Monday, 9 December 2013

Days 89-93: Wanaka to Lake Ohau, via more watery stuff in between

Day 89. Today was supposed to be a fairly easy stroll from Wanaka to Lake Hawea. It was a sunny, still day and it wasn't long before I was overheating! The path is beautiful, following the lake edge.

As I walked, I met a surprising number of people out exercising (given it's a work day!)... And a few were quite chatty!
(a heron fishing at the head of the Clutha River)

I stopped in Alberttown for a bite of lunch and to seek some shade. The heat had me thinking about how I will go in the heat of Summer later on! 
(a fly fisherman tries his luck from the Albertown camping ground- looks like a good spot for camping!)

I was daydreaming about the cool waters of the lake as I got a move on, reaching a campground on Lake Hawea managed by Mike (nice guy, good sense of humour) and was cooling my feet by 3 pm. Bliss! The little cabin selected was perfect, and I had a really nice time here!

Day 90. After a bit of a lazy start, it wasn't long before I found myself working up a sweat climbing up towards Breast Hill.

Mike at the campground mentioned a change in the weather, so I'm expecting a fair bit of rain tonight, which should make the river crossings interesting tomorrow. Anyway, today's objective was Stodys Hut. Along the way, the track became a 4wd track through high country farmland. It was magic!

By about 4pm I had reached the old musterers hut on the edge of beech forest. It certainly oozed rustic charm!

The next hut, Top Timaru Hut was a little too far away to carry on walking. So the old adage 'if in doubt, mess tins out' was enforced and I started eating my pack lighter. An early night tonight!

Day 91.
As predicted, the rain came down last night, but was light rather than torrential. I was also happy that despite mouse droppings in the hut, the wee mice did not come out to play so I slept fairly well! It was an overcast day, cool weather perfect for tramping and sandflies...

On the way down to Timaru River, a couple of bellbirds flew over, and in an amazing display of acrobatics, did a synchronised corkscrew roll together and dropping out of sight into the valley below. Wow! The trail was steep and the footing uncertain, with lots of broken slate-like rock and loose dirt underfoot. I did a bit of sliding on the way down, trying to look graceful. Lots of sidling too...not for the faint hearted!

Although some of the side steams looked up from last night, when I got to the river it was no problem to cross over... And over, and over. With a number of steep up-and-downs to keep you guessing!

The sun broke through the cloud in time for lunch. A good spot, eh.

Shortly after, a light rain started... Not to worry though, the Top Timaru Hut was close by.

I reached the hut by 2pm, but with some uncertainty as to the next bit of shelter (hut, bush or rock bivy), and with the rain starting to come down in earnest, I decided to call it quits early. A wash in the river, water boiled for hot drinks and soup, a couple of Wilderness mags to read and I was snug as a bug!

Day 92. Holy crap, what a day. It was overcast and gloomy as I set off for the Mount Martha saddle (1682m).
The climb up was fairly easy and well graded, taking 2 hours. I really got into the groove this morning, and it was a magnificent plod up the saddle.
The view back the way I had come was pretty cool, as was Mt Martha (what I could see of her).

I planned to have lunch at the car park, so got moving. It's a nice route down and through farmland... No dramas so far!

I got to the car park at 1pm, 20kms down, and a few more planned up the valley along the East Ahuriri river. I wouldn't want to wait here for a ride, you might be there a while!

That's when the weather started looking iffy. I got moving towards the big river crossing of the day, the Ahuriri River.
Looks alright from here.
First a scree run down a 45 degree slope- that was quite fun!
Here it is looking at it further back...

Right, now the river. It looked reasonable, although fairly deep and the current was moving along nicely. I took my time with identifying a crossing point, all the while getting harassed by nesting seabirds (what? Why aren't you at the beach?).
Eventually I went for it. By midstream I knew I was in a spot of trouble, finding it hard to keep my feet. I was really wishing someone else was with me! At one point I lost my footing and was swept downriver for a short while, using my pack to float I stayed on my back and was able to recover and get my feet back on the riverbed. Phew! It was a struggle and a good wake up call- don't underestimate these rivers! I hauled myself up an overlooking escarpment and took a bit of time to have a bite and to settle down a bit.

It started drizzling. I went past a number of mature trees (which I would regret), aiming to so about 10 more kms before packing it in for the day.
This place looks like prairie land! Those are the nice hammock-friendly trees I walked past.

As I went I realised it would be a bivy tonight- no useful trees in sight.
 Those clouds were looking ominous.

I found a likely spot and set up my tarp for the southerly that was blowing.

And no sooner had the water boiled that a strong gusty northerly started up, with what looked like tons of rain coming. I reset my camp as fast as I could, just beating the first heavy squall. Apparently Ohau means 'of wind'.... Mmmmhmmm.
So now I am under my tarp doing my best to stay dry. I now thinking about those river crossings tomorrow, here's hoping the flow isn't affected too much by the rain tonight, otherwise it may be another day out here until I reach Ohau!

Day 93. Well, it wasn't the best of sleeps with rain and lots of rocks underneath- but at least my gear stayed mostly dry! I had to modify my tarp (under pressure) to cope with the weather. Worked out pretty well in less than ideal setup conditions...

The East Branch river was looking ok for the numerous crossings today (phew), so I started up the valley curious to see what was ahead. Turns out what was ahead was a pair of TA walkers, a pair of deer, and lots of squelchy plodding through boggy ground and the nice clean and refreshing river!

Here are the two TA walkers- Andre, and [mumble]. Apparently I'm bad with names.
After exchanging info, we went our separate ways. Happy trails fellas!

The pics of the deer....meh. You have to get real close to animals to get good pics on an iPhone. The closest these guys let me get was about 100 meters, across a gully.

Hey look- Lake Ohau! That was faster than expected... Especially when skirting the obstacle course of volcanic rock and Spaniard (aargh!)

What I really like about the TAT is how the  trail seems to change constantly- it refreshes with each change. Sick of massive hills and tussock? No worries- have some beech forest! Aaaaah, thanks, that was good. And it was!

See? I'm happy.

And now I find myself at Ohau Lodge, which is not a bad place to be, I've decided! Beer and a view. Sold. Good night!

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