I have learned that the Wakamarina Track—an old gold miners’ track from the Wairau Valley in Marlborough, cut in 1879—was a mountain bike trail, but for some reason I thought I’d walk it, then loop back to the start via a track over Mt Royal.
For once, rather than simply looking at the map, I did some research about the two huts and found the southern exit for the track was closed, due to logging operations in the Wairau. There was some Pinus radiata plantations on the lower slopes of the Richmond Range being harvested.
Maybe I could sneak along the road for the 2 km to link the two tracks. Or, come back the same way.
I had never been up the Wakamarina Valley, although I’ve been past the Trout Hotel at least 100 times, so it was surprising to find the valley was densely populated, the road winding around, fully asphalt most of the way to the road end 14 km upstream at Butchers Flat.
It’s relatively level walking to get to Devils Hut, but I was thinking it wasn’t such a bad decision to walk the track, it’s benched but at time overly gnarly for me on a bike.
It felt strange to have a pack on my back once again. It must have been too long since it was last shouldered.
Due to my standard procrastination it was almost 2 pm by the time I left Devils Hut. That’s a standard New Zealand Forest Service six bunk hut of no particular merit. There is an old slab hut out the back in a deteriorating state, it was clearly from the gold rush days although it might have just been from The Depression. There is obviously a story behind that.
The valley was once the scene of one of New Zealand’s richest gold rushes, but it was all over fairly quickly, most miners had left the field by 1884. In fact the whole area was once swarming with miners, thousands lived for a short time in the deep valley and some became wealthy from their backbreaking endeavours.
After Devils I was about to expend some energy myself, clambering up an almost benched track for 800 m, then down a bit to a saddle, then sidling around to Fosters Hut, where I staggered in at 7 30 pm.
In my usual way I had stretched out my travels, although I noted on my GPS I had taken almost exactly the DOC stated five hours in motion from the car park. Better mention that a fair proportion of this, the steep climb and then some serious big tree windfall over the saddle would be riding of the truly adventurous, too steep. It’s mostly just the tramping track.
No surprise I’m on my own with this return trip required.
There was the modern thing when I reached the ridge overlooking the Wairau and there were the immediate musical pings as a few text messages greeted me. Suddenly I was back on the network.
It was an absolutely windless, glorious day, not a cloud, overlooking the patchwork of the Wairau, Pinocchio with some snow clearly visible in the last of the light.
I should sleep well, I’ve climbed more than 1500 m for the day.
PS. Highlights of the day were at the end, that view of the Wairau from 1000 m above.
And first up. I stopped for some refreshments at the Pelorus Café and there is a stuffed long-tailed bat in a glass box for perusal. One of the two remaining land-based native mammals in New Zealand, now on the critically endangered list. A small colony roosts in the remaining mature forest trees nearby. It couldn’t have weighed any more than one of my thumbs. There are intensive efforts to remove the rat and stoat predators from the area. Let’s hope this becomes a success story of conservation, we can’t allow 50% of New Zealand’s remaining land mammals to become extinct.