Back into the hills.
So I’d been planning on a venture to the West Coast, but for some reason, Kahurangi called.
Still quite a few places I haven’t ventured in the park, but a loop over the Wilkinson Track would fill in one blank on my map. And it’s a circuit that avoids excessive backtracking, something I’d spent half the summer doing down with those big Canterbury river valleys.
I sorted my food yesterday, but this morning I had to actually stuff it in my pack.
The itinerary I write up for each trip suggested a 12-day expedition, in part because I prefer to spend a rainy day in a decent hut, and Venus Hut is one of my favourites.
And a tent went in.
It’s not a lightweight expedition.
Various other tasks slowed me down, so it was around 11 am when I left home, but I still had a supermarket visit and refuelling. Lunch was spent two-thirds of the way up the Graham River Road, as the steep climb up to the car park at 960 m had the car overheating. Plenty of oil and water when I checked, so I’m not keen on finding out if some expensive water pump issue is required to be resolved.
Another more recent car that I passed followed me into the car park in a cloud of steam, with a radiator hose causing problems. I wasn’t the only one. The family was heading to Upper Grid Iron Hut for the night.
I’m off to Salisbury Lodge, and since my pack was finally on my back just before 2 pm, I was not looking forward to finding out exactly how long DOC signage was going to state for the walking time. I thought maybe five hours, or maybe even six hours, which would need some headtorch walking, but when the sign was noted on the saddle itself it indicated 4 hours 50 minutes. Surprisingly exact.
Being late autumn it was going to start getting dark shortly after sunset at around 5 pm, so I’d better make haste.
Not being too hasty however, as I stopped to reacquaint myself with the two zany Grid Iron structures, and later stopped for a chat with a stray Japanese guy who had come over Gordons Pyramid, and was staying at Growler Shelter.
That brought back the memory of the last time I’d actually heard the term, shamefully as a 14-year-old is one of my school friends shouted out to a passing group from the Girl’s College, “Show us your growler!” Fortunately, this is not used in male-only conversation once past that age, or hopefully forever.
The four-wheel-drive track parallels Flora Stream, follows downhill as far as the turnoff to Takaka, although the four-wheel-drive aspect changes to a narrower benched track from the goldmining days, presumably the Depression era. At the turn off, it starts going uphill from about 740 m elevation, to the hut at 1130 m, so it’s a steady, if even gradient.
I staggered into the tussock with my eyes struggling with the darkness, so after 10 minutes I had to stop to find my head torch to avoid stepping into a hole or drainage trench.
Being mid-week, the hut was vacant, just the way I like it.
These days my night walking experience is generally avoided, but in this instance, the track is in easy walking condition, and it was less than an hour with my torch going. Strangely it was in the fog, and when I breathed out through my mouth the stream of steam coming out was illuminated by my torch, so at times I couldn’t see much at all, particularly as any breeze was coming over my shoulders. Breathing through my nose avoided this, but every now and again I forgot, and was plunged deeply into fog of my own creation.
Meanwhile, was that a kiwi calling?