Rakiura blog | August 2022

Despite freezing away in the snow in South Marlborough a few days before, that hadn’t dented enthusiasm for additional mid-winter outdoor’s experience.

Snow? Well, not so much excitement there.

Actually, Rakiura is surprisingly snow free, due to the island nature where the Tasman Sea moderates the temperature, particularly as it is bathed by a warmer current that washes down the east coast of Australia, makes a sharp turn east as it approaches Tasmania, and heads directly towards Mason Bay and Fiordland.

I had briefly contemplated another South Coast Track venture, but the year was marching on, the weather had been super damp, and, well, you could have too much of a good thing.

My inspiration this year was to go clockwise on my journey, having strangely never done that before. I’ve gone around the Southern Circuit that way previously, with a side trip to Port Pegasus thrown in, but never the North West circuit.

Normally it’s easier to lug a heavy pack anti-clockwise around the island starting via Port William, as the huts start reasonably close together and you can have five or six easier days to lose some of the weight of food. By the time of the big west coast days, the tide is considerably lower in the pack.

Via the Southern Circuit, it is immediately swampy from Freshwater Hut. Then both Rakeahua to Doughboy Bay, and then onto Mason Bay are full days walking, with some climbing involved. Well, a not really big 400 m bump, but it gets plenty boggy up there, and that takes time to negotiate.

Being August should keep most but the hardiest trampers at home, or work.

I didn’t mind a modicum of solitude.

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Day -2 | To Oban

The captain said the first half of the ferry trip might be a bit rough. Oh, and the second half would be too.

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Day 1 | to North Arm Hut

 The initial day is all on the Rakiura Track, too easy. | Oban to North Arm Hut, Rakiura

First night out, in a hut on the Rakiura Track. It looked like I was on my own.

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Day 2 | to Freshwater Hut

Pretty scenic on Day 3. Then a hill climb to the swamp on a slope. | North Arm to Freshwater Hut, Rakiura

As I was approaching the hut, I heard a gunshot, and when I arrived 10 minutes later a hunter was dealing with the deer he had just sorted.

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Day 3 | Freds Camp Hut

The track to Freds has some sublime moments, once past the swamp. | Freshwater to Freds Camp Hut, Rakiura

Not many New Zealand huts are right on the water’s edge, but this one has the gentle sound of lapping water clearly audible.

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Day 4 | Freds Camp Hut, night 2

Mussels banks at low tide,  Patterson Inlet. Yumm.  | Freds Camp Hut, Southern Circuit, Rakiura

Plenty of blue mussels on the rocks, it’s just that the larger ones were a little further out.

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Day 5 | Rakeahua Hut

The rushes look good but underfoot is sludgy and stinky. | Rakeahua River, Southern Circuit, Rakiura

The rat hid behind a cloth on the bench and I tried to give it a tap with my walking pole to dissuade it from further interloping into my solitude.

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Day 6 | Rakeahua Hut, night 2

Frost on the shrubbery down at the Rakeahua River. | Rakeahua Hut, Southern Circuit, Rakiura

Being clever, I wandered down to the boat landing area to get some water from the river, but not being smart, my toes being in my solitary footwear, jandals, were feeling the cold once they went into some non-frozen swamp along the way.

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Day 7 | Doughboy Hut

You might get a view of Doughboy Bay from Doughboy Hill at 411 m. | Rakeahua to Doughboy Hut, Southern Circuit, Rakiura

The day was push, push, push. Limited time sitting down.

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Day 8 | Doughboy Hut, night 2

Rainbow over Point 637, Tin Range. | Doughboy Bay, Southern Circuit, Rakiura

My intention was always to have three nights in residence, and now that made enormous sense. After all, this was one of my favourite DOC huts.

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Day 9 | Doughboy Hut, night 3

Windblown vegetation at Doughboy. | Doughboy Bay, Rakiura

It’s Paradise here in DOC’s most southerly hut that doesn’t require additional water transportation. Calm. Peaceful, if not serene.

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Day 10 | Cavalier Hunters Hut

Granite outcrop on the top of Adams Hill, 400 m, with a view to Mason Bay. | Southern Circuit, Rakiura

I popped onto the beach and was quickly sandblasted, with the wind really having some velocity.

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Day 11 | Mason Bay Hut

You might get a view of Doughboy Bay from Doughboy Hill at 411 m. | Rakeahua to Doughboy Hut, Souther Circuit, Rakiura

It was strange to see two rats frolicking in the conditions, chasing each other around in front of the hut. Less of a surprise to see a football-sized kiwi wander past the big sliding door in the early morning gloom.

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Day 12 | Mason Bay Hut, night 2

After 20 years the marram grass which held together the dunes has been killed off. | Mason Bay, Rakiura

The weather forecast didn’t sound bad for this end of the country. Code Red immediately above my house up north, however.

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Day 13 | Freshwater Hut, again

The famous Chocolate Swamp. Don't fall off the elevated walkway. |  Mason Bay to Freshwater Hut, Rakiura

It was obvious before daylight that common sense should prevail. Head for home, despite my body feeling just fine.

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Day 14 | North Arm Hut

That tide is coming in quickly in Patterson Inlet. | Between Freshwater and North Arm Hut, Rakiura

North Arm Hut was again bereft of company so it didn’t prove a problem about steaming my mussels and enjoying a tasty change in diet.

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Day 15 | out to Oban

Onto the reasonably well manicured Rakiura Track. | North Arm to Oban, Rakiura
I sent a message to my friends: If they ever hear me talking favourably about returning to Rakiura, I’m to be restrained and reminded that I’m too old for this.