South Coast blog | August 2018

How did I find out about the South Coast Track?

To be honest, I’m not sure.

Some web pages are stumbled upon, and the track seemed an obvious tramp for late winter once I had been alerted to its existence.

No avalanches or massive swollen rivers to cross.

Oh, there is the South Fiordland weather, but in this instance it proved relatively benign.

So, walk along an isolated coast for four days, then walk back.

Some would be tramping old logging tramlines, and overall this would have to have some of the least amount of climbing of any New Zealand track.

I found that “flat” actually meant there were some areas of dampness underfoot.

That sounds like a perfect prelude for my main tramp on this trip: Stewart Island/Rakiura.

On one hand you might think that this is a long tramp with very little happens, and I guess that is true. The viaducts, the coast around Westies Hut, Big River.

On the other it was a great meditation with all that space in my life.

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Day 1 | Port Craig Schoolhouse Hut

The start of the South Coast Track is also part of the well maintained Hump Ridge Track. | South Coast Track, South Fiordland

I was unsurprisingly on my own. After all, who else would be walking after a few miserable days in the middle of winter on a there-and-back track, at the end of the world?

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Day 2 | Wairaurahiri Hut

The Percy Burn viaduct built in the 1920s is a major engineering achievement. 35 m high. | South Coast Track, South Fiordland

The day’s efforts would be a smooth 15 km along the old tramway, with four viaducts to check out along the way, so I could afford an hour or two to explore the Port Craig relics.

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Day 3 | Waitutu Hut

Only the one three-wire bridge to get across. Easier than you might think. | South Coast Track, South Fiordland

The track? Well, your basic bog.

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Day 4 | Westies Hut

Sunset at Westies Hut. Magnificent. | South Coast Track, South Fiordland

Westies Hut is mostly well appointed, at least for your average solo tramper, but it smells of rat in a big way.

That’s enough to encourage movement.

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Day 5 | Back to Waitutu Hut

A few glorious views along the way, and the forest is interesting, but one trip to Westies has satisfied my curiosity about staying in a hut located in a damp sea cave.

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Day 6 | Waitutu Hut, for my third night this trip

Yeah, a whole bundle of nothing for the day.

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Day 7 | Wairaurahiri Hut

Gaiters are essential. The tops of my boots are just like a funnel, willing to accept any fetid goo, twigs, etc, to make walking uncomfortable.

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Day 8 | Port Craig Schoolhouse Hut—last night

Wet clothes. Wet boots. And stepping out into the drizzle.

Now that’s living.

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Day 9 | Shooters Backpackers, Tuatapere

I hightailed it. I had finally been able to apply Full Steam Ahead rather than squelching my way through the mud.