Extended Trip - Friday 28 December 2018 to Thursday 3 January 2019 (7 days)
Our mission was to walk two branches of the T shaped Dusky Track, skipping out the branch that involved a trip to Supper Cove and back - that was ably looked after by Robin’s Medium Fit party. Fairly meaningless trip classifications - if you survive any variation of the Dusky Track, then you must be Fit !
For the first few days we were travelling and walking with Robin’s party. Our original plan was to stay at Lake Roe Hut for two nights and play on the tarn and view infested tops for an extra day. All started well when we arrived early afternoon, and some of us then went for a walk to Lake Roe, following the shore around to where we had great views back down the Hauroko Burn. Already our open tops walking was revealing tarn after tarn.
Rain and claggy tops overnight and in the morning forced a rethink, so after a delayed start, we too set off on our way, following Robin’s group that had left over an hour earlier. As we enjoyed our walk along the Pleasant Range, the weather did actually clear, and yes, there were tarns and great views everywhere, capped off with views out to Dusky Sound in the distance.
We found Robin’s group leisurely enjoying the views too - and like us - mentally preparing themselves for the steep drop down to the Seaforth Valley and Loch Maree hut. But it was all worth it to find a hut on a promontory above the river and the Loch with great views all around, including great views of the tree stumps in the water, meaning the track was clear enough to leave the hut in either direction.
So the next morning, now a day ahead of schedule, our group left Loch Maree Hut on the track to Kintail Hut - the section of the Dusky Track that becomes impassable in rainy weather. Fortunately it was all passable, despite the regular boggy sections, including one superb mossy bog where people obviously are challenged to find the track - because there were trails going in all directions. We realised that by Dusky Track standards we were in a relatively dry spell, so we were better able to enjoy the lush Fiordland rainforest... despite still occasionally getting buried knee deep in a boggy patch !
Kintail Hut was reached in good time - and for us it was a lovely sunny spot to spend the rest of the afternoon, including a quick cooling dip in the river and clothes washing. True to form I grabbed a good sharp saw from the hut and went back up the track clearing some irritating obstacles on the track. Discussions on our options for the next day - camp on Centre Pass, or push on to Upper Spey Hut.
In the event, after a later start the next morning (New Years’ Day ... and no, we had neither the wherewithal or stamina to see the New Year in) .... We headed on up the steady climb to Centre Pass. At the top Margaret and I decided to stay put, while Sally and Vicky headed on down to Upper Spey Hut. During the afternoon the weather on the Pass deteriorated to squally showers, which didn’t let up overnight, and the next morning was not much better, with claggy tops and clouds whipping across the sky.
Wait and see for a bit, then we decided to head on down the hill, so packed up and were just about on our way when Christine arrived, as intended. But given the conditions, none of us considered it a great idea to head higher up to Mt Memphis, which we would have done if conditions were suitable.
Drizzly conditions continued on and off as we made our descent. Christine was able to confirm that a big patch of red not too far away in the bush was mistletoe - we had suspected this from a few red flowers on the track earlier in the trip, but this patch was spectacular.
After a last Dusky night in Upper Spey Hut, we left at a good time to finish the walk out to the Wilmot Pass Road, being a bit anxious about the availability of our open ended transport back to Manapouri and Te Anau. We hit the road in good time, then Margaret scored us a ride down the road in an empty Real Journeys bus out on a test drive following repairs (standing in the aisle only - but hey - we were dirty trampers, and we were thrilled at avoiding the road bash).
The most vicious sandflies were down at the lake’s edge outside the visitor centre, meaning a lightning change into more presentable clothes and footwear, and then a wait inside, with Real Journeys staff immediately taking note of our travel requirements through to Te Anau. Our earlier concerns were unfounded, as they took great care of us, found us places on one of the several boats, and directed us to a suitable bus on arrival at the other end of the lake. We arrived back in Te Anau mid afternoon, with time and warm windy weather suitable for getting clothes washed and dried that afternoon.
Our group were Margaret Law, Sally Johannesson, Tony Walton (leader, scribe), Vicky King, with Christine Major joining us for Upper Spey / Centre Pass ramblings.
Photos from Tony, Vicky and Christine