Extended Trip - Friday 28 December 2018 to Friday 4 January 2019 (8 days)
By Catherine Doyle
On the calm shores of Lake Hauroko standing in our squeaky clean boots, we were quivering with anticipation - having been plied with club stories, anecdotes and blogs about the horrors of the infamous Dusky Track - mud, rain, swollen rivers, three wire bridges and most of all the greediest sandflies known to mankind.
At this stage we had been charmed by the talents of Joyce who had picked us up, loaded the trailer, navigated the gravel road avoiding on-coming idiots, backed the trailer, hooked on, launched and piloted the boat to our final destination. She just happened to mention that she also ran the coffee cart business. It was all in a day’s work for a Southern Woman.
After cruising the deepest, blackest, calmest waters we were deposited on the not-so-sandfly-invested Hauroko shores to consume our lunch in brilliant sunshine. Then began our speedy journey towards Halfway Hut.
Arriving in 6 hours, we settled in amongst a dark cloud of over-excited, hungry sandflies. The recommended can of fly spray at the ready - forewarned had us forearmed - and we were ready for whatever the Dusky could throw at us.
Due to an unseasonably dry spell, confirmed by the hundreds of round bales of freshly made hay we spied on our three hour drive from Te Anau, we were experiencing ideal track and weather conditions.
We felt blessed, BUT LET IT BE NOTED that the Dusky still chucked at us plenty of knee deep mud, dripping wet rain forest, steep inclines with even steeper declines and a continuous stream of wobbly 3-wire bridges. At this stage we were a party of ten that included Tony’s group.
Day two got us up to the tops and to a sandfly-free Lake Roe Hut in 6 hours. We indulged in a welcome wash in a warm tarn with views to die for. Some hardy individuals walked on up to Lake Roe for ever more spectacular views while some other not so energetic party members enjoyed scoffing chocolate and coffee and the unprecedented comfort of a superbly positioned wooden bench while absorbing the unspoiled serenity of the place.
The morning of Day three offered a mild misty rain, rolling tussock terrain, numerous tarns and a farewell to Tony’s gang. Well that farewell was short lived as while long lunching with our first glimpse of the Dusky Sound and delaying the agony of the huge 3 hour descent, who should pop up and leading the charge but Sally, followed by her gang of merry (wo)men and Tony.
Loch Maree Hut harboured more ravenous sandflies and a dodgy doorknob that continuously came off in your hands leaving you either stranded in or out of the hut. Simon managed, after a window exit, to deal to the knob. We suffered a hot, hot night there as fly screen windows offered minimal air circulation. (7½ hours)
Day Four saw us eagerly marching off at 7.30 in order to catch perfectly the low tide and take the sand and knee-deep short cut to Supper Cove. Another dodgy doorknob, more sandflies but a delightful 5 min pebbled path to bathe and wallow in the warm waters of Supper Cove.
New Year’s Eve saw us gobbling up a communal celebration apple crumble thanks to our team leader Robin. We all gratefully retired to bed around 8.30.
Day Five took us back to Loch Maree Hut with the dreaded flotilla of sandflies, to retrieve our stashed food supplies. This time we took the high tide route, which seemed to take us only a half hour longer, involving the usual slippery tree roots, ups and downs, mud and wet. (8 hours)
Day Six consisted of 8 hours following the thankfully benign Seaforth River to Kintail Hut and away from those dodgy doorknobs.
Day Seven had us climbing the magnificent Centre Pass. Due to unfavourable weather conditions and a linguistic misinterpretation "Have we reached the Pass?", "Yes we are on the Path", we celebrated a joyful false summit ascent.
Unfortunately we couldn’t linger on the Pass for long to admire the magnificent sheer rocky mountain faces and the flower carpeted alpine garden. A brief water-drenched lunch spot did allow us to absorb our glorious surrounds.
Upper Spey Hut provided welcome sunshine and for some a little zzzz on the sun-drenched helicopter pad. (6½ hours)
Day Eight and a 5 hour walk got us to the Wilmot Pass Rd in time to know we were nearing civilization as three tourist laden buses roared past us. At the same time we encountered three likely lads beginning their Dusky adventure - all in tattered swandris, lugging heavy packs and with the promise of real Dusky bad weather - good luck boys coz we were out of there. (5½ hours)
We were: Robin (leader), Terry, Catherine, Fay, Simon and Uta