Mingha Deception track

Day 122 (Sun 21 March): Klondyke corner to Goat Pass hut

Started 8.20am, finished 1.50pm, 12k.

Pain in the head status: Not quite 100% today. Left side of head sore when I woke up and had that dragging migrainous tiredness. I took some simple analgesia with breakfast (and the possibly-placebo-but-no-harm-done ginger tablet) and slowly improved during the day. Successfully avoided taking a migraine tablet – love that. If I had been using them as frequently as I did in the North Island, I would have had to get a repeat prescription by now, but I still have oodles in reserve.

Word of the day: Pertinacious, stubbornly or perversely persistent.

A cold misty morning was not enough to deter the pertinacious sandflies at Klondyke corner so it was a relief to get moving and pick a way along the Bealey river, which sort-of-but-not-really had a track to take us to a bridge where the Bealey joined the Mingha river. Not a bridge for us though – we had to cross the river, the first of many crossings, and the start of another wet feet day.

We were on the route of the annual 2 day multisport Coast to Coast race; the mountain run section which takes participants up the Deception river, over the Goat Pass and down the Mingha river. We were doing it in reverse, up the Mingha and down Deception, and over two days. The fastest Coast to Coast runners do it in three hours. Although, they aren’t carrying eight day’s food (plus extra muesli bars – Tony’s food bag is bulging) and their homes on their backs. Some TAers do walk or run this in a day, leaving their packs at Arthur’s pass (blue haired Tasha did this, no sweat for her after the 100k in 24 hour challenge she did in the North Island – walking from Whanganui to Palmerston North). We did consider it, but it was too much trouble to organise. And we had an excess of food so needed to take it slowly in order to eat it all.

Mingha bivouac

And it turned out to be a glorious day to go over the pass. In the morning, the low cloud lent a mysterious, cloaked atmosphere to the river and forest, but by lunchtime at Mingha bivouac, the sun was winning.

Approaching the pass, the Alps revealed themselves – if Aoraki is the heart of the Southern Alps/Tiritiri o te Moana, then these mountains of Arthur’s pass must be a solid piece of intestines. It felt like we were deep in the bowels of the ranges.

We’d heard lots of complaints about this track, how it was difficult and slow with too many river crossings, so it was a pleasant surprise to find it was just a regular backcountry track. I kept having visions of the Coast to Coast runners bounding over river boulders, skipping across tree roots, skating down gravelly flats and pounding down the board walks. Yes, board walks. The sign of a high quality tramping track. It’s been so long since I’ve seen a board walk I became overexcited and took far too many board walk photos.

It was early in the day when we reached Goat Pass hut, but we stopped anyway, so we could start lightening our packs by eating. There could be worse places than this to spend a lazy afternoon.

Goat pass hut

The blog that could have been: Getting out in the wilderness brings one back to the essentials of life – eating, sleeping, pooping. Get these things sorted and your body is happy. This blog has focused on how tramping affected my migraines, and vice versa, but it could have been called tramping with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), which is another issue I have – part of the ‘irritable body’ cluster of conditions that includes migraine. I could have provided a daily update on my gastrointestinal state (frequency, consistency etc), but I’m guessing most people wouldn’t want to read about that. Let me provide a potted summary of my tramping with IBS experience – out in the wilderness, with a strictly controlled and un-triggering diet, the bowel runs smooth and regular. Out in towns, eating anything, everything and then some, trouble occurs. The pattern is consistent; the moral is clear. Towns are bad for bowels.

View from Goat Pass hut

Day 123 (Mon 22 March): Goat Pass hut to Morrison footbridge

Started 8.20am, finished 3.30pm, 15k.

Pain in the head status: No headache today; woke up refreshed after a sound sleep, eager to start.

Word of the day: Moxie, nerve, determination, courage, verve, spirit.

After today, I can kind of understand why this track attracts so much hate from some TA walkers – there was a lot of very slow boulder scrambling, stream crossings and those going uphill would have to add a lot of huffing and puffing on the steep sections  – but all downhill for us.

But although it was tiring and hard (and not recommended for people with dodgy knees or ankles, or dodgy anything), I enjoyed it. The Deception river was mostly bluster and froth and wasn’t difficult to cross – only one rushing channel before a small cascade made me temporarily lose my moxie. The steep bouldery bits could be navigated in a variety of ways depending on the gradient, slipperiness and assessment of risk of smashing something if you fell off – the usual two-pole approach, or poles in one hand and other hand used to brace on a rock closer to the ground, and finally, the bum slide. Or front slide, as another variant. These were quite fun. It was a bit like rock climbing- using four points of contact and balance/counter balance to shimmy down the side of the river. The smooth solid stones were comforting to touch.

The flora and fauna were also distracting. Such a diversity – Dracophyllum, olearia and ribbonwood still flowering. Bellbirds, kea and kereru. On the flats before the road, podocarps, kanuka, horopito, red beech. I’ve forgotten the last time I saw a totara.

And some way down the river, there was a pungent sulphurous smell that for once wasn’t due to Tony’s intestines reacting to a muesli bar. A thermal hot spring was marked on the map. We kept checking for hot water but didn’t find it.

Finally, we reached the Morrison footbridge by SH73, where we set up camp for the night. The wet feet could be dried off – but very quickly, as the sandflies latched onto any exposed bit of flesh like locusts on a corn field. We watched the trains chug by – one of them hauling 30 coal carriages. Before we went to sleep, we heard a kereru crash through the trees then coo contentedly when it found a roost, heard ruru hooting and lots of kiwi calling out to each other – I’m awake; here I am; where are you?

First graffiti of the trip: At Upper Deception hut, a small hut an hour and a half from Goat Pass hut, people had scrawled quotes from the Lord of the Rings movies on the wall. There were none from my favourite character, so that had to be rectified.

Are you frightened? Not frightened enough! (Strider/Aragorn)

Bellbird checking out my whistling

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