15 days in Arthurs Pass in early spring, ie, a great trip

After a few months of winter induced cabin fever it was again time to stretch the legs and start on additional “research” for this website. There are considerable gaps in coverage down south, better rectify that.

The idea is to wander around Arthurs Pass National Park for a couple of weeks, then head further south for some time in Fiordland, maybe even a month.

Here’s what eventuated in the mostly lonesome 15 days, starting with the Cass Lagoon Saddles Track which happens to be in the Cragieburn Forest Park, then moving on to a few cul-de-sacs, some small, one big, in Arthurs Pass.

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Day -1 Prelims | Hanging around Greymouth

Day -1, wandering around Punakaiki on that cloudless day. | Arthurs Pass blog

In the New Zealand high country you just can’t predict what will happen with the weather, so you just learn to accept whatever eventuates.

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Day 1 | An early start, that bus to Cass

Day 1 and a typical Cass River crossing, and there were plenty of those. |  Arthurs Pass blog

Soon enough I’m unbundling myself from my fellow travellers, out on the road side in pure tranquillity, full cloudless sunshine, I’m taking the track just next to the Cass River bridge.

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Day 2 | Hamilton Hut

Day 2, it's up and over Cass Saddle, ie, no big thing. |  Arthurs Pass blog

The kea is bigger than I remember, maybe puffed up due to cold, not quite chicken sized, dull forest green in colour, I know there’s some orange under the wings, but the most identifiable feature is a huge curving beak. She’s pigeon toeing her way along the veranda in abrupt hops, twisting, and running that beak along the timber, almost like sharpening a sickle, eyes firmly gazing at the hooded creature, ie, me, in the hut interior.

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Day 3 | West Harper Hut

Day 3, and that fire in West Harper Hut is ablaze. |  Arthurs Pass blog

Many would be having morning tea at West Harper Hut, for me, well, I discover that’s the day’s destination.

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Day 4 | Bealey Hut

Day 4 and the view over my next few days walking, the Waimak and all beyond.  |  Arthurs Pass blog

Actually, before I met this lot, I sat up above the saddle for a goodly while by myself, just contemplating that massive view over the Waimak and directly opposite the Bealey River.

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Day 5 | Sudden Valley Biv

Day 5, there's no scale with this image but be assured, those rocks are bigger than you think. |  Arthurs Pass blog

You do get to see the top of the falls, the creek just disappearing in a roar, there’s more rock scrambling, more creek crossings and I’ve taken the low risk get-the-feet-wet approach rather than jump-from-slippery-rock-to-slippery-sloping-rock, more vague trail and you burst out onto a wider valley, gravel underfoot and mountains with snow all around.

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Day 6 | Hawdon Hut

Day 6, joy after surviving coming down the scree slope, oh, and getting up as well.  |  Arthurs Pass blog

Today was supposed to be an easier day, except it wasn’t.

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Day 7 | Hawdon Hut, again

On the 7th day he rested and had this view to look out at. |  Arthurs Pass blog

I kinda felt some Old Man Disease coming on yesterday afternoon as I trudged my way up the Hawdon River, checking on my GPS every 600m as to how far further was required to complete the day’s efforts, kinda counting down.

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Day 8 | Andrews Shelter

Day 8, seems the river has changed its course around here recently. |  Arthurs Pass blog

Plenty of questions, What do you eat?

I just grab a possum from a tree, light a big fire, leave the fur on, and then, when it’s ready, just peal it like a banana.

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Day 9 | Casey Hut, Poulter River

Day 9, a different type of vegetation on the way down to Casey Hut. |  Arthurs Pass blog

Some unmistakable chattering in parrot-like sounds from what I assume is that critically endangered orange fronted, err, parrot, now only surviving in three valleys here on the mainland, 300 specimens estimated to exist.

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Day 10 | Poulter Hut

Day 10, there are parts of this Poulter Valley that are quite the surreal thing. |  Arthurs Pass blog

Life is full of options and I’m happy as up here.

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Day 11 | Poulter Hut, again

Day 11, and I hang around the Poulter Hut mostly.  |  Arthurs Pass blog

There’s one cloud, covering the entire sky, down to a low altitude, dense, immovable, but I’m happy enough ensconced in this ply-lined hut, resting aged limbs, no need to whack wet boots on, just taking it easy.

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Day 12 | Back to Casey Hut

A surprise to be hit with the pure gorgeousness of Lake Minchin.  |  Arthurs Pass blog

I spend an hour stationary, sitting on some scree, just soaking it all in.

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Day 13 | Casey Hut, again

Looking somewhat bleak in the morning, the temp is about 1ºC. |  Arthurs Pass blog

Rain last night, at times heavy and I hear the distinct call of the male greater spotted kiwi on three occasions, a high-pitched squawk that is on repeat 16 and 17 times the cycles I counted, maybe he’s trying to find the hut, it doesn’t seem pleasant out there, I’m pleased to be in this damp little wooden tent despite the condensation issue.

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Day 14 | Andrews Shelter once more

Day 14, plenty of snow up on Binser Saddle, I removed my glasses. |  Arthurs Pass blog

Wow. Heavy rain for much of the night, continuing off and on in the morning. During a break in the clouds a glimpse of snow is seen, down to about 900 m dusting the forest, a complete coating on the tops.

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Day 15 | Onto Christchurch

Day 15, it's a long trudge across the waimak valley floor to get to the highway. Nice though. | Arthurs Pass blog

But of course you can deal with some hard work and discomfort, there must be some reason to be doing this, the thrill of being out here, not quite knowing what is gonna happen next, self-reliant, in a big way, no cares or worries of that everyday world left entirely behind.