers John, Kathy, Brigette, Jim, Barney, Tammy, Larry, Barbara, Teresa
The bad weather cleared quickly and we left Mt Cook on another glorious clear day after a walk down the Hooker Valley to the glacier lake. The number of camper vans was phenomenal with the carpark overflowing. We also marveled at the number of babies on parade, with maternity leave making international excursions an option. Just as we were leaving the lake, Ian must have let rip a classic, and next thing an iceberg in front of us collapsed in two stages into the lake confirming our thoughts that we had heard similar collapses the previous day.
Stage 3 - On To Omarama - Ahuriri/Ruataniwha Conservation Parks
After our salmon from Lake Pukaki, the bus was forced to stop at a Salmon Farm en route to the delight of a good number of us. The Hawaiians noted that their salmon comes from NZ so this was as fresh as it can get.
We started here with a day trip up the Temple Stream after a lovely drive alongside Lake Ohau. It was great to be in beech forest after mainly open country. A nice easy day walk and with some stream crossings adding excitement and a relaxed lunch by a stream at the top of the valley.
Our overnighter was up the Freehold Creak Track (Te Araroa) and over to the Ahuriri River.
Our party had increased to 9 with the addition of Hawaiian sisters, Tammy and Kathy. We set off just before the day trippers, needing a head start to prove ourselves. They kept catching up though if we took a break. Pressure. It was a massive climb up, sharing part with the A20 cycle trail before going into beech forest and then above the tree line to the ridge. At the top a Trail Angel had installed a plastic pipe into a stream giving flowing water with even a cup supplied. Very refreshing. Ian had been assuring us we didn’t need to carry 2 litres of water any more as streams were available, but after Mt Guy we were wary. For some Hawaiians, it was a first time drinking water straight from a stream but nice to be able to offer reassurance, especially for an overnight trip to reduce the load.
Stage 4 - Wanaka - Pisa Conservation Park
We had a much needed lunch at the top, having farewelled the views of Lake Ohau for those of the Ahuriri valley. It was then a sometimes tricky descent, with unstable rocks and stream crossings before setting camp for the night. Our only night in tents. We woke to heavy rain and were dreading the pack up, but the rain quickly cleared. We had fantastic day walking downhill out via multiple stream crossings, boggy bits, and huge rolling countryside before dropping to the river flats. And a delight to end it all, a linked arm crossing of the river, a first for some. Another great overnight trip and a tenting experience.
After a stop off at Warbirds and Wheels it was off to Wanaka for three nights, out last stop. Again we stayed in the Motor Camp in cabins. This was another trip with buy in from most of us, a half day tramp with an overnight in Meg Hut. An extended trip to Deep Creak Hut was added soaking up most of the overnight group, adding in Hazel and the just arrived Tony. Only three of us made it. The extra hardy Tony, Hazel and John from Hawaii.
The walk into Meg Hut from the Cardrona Valley was another big uphill, but this time into the mist and with a roaring wind making for some cold people. We had had extremely high temperatures and now the other side of New Zealand weather had kicked in. By Meg Hut most of us decided against continuing for the afternoon in the cold only to get to a cold, isolated 6 bed hut with the need for some to tent. Instead we chose to join those returning to the luxury of Wanaka with the promise of a day trip the next day.
The Meg Hut group arrived just as we were finishing our lunch and they settled in for the night, a hardy group keen for their first overnighter. Ian set to in getting a fire going, and they happily bid us farewell, glad we weren’t tempted to join them and overcrowd the hut or swipe a bunk leaving them in tents.
As we walked out the cloud lifted and we got great views of the Cardrona Valley. We enjoyed a great steak and sunset at Wanaka. Apparently the cloud didn’t lift up in the hills for the Deep Creak group. However, the next morning was lovely and they got to enjoy a great trip returning.
Last day Snow Farm
We lost a couple of Hawaiians off to the gift shops, but the rest of us headed back to the Cardrona Valley to The Snow Farm. The ride up was quite an adventure, very steep and winding but it sure bet walking! We spent the day walking a circuit through this private cross country adventure park amusing ourselves with the great volcanic rocks that looked like people and animals etc before reuniting with the overnight trampers. The weather had returned to our usual clear blue skies.
Overlooking Snow Farm Gayle, Barney, Brigette, Teresa, Diana, Karen, Tammy, Phyllis, Owen and Jim
Our Safari end was celebrated with a fantastic meal at the Cardrona Hotel on our last night before a drop off at Queenstown airport. Ian and Anna were thanked for the phenomenal amount of work they did to prepare such a varied and interesting itinerary and taking care of us so well during the trip. Jim and Rudy were thanked for getting us around safely and Jim for his leadership and inspiration during the tramps.
We were a blessed bunch having such a great trip and with the real bonus of amazing clear hot weather for the bulk of the trip. It never rained, just too windy for our overnight trip to Mueller Hut and damp cloud and wind on the way to Meg Hut. We have made great friends from across the world and shared so many memories. Our hearts were warmed. Kia Kaha