Day 93 (Sat 20 Feb): Te Anau to Boundary hut
Started 10.25am, finished 2.35pm, 16k.
Pain in the head status: No pain as such in the morning but fuzzy headed and dopey. By the afternoon, was dopey and heavy eyed, so took a Nurofen, tried a ginger tablet and had a nap before dinner. That seemed to fix me up.
Word of the day: Taradiddle, small lie, fib.
We were picked up by the backroad bus at 9am and dropped off at North Mavora Lake at 10am, allowing us to skip many kilometers of dusty gravel road and get straight to the good stuff – lakes, streams and mountains. On the way, the bus driver pointed out a small reserve of bog pine, wedged in precariously between the sheep and cattle farms. This bog pine was the indigenous flora of the area until the farmers burnt it off. Apparently the only other place in the world that has this type of vegetation is Siberia. Sad and rather pathetic that this wee slice is all that’s left.
But we had to thank the farmers for the great views today, having cleared the trees for grazing so we could see right across Lake Mavora and up the valleys to the mountain peaks above. We stopped at Carey’s hut for lunch, a lovely hut but probably too accessible by boat and vehicle to make it a peaceful Saturday night accommodation. Even Boundary hut, where we ended up, was at the end of a rough 4WD road. Two blokes on motorbikes were there when we arrived but they moved on, leaving us to share the hut with two trampers from the West Coast – Mark, a burly Welshman with a military background, and Hank, a wiry ex-DOC ranger.
None of us were impressed when three 4WD vehicles turned up in the evening, disgorging a slew of beer-swilling young people in search of a place to have a BBQ. We all emitted strong anti-BBQ vibes, concerned that it was parties like these that had smashed one of the windows in the hut, blocked the long drop and ripped up some of the flooring. After watching them carry on for a while, Mark put on his most intimidating authoritative air and sallied forth to tell them that he was a police officer and drink driving on these roads was an offence. This was a taradiddle as he has been but is not currently a police officer, but it seemed to help them to move quickly on.
Finally, we could enjoy the serenity of the mountains. The moon sailed over the head of one as we ate our dinner. Its jagged ridges looked like the spine of some massive monster, resting with its back to us, its tail trailing into the valley floor and a terrible craggy face pointed to the west. Tomorrow we walk past this monster and beyond, to discover more.
Fun fact of the day (from the podcast Every Little Thing): Wombats poo 100 times a day. Imagine how disruptive that would be in an office job. Even more peculiar, their poo is cubic not cylindrical because of the way the muscles in their bowels are arranged. No one really knows why wombat poop cubes, but it’s a great challenge to dream up some theories.
Disappointment of the day: Opening our lunch wraps to find they were all mouldy. We hadn’t been able to find our usual Farrah’s wraps at the supermarket in Te Anau so had bought a different brand. Never again – from now on, it’s Farrah’s or crackers. The more preservatives the better…
Day 94 (Sun 21 Feb): Boundary hut to Greenstone hut (Greenstone track)
Started 7.50am, finished 3pm, 22k.
Pain in the head status: No pain, feeling good.
Word of the day: Taciturn, silent, reserved.
Trying to get up early is more difficult in the south of the South Island, as the sunrise is much later than in the North. But we did our best to get going so we could avoid walking in the scorching sun that afternoon, which meant we started walking with frozen fingers and toes. But we soon warmed up when the sun peeked over the Thomson ranges in the east.
We left the 4WD track behind and got back into tramping track zone, sloshing through bog, pushing through tussock and trying to escape the acquaintance of New Zealand’s evil plant of thorns, matagouri. From the scratches on my legs, it still got to know me, despite my best efforts at avoidance.
The landscape unfolded like an onion of mountains- you peel past one layer to reveal more mountains, then past them are some more, then in the inner layers are snow-capped peaks.
We had lunch at Taipo hut, an unvandalised replica of last night’s Boundary hut, with sweeping views and an empty water tank. From there, it was more walking up the valley, alongside translucent, ice-blue streams, until we popped into a mountain beech forest that gave us shade and shelter from the strong northerly blowing in our faces. Although the groaning and creaking of the branches in the wind made me think the forest wasn’t a place to linger.
We were passed by two solo male taciturn SOBOs, who declined to talk to us, but Greenstone hut was full of regular (non-TA) chatty trampers, desirous of long conversations about dehydrated food, search and rescue operations and how long it would take to drive from Queenstown to Mavora Lakes. I retired early for some quiet time.
Wildlife highlights: Striped skinks on the rocks darting away; sand-coloured crickets leaping madly from under our feet, crashing haphazardly beside the path.