Central Otago blog | January 2023
After 13 days of extraordinary weather inland from Kaikoura, while parts of the country to the north were being inundated, I hoped a similar summery experience could be replicated in an area I’d missed in all of my previous South Island backcountry wanderings.
After the Clarence River area, I’d prefer to escape wild roses and matagouri that had been encountered on a regular basis, and an occasional bush lawyer entanglement.
Maybe I could experience an entire summer of escaping trees.
First up, was a look at the Rock and Pillar Range near Middlemarch, before I progressed up the Strath Taieri valley to the extensive Oteake Conservation Park near Naseby.
I was keen on a complete circuit of the park.
I had no particular expectations of the hut as the online information was unclear, but even so, I had a surprise.
Imagine that! How old-fashioned: someone walking!
I reused my old joke: why didn’t I think of touring on my posterior?
Oteake Day 2, but it already felt like I’d been gone for a long while.
I had a chat, my first in 48 hours, and they made me a burger for dinner. Yum!!
Crashing around in the vegetation was heard, and two young stags popped into view. Surprise! Then, a leggy fawn followed, wondering what on earth was going on.
Three requirements for a decent campsite. Flat, not lumpy and with flowing water nearby.
Today was the halfway point of my trip where I reached the apogee, or is it the perihelion, of my revolution of the park.
A strange place to choose for my summer holiday, some might say, but I was pleased to be there.
This splendid hut was just a minute dot in the landscape, surrounded by steep, tussock-clad hills.
No one was residing at the dirt-floored hut when I staggered in just before 9 pm. My longest day’s tramping in recorded history.
I sat in the sun, soaking up one of my best summer days of the year.
Later on, an older hunter and his daughter turned up in a four-wheel drive, so I finally got to talk to someone after a week. They offered a sausage in a bun, and I happily acceded.
A four-wheel drive convoy soon appeared, squeezed me in, and before long I was standing by my car, trying to find my keys and wondering if it would start after 12 days of standing stationary.
These are the things that might occupy your mind on a less than a 2½ hour walk.
I think I’d overachieved, having cracked out more than half a million steps, at more than 17 k a day, all the while carrying the pack that anyone else would describe as “heavy” or “You have to be crazy”.