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.

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Day 1 | Big Hut, Rock & Pillar Conservation Area

I had no particular expectations of the hut as the online information was unclear, but even so, I had a surprise.

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Day 2 | Kyeburn Diggings DOC campsite

Imagine that! How old-fashioned: someone walking!

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Day 3 | Buster Hut, Oteake Conservation Area

I reused my old joke: why didn’t I think of touring on my posterior?

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Day 4 | Tailings Hut, Oteake Conservation Area

Oteake Day 2, but it already felt like I’d been gone for a long while.

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Day 5 | Hut Creek Hut, Oteake Conservation Area

I had a chat, my first in 48 hours, and they made me a burger for dinner. Yum!!

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Day 6 | Digger Flat campsite

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.

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Day 7 | camping near Skunk Hut

Three requirements for a decent campsite. Flat, not lumpy and with flowing water nearby.

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Day 8 | Blue Hut, Otamatapaio Valley

Today was the halfway point of my trip where I reached the apogee, or is it the perihelion, of my revolution of the park.

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Day 9 | Otamatapaio Hut, Oteake Conservation Area, night 1

A strange place to choose for my summer holiday, some might say, but I was pleased to be there.

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Day 10 | Otamatapaio Hut, night 2

This splendid hut was just a minute dot in the landscape, surrounded by steep, tussock-clad hills.

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Day 11 | Wire Yards Hut, Oteake Conservation Area

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.

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Day 12 | Ida Railway Hut, Oteake Conservation Area

I sat in the sun, soaking up one of my best summer days of the year.

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Day 13 | Tailings Hut, Oteake Conservation Area

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.

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Day 14 | Out to Ranfurly

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.

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Day 15 | Boundary Creek Hut, Oteake Conservation Area

These are the things that might occupy your mind on a less than a 2½ hour walk.

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Day 16 | out to Alexandra

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”.