That was a surprise. It’s not as if it was super easy either.
No deer greeted me although the swallows were busy. In fact little game was seen, just a solitary goat. The day was more about botany.
The initial walk up to Pig Whare Saddle was more of the same, is, a bulldozed track, although it was clear no four-wheel drives had been on it in recent years. Maybe 50 years ago. On the way up it all seemed clear to follow.
Good views back down the valley. I kept a nervous eye on the cliffs above, and some of the recently released rocks from the Kaikoura earthquake. There was a bit of that today.
Heading down the other side was guesswork for a while, but once I made it into the manuka forest, over a fence there were a good number of markers, often cut out of beer cans, the circular tops, and also sheep/cattle ear tags. The track was surprisingly obvious.
Maybe more people use it than I thought, or perhaps we just make more long lasting damage.
Near the bottom a sign pointed to a shelter, Pig Whare Creek Shelter. Built by the owner of the private land. It turned out to be a real Robinson Crusoe home away from home, with a lot of bush timber used, including chainsawed flooring. A delight.
Then it wasn’t so far downstream to the new Tummil River Lodge at the junction of the river where I was heading back up to Lake Alexander.
Showers were in the Weather Forecast Department, but for me was rain for tomorrow. Might as well get to Lake Alexander for Christmas Day, ie, tomorrow, and have a rest day and a decent DOC hut.
Once into the river valley the trail was well marked with standard DOC isosceles orange triangles.
The first half was gorgey, river crossings involved, but none of the steep climbs around bluffs of earlier on. Plenty of newly located rocks in the valley, looks like from the Kaikoura earthquake again. Surprisingly a few mature matai trees were encountered, first a grove of seven or so, then scattered along the valley floor. Being in the Ferny Gair Conservation Park there were some labels on various trees: mountain ribbonwood, and red beech. Actually there was a reasonable amount of red beech in small shady pockets once I got out of the previously grazed landscape.
The second half was easier, and as my energy flagged late in the afternoon I was grateful.
The lake popped into view. Not much to look at initially: quite turbid with old logs in shallow water but a view up the lake showed the hut.
19 km under my belt for the longest days walking in a while. Particularly with the 1000 m climbing involved.
Not over for the day however. I still had to get water, and water not from the murky lake. To many ducks in residence.
As suggested in some hut book notes I wandered 500 m up the dry river bed to find a cool clear stream to satisfy my needs. Fortunately there was a bucket and large billy to fill, but I didn’t really need another kilometre to the day’s efforts.
Tomorrow? I’m taking my first rest day.
It’s Christmas Eve now, but I’m having an early night.