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.
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.
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.
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.
Many would be having morning tea at West Harper Hut, for me, well, I discover that’s the day’s destination.
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.
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.
Today was supposed to be an easier day, except it wasn’t.
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.
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.
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.
Life is full of options and I’m happy as up here.
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.
I spend an hour stationary, sitting on some scree, just soaking it all in.
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.
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.
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.