Brent & Claire Ruru

T.I.M.E. Habits • Minimalists • Travel Enthusiasts ... while the bodies still can and we still have our marbles!

Category: Trekking (page 1 of 2)

25/5/19 Topped Off By Twins

All grinned up and ready to set off …

The Mount Somers Track has it all and we would have to rate it as being a fantastic slice of back yard that must be explored.

We had already gone in from the top end to Pinnacles hut; this time, it was from the bottom end to Woolshed Creek Hut.

Accompanying us were newbies to boots, packs, dehydrated food and then subsequent jelly legs, stinky socks and no soap or shampoo for the over night expedition – Mike and Lynn.

Following the Miners Track, remnants of coal mining yesteryear lay at peace. An old miners hat, shovel and horse dray hung from the entrance to an old mine shaft. The landscape in parts was artificial from the dredging of earth from deep inside the old hole.

Blackburn Mine Entrance
Head lights of yesteryear.

You would think that the foot hills would be the beginning of the Alps however, as we gained altitude to look towards the western horizon, it opened up into a sparseness of brown hinterland. Quite remarkable.

Reaching the hut took under a couple of hours. Lot’s of stops for newbies to wear in their bodies. Mental state too.

Tomorrows pathway.
Woolshed Creek Hut awaits us …
Looking East.
Owwww, a puddle with frozen ice still!
Woolshed Creek Hut

Woolshed Creek Hut sleeps 26 and being first to arrive meant the pick of the bunks; the choice of seating and with ear muffs positioned strategically, other comers choosing to fill up the other bunk room first! We were also in control of the wood burner and as the sun dipped below the crest – it was roaring to the brim with flame and wood.

As did the hut eventually become, full to the brim. Oldies, youngies, locals, internationals, a cacophony of chorus huddling around flame lit candles – shadows dancing on the hut walls. And the best way to meet like minded travellers.

As we were the first to arrive, we were the last to depart, taking the Mt Somers Track to meet up with the Rhyolite Track. That’s the part where ‘jelly legs’ became the result as we ascended more to see the coal mine from the day before somewhat way below! Notwithstanding, the views under the huff and puff, spectacular.

The decent had some technical aspects to it to and the wind along the ridgeline meant holding onto your cap. Follow the orange markers is enjoyment. Lose one and go over the sides, that’s a different type of enjoyment.

Woolshed Creek Hut, Mt Somers – tick.
Max load – one person.
As we ascended, the hut became a dot …
The Bus Shelter …
To be challenged is to use all your senses in balance.
Back at the bottom …

Arriving at the car to a flat tyre well, who the hell invented space saver rubber when you have a heap of kms to retrace back to the flatland treadmill!

It didn’t take away how the weekend was made special with meeting the Topp Twins at the Stavely Cafe on the way to the tramp. Jools and Lynda are two iconic folk singing treasures, having entertained NZ’ers for over 30 years. They were on the road doing another tour, both in their sixties and humping a trailer with a square tin shaped box as their abode. It was a mansion compared to the womb they once shared, as the conversation went.

Right time, right place.

The Topp Twins.

Righty, onto the next micro-adventure.

Hoping Mike and Lynn are still speaking with us!

6/3/19 Scourging Freeloaders

There is one word to describe a community of free loaders – absolute scourge.

Okay, that’s two words!

Not thinking, we didn’t pack the gaiters. Too excited in thought of trekking up to a hut to stay for the night.

It was just a stunner of a day so dress attire was shorts. This exposed the hairy legs between the short hem line and the woollen socks worn with the boots. Not for Claire, she had shaven. Not above the knees though.

Anyway, a type of fauna has decided it’s time to shed its seedlings; and the trail was escorted with the stuff. Except, they don’t just release when there is a breeze. They choose to hook onto anything passing that rubs up against the protruding plant fronds.

When the first freeloading seedling attached itself to a hairy part of the leg, I felt it and automatically bent down to pull it off. The little sh.t hung on whereby a hair follicle root came out with the pull. That’s what it felt like. Similar to being waxed. I know what that feels like, I’ve been waxed too however, that’s another story!

So, when a bunch of these free loading seedlings made the jump simultaneously to bare skin, the agony when pulling off was twenty-fold. Absolute scourge of a plant.

And just to clarify, dress attire did include upper body and under garment apparel.

As for the Pinnacle Hut micro-adventure … absolutely beautiful. Worth doing.

Shave first, wear gaiters or long pants.

Nina Hut: Bookings Not Required – First Come, First Served

Follow the arrow this way.

Nina Hut sits on an open knoll surrounded by beech forest and mountains.

The Department of Conservation (DOC) information reads that it is an easy 1-3 hour walk to the 10-bunk bed hut; is a good overnight option for families with children who have some tramping experience or new trampers and, bookings not required – first come, first served.

An ideal start to getting out onto the back-yard landscape.  We had even convinced a friend (Maree) whom surprisingly accepted our invite to join us even though the toilet was going to be a long drop and sleeping conditions possibly squashed up alongside a total stranger.

It had a log fire and so purchasing a bag of kindling and wooden logs bridged the thought of a snuggly night up in the bush, away from suburbia.  All we had to do was carry them in and walk the distance for it to become a reality.

Kindling and logs for the hut log fire.

We forgot that Maree doesn’t do crossing swing bridges without hyperventilating nigh on having a heart attack.  So, when we parked up the car, lifted the back packs onto our backs and walked a couple of hundred metres up the road to the start of the track, we arrived at our first of two swing bridges to cross.  The maximum one-person load per crossing didn’t help the situation however, we managed to coach Maree across giving high fives when we too swayed unevenly to reach the bank beyond.

The first swing bridge to cross.

The Lewis River.

There, there was the hut book where you sign in to advise your intention as a mountain safety practice.  Oh f..k!  Ahead of us was a group of 11 Venturer Scouts going to stay the night at the hut and, already a family of five who were going to stay a second night.  It meant the hut was full and squashing our best laid plans to escape into the wilderness for the night.

The conversation that followed resulted us in going back to the car, dumping all the overnight stuff to still head into the hut for a day trek, only carrying a day pack.  But before we did any of that, we had to get Maree back across the river and then, back across the river for a third time!  With incremental confidence each time, she did it.  The firewood purchased too sat in the car as we traipsed off towards Nina.

The lushness of fauna and flora rising from the forest floor to stretch up towards the light was staggeringly stunning.  All shades of greens complemented the earthly smelling browns (rot and decay) and care had to be taken navigating tree roots.  Sometimes we had to negotiate sections of track that were mud baths – it was easy to follow someone’s tracks who had gone before, sniggering at a wrong step where the imprint would eventually crust up from the sun’s rays or fill up from a down pour.

Creek crossings were part and parcel of the track, keeping balance critical so as not to end up on your arse saturated.  Walking poles helped.  There was undulation.  The track cut towards flowing river water and then inland to total silence where only our conversation broke the tranquillity.  We had to go further into the valley before bird song was heard.  It’s slowly rebounding after pests have decimated the native feathered friends to close to extinction.  Traplines to snare stouts or weasels play their part – two vermin had taken the bait to lay lifeless from the snapped shut trap.

We were encapsulated by the dark green water depths from a gorge.  Water must rise and fall considerably as two tree trunks laid horizontal up the cliff faces.  A joke was made that we would have to cross it using the logs for Maree’s sake.  Hahahahahaha as we all laughed.

Green meets brown.

Undulation.

The path for when it bogs.

Life on the forest floor.

Emerald Green of Nina River.

That didn’t last long.  We climbed a small rise to a second swing bridge that we couldn’t see because of the tree canopy.  Below were the logs we joked about.  Getting Maree across was another team effort and again, she got there.   We didn’t joke about stuff like that again!

The next two hours was more track, tree roots, mud negotiation, creek crossings and green and browns.  Arriving at the hut was welcomed and yep, chock full of other beings staying the night.  We sat down outside with views of snow-capped mountain tops to eat lunch.

And then they came, by the hundreds.  The Sandfly.  Or, Sandflies to be more accurate.  They are vicious little bastards that sink their mouth parts into unprotected skin to draw blood; leaving a welt that can be itchy from the excretion they inject before the sucking.  We may not have poisonous snakes or spiders or wild beasts – but we do have the sandfly that is the scourge of the bush to ruin all types of forest paradise.  Even though Bushmans 80% Deet insect repellent was lathered on, the little bastards will still kamikaze in to locate the parts missed to take the bite.  In-between bites, hands were working overtime to slap as many as we could dead.

Crossing the higher swing bridge.

Not far now.

The blood sucking Sand Fly.

Nina Hut.

Snare-traps doing their job to eradicate pest vermin who have decimated our native birds.

The Gorge.

Chatting with the Fan Tail.

Carrying fly spray is a must if staying the night so as you can fumigate the hut before climbing into your sleeping bag for the night.  That too was back down at the car.

Some photo’s taken and then we retraced our steps back down the mountainside; Maree crossing the swing bridges with better ease.  Back at the car, we made the decision to head back towards home, stopping in at Hanmer Springs for a hot pool soak.  Well deserved, given the six or so hours on the feet.

Arrr, what the heck, we found a lovely backpacker’s to crash the night, picked up some Scrumpy Cider for Maree as we consumed the wine disguised in our water bottle and enjoyed a chat with a fellow backpacker who was sharing the joint.

Made special because, the fella was in his early nineties.

Sometimes the best laid plans when disrupted can end up resulting in a better time had.

It’s just how the world turns, sometimes.

Scrumpy Cider – thirst quenching 8% Alcohol to sooth aching body parts.

Choquetacarpo to Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes

Early morning sun on the top.

Taking a stroll before breakfast, looking towards Waqay Wilki.

It was the same routine as the day before with the wake up call, pack up and breakfast.  There was more dampness on the inside of the tent from condensation.  It makes the getting clothed even more faster so as no moisture touches skin so as to send a silver down the spine.  Nor make a whimpish noise!

We said our ‘gracias’ to the horsemen and cooks as we bid them farewell.  Their roles had come to an end. As we started our way down, one of the newer younger horsemen was sent running down the hillside in the same direction, trying to round up and corral the said horses back to the camp base.  They roam free after they do their job and one couldn’t but smile at how they were taking the mickey out of the runner by teasing him at going in all sorts of scattered directions!  How he manages to do it is share skill, technique, expertise or the fact, that’s what he gets paid to do it.  Poor bastard.

We have never seen horse meat on any menu neither!

The Quarry Trail is named for the quarry that was used to source the rocks to construct Ollayantambo Inca back in the 15th century.  They were just clever people who used stone age tools to manufacture the block sizes they did, and then methodologies to haul the chunks down the mountainside, across the river and then position them into the structures of the ruins we are just spell bound by, today.

Quarry Trail quarry where the rocks originated for the Ollantaytambo Inca contruction.

And those who perished on the quarry terrain were sent off into the after-life with respect as we deviated off the trail to enter a tomb and see skeletal remains.  We acknowledge the sacred place by blowing three times on some cocoa leaves and placing them beside the bones.  There was some spiritual being at peace with sharing in the ritual and made the trek very grounding.

Even if we had to get the altitude part out of the way first, we wouldn’t change the trekking route.

A Quarry Trail tomb.

As the valley floor patchwork became larger, so too did the heat of the temperature increase.  Insect repellent was added to sweat and trail grime to layer up protection from the beasties that like the blood vino.  It worked.  There was also more varieties of cacti too.  We often stopped at old buildings abandoned to ponder it’s history.  There was no rush.

More tombs.

The varieties of cacti got more.

The valley floor patchwork gets larger.

Back in Ollantaytambo, we raised our glasses with a celebratory beer as we ate our boxed lunch, prepared by the cooks way back up the mountain.  We also met up with Marty the Irish trekker who started out with our party and separated to do the true Inca Trail.  A bout of food poisoning meant returning back to Ollantaytambo to wait out the condition.  The Inca Trail would have to wait for another time and he had recovered enough to join us for the last part of the trek where it was meander down to catch our train to the last stop Aguas Calientes and, the base of Machu Picchu.

The hour and a half of clickety-click snaking alongside the Urubamba river wasn’t without fascination.  The terraced landscape held us again in awe.  How did they do it?  Eucalyptus trees were introduced here from Australia during the 1900’s and have now taken to the parched lands like a weed.  Except, they were welcomed shade spots during the trek up and down.  Now they too shouldered the banks of the river.

Urubamba River towards Machu Picchu.

Terraces along the Urubamba River.

Condensed and surrounded by sheer walls of vegetation cliffs, the town was alive with life.  Half a soccer field being used for football; the other half with dances practicing to beating drums.  The thud’s echoed.  But not enough to drown out the buzz of the people.

And, it was just buzzing.

The train station at Aguas Calientes.

In the middle of Aguas Calientes is a soccer field.

How is this for scaffolding to repaira bridge?

Intrepid Day 4 – Rayan to Choquetacarpo

Sunrise on the Quarry Trail Trek

At 5am came the “Senor Ruru, Senorita Ruru” wake up call.  With it, a cup of cocoa tea each.

Appearing on the eastern horizon, a streak of crimson orange and, the start of a new day.

We had 30 minutes to dress and pack.  Another hearty breakfast before water bottles were topped up.  It was a little coolish however, care needed to be taken so as not to layer up too much because you had to carry what you wore when the sun shrunk the shadows and you shed apparel.  Another lesson taken for the newbies.

The ascent was again straight up.  It was tough going, even with more stoppages to suck the air to oxygenate the lungs.  Accompanying us this part, was an emergency horse for that just in case moment someone needs the four legged ambulance.  One of the US ladies was hoisted up into the saddle.  There are no heroes on this type of trek and putting your health first is definitely paramount.

On the way …

Danielle making use of the emergency horse.

Here comes the horse troupe.

Soon, the horse troupe passed us again.

There was more climbing, stopping to rest, and more climbing.

Then at 10am, we stood on top of the first pass Pucapujaccasa at 4,400 metres.  The view of the snow-capped mountain range was breath taking … on top of the being breathless!  The mountain that was prominent (5,570metres) is called in Spanish – Veronica. Or it’s traditional name, ‘Waqay Wilki’ and means ‘Sacred Tears’.

One of the ladies from the Bronx, New York burst into tears.  These moments are the ones that are the priceless enriching ones.  To share the moment with someone who has embarked on an adventure that was way beyond their everyday life paradigm.  We hugged as we steered at the Waqay together.

Pucapujaccasa Pass at 4,400 metres. Waqay Wilki in the background at 5,750 m.

We trekked a little further to our lunch stop where the tent was set up and a cooked meal served.  They were just remarkable fellow beings making it as easy and enjoyable for us travelling beings as they could.  Especially when they had to de-camp and get down to our next camp site at pace to set up before our arrival, like the day before.

Lunch spot ahoy!

But before we started our decent, we summited a second Pass – Kuychicassa at 4,450 metres and the highest point of our trek.  Again, just spectacular 360 degree views with red iron mineral laden peaks; wild horses every now and again raising their heads to stop and gawk; fauna accustomed to the baron cliffs; and Waqay Wilki from a different angle.  We could see the yellow line of where the campsite was … but the steepness and rocky terrain meant a further two hours of trekking to reach, stopping at the Intipunko sun gate on the descent down.

Look guys, more trekkers!

The colour of iron sands.

Walking down off the 2nd Pass.

Down some, then traverse the next ridgeline to the sungate, then it’s down to the yellow tent line.

The cliff face of the 2nd Pass.

Looking back up to the 2nd Pass.

The campsite, looking down to Ollyantaytambo.

This was the longest day walking and certainly stretched the mental states of most.  We could see Ollantaytambo below.  It lit up as daylight faded.  Dinner was served and gobbled.  Bed beckoned quickly after.

Cripes, we hadn’t even gotten into our sleeping bags before the person in the next tent to the left was snoring.

Yep, remember Bronte who purchased the chocolate condoms!

Intrepid Day 3 – Ollantaytambo to Rayan

Driving to the starting point had us maneuver up an undulating road under repair.  The drop off was significant however, the driver was gentle to ensure nerves were calm.  Not too sure if the padded roll bars would have made any difference tumbling down a mountain side, should we have gone over!

As we unloaded the mini-coach, the horse troupe, horsemen and a couple of cooks approached.  On the Quarry Trail trek, we only carry a daypack.  All the other equipment was carried by man’s best friend.  A couple of foals accompanying to get their education and training for when they become of age.

Some of the equipment to be carried – kitchen and dining tents … and chairs to sit on

As they were getting loaded up, we started our walking, upwards.  We learnt when we climbed Kilimanjaru that when ascending at altitude, you need to take smaller steps than usual versus what one is used to taking at sea level.  They called it ‘pole pole’ (or pronounced ‘polee polee’).  We weren’t concerned that we were at the back of the pack.  Newbies would soon learn to adjust or, exhaustion tiredness and catching the breath would eventually present itself.  It didn’t take long.

A farmer was preparing his field using oxen towing a wooden plough.  There is no machinery at this height.  Ironically, two school children overtook us going to school.  Now their voices were amongst the ones heard in session repeating what was being taught aloud as we arrived at the school to take a break.

It wasn’t long after we started again that the horse train also overtook us.  With all that they were carrying, they made it look so easy.  The odd call from the horsemen keeping their momentum going forward.

Farmers readying the land for planting.

Rest break at the school … the childrens play equipment

Here comes the horse train carrying the equiment.

And their goes the horse train.

Ruins higher up came into focus as we neared.  Before that though, we got to feel the spray of Pilcobamba – a water fall that cascaded out of a crevasse of rock.  A little further up, an earth viewing platform allowed us to sit on it’s edge and ponder at what had been trekked.  Another couple of farmers and Ox we passed were now in a field way below making plough lines.  Jeez, they just get on with life without fuss or complaint here.

The view up to the Q’orimarca ruins, the waterfall below.

Onward we go …

Pilcobamba waterfall.

A rest stop at the earth viewing platform.

We reached the Q’orimarca ruins at 3,600 metres and spent some time here to hear about it’s history.  We welcomed time off the soles of the boots to rest the bodies.  The newbies to this type of trekking were doing extremely well – they had left their comfort zones way back at the mini-coach.  And now the farmers looked even tinier dots.

Just about at the Q’orimarca Ruins.

Checking our the ruins.

I started to get a headache.  Arriving at our campsite, I popped half a diamox tablet which is for altitude sickness prevention (and cure).  It abated.  The horsemen had set up camp with a separate dining and kitchen tent and our tents, where it was our first night to be experienced under canvas.

We made the most of the remaining sun, exposing skin to the sun’s rays.  But as it disappeared behind the mountain top, layers of clothing were applied in preparation for the drop in the thermometer mercury.  We ate an amazing three course dinner before heading to the sleeping bags and shut eye.

When taking diamox, you have to increase the water intake by double.  Getting up every two hours to pee is what you do.  It was a clear night and I got to see the moon cross the night sky.

One of the ladies from the States further along the tent line, also had to get up during the night to relieve herself.  Except she squatted immediately outside her tent entrance versus a metre to the front or side.  Can you imagine the ruckus from her fellow American tent buddy having to also get up and pee, only to stand bare feet in the map of Michagan pee stain on the ground getting out of and into their tent!

But not finding out she had done so until the next morning!

Hahahahahah, the lessons we take when we step outside our comfort zone.  Or tent!

1st Campsite at 3,750 metres.

Intrepid Day 2 – Cusco to Ollantaytambo

This tiny frail looking lady who was well weathered and wearing traditional Peruvian dress greeted us off the mini-coach.

Strewth, for someone who was 90 years of age, her vice grip was strong as she walked us into a fenced off community compound area.  We danced to the beat of the beating of drums and tune from a flute.  We were dressed up in traditional woven wears as well, before we introduced ourselves – name, country of origin, age, married or single.

The grip on this 90 year old was strong.

The community compound at Chinchero.

Wearing Peruvian dress attire.

It was a great opportunity for Claire and I to practice our Mihi in our native tongue, Maori.  We translated it into English, before it was translated into Spanish.  Our group was taken to a field to help with the pulling of weeds.  Who would’ve imagined getting dirt under the finger nails?

Back within the confines of the compound, we had a fantastic demonstration on the wool fibre from the Alpaca and traditional methods used to colour the different spools.  As we were served lunch (potato soup and rice), the grass we danced upon was set up like a flea market in the hope we would depart with some of our ‘tourist dollars’.  Perhaps a hat; cardigan; bracelet or socks.  Don’t worry, if you didn’t have cash – credit card was accepted.  You just had to climb a flight of stairs up onto the roof top to get the mobile eftpos machine signal.  This was, halarious.

Demonstration on how to colour the wool.

The different coloued spools of Alpaca wool.

They took visa, just had to find the signal.

Back on the mini-coach and the next stop had us excited at the awe of the mountain range in the distance.  Cautiously shuffling towards the edge of the flat ground we had parked up on, we could make out the township Urubamba deep below.  We were at 3,705 metres in altitude.  Referred to as ‘The Sacred Valley, it looked mystical and enchanted.  We were nearing some of the finest Inca ruins in all of the Americas where the Incas built several of the empire’s greatest estates, temples, and royal palaces.

Urubamba township, down there

At 3,705 metres

We arrived into the tongue twisting town of Ollantaytambo.  Temple ruins rose up with dozens of rows of stunning steep stone terraces carved into the hillside.  The architecture was both forbidding and admirably perfect.  It is thought that the complex was more a citadel to the Incas versus it being a temple and was successfully defended in 1537, against the Spanish.

We did do a walkabout, but not up onto the ruins themselves.  The water way construction and some doorway features fronting residences were also remnants of a by-gone era.

The ruins at Ollantaytambo

An Inca doorway

The Incas were smart with how to construct water races

Grass growing from electrical lines.

One in the group kept another cuisine delicacy alive and ordered up guinea pig for her dinner.  There were mixed emotions about it being presented whole – head, ears and, charcoaled feet!

No, it wasn’t Claire.

But apparently, it tasted like chicken.

Cuy or, guinea pig.

Never Before Have We Experienced Such: Lake Daniells Tramp

As soon as we opened the car door at Marble Hill, the bastards started nipping to suck blood! Sandflies. The race to smoother 80% deet insect repellent over exposed skin was on. Mandy lost in receiving the greater number of welts amongst the four of us. Swore the most too, ahem!

We were 5kms east of Springs Junction toward the Lewis Pass, at the start of an 8.4 km tramp into Lake Daniell for the night.

For BClaire & I, it is one of our favourites to take novice trampers on so they can be introduced to the world of getting lost on the landscape by foot. Carrying your life. We laugh with the newbies, not at them. We do that when they are out of sight and the beauty about this track is that it it nigh impossible to get lost on.

Except for the young fella who did back in 2002 and they found his body near the Alfred River. He was 14.

This was a practice tramp as well because in a couple of weeks, Mandy and Andy with Tin and Lisa are off on another little ‘Ruru’ adventure together. Tin and Lisa weren’t able to participate in this one as they are on a beach somewhere in the Pacific!

Anyway, off we stepped and the Sluice Box where you cross a cravass looked invitingly stunning. It was only five minutes into the walk and too early to get naked. The lake at the end is okay to skinny dip in after dropping the packs so onward the team progressed.

The 50 shades of green beech forest was alive with bird song – whether the Fantail, the Robin, the Bell bird and the like. So too was there the hum of wasps. We tend to respect each others personal space so as not to encounter confrontation.

The fauna was just beautiful as sunlight beamed down through the canopy. Old man’s beard translucent and the ground covered moss spongy like the softest mattress you could imagine. Stop starting is common to new comers to rest body parts newly discovered or rusty from lack of use. Whatever the reason, it’s about taking the time to take in the surrounds.

We arrived at the Manson Nicholls Memorial Hut to day walkers eating lunch or drying off from a swim. Once they departed, apparel was shed and into the lake we plunged to cool off and wash the sweat grime off. Heads kept above water as the lake sadly was slimey underfoot. It didn’t deter us from immersing the rest of the body.

No other trampers arrived, never before have we experienced such ever, to have a hut (sleeps 24) to ourselves. Andy lit the fire (even though it is was still hot and humid outside) … it was like a kid having a new toy for the very first time. As the light faded over a game of cards, the discussion turned to spooky stories cunjuring up Jason from Friday the 13th type fears that had us huddle. The snap of the branch and a gun shot echo didn’t help neither. Those of us who were awake most of the night – Mandy, BClaire and me had Andy’s snoring to contend with. It would’ve scared any monster who lurked beyond the hut walls away!

Rain arrived during the night and it was a lazy start tracing our footsteps from the day before. Poncho’s snailed in unison; the Alfred River and Sluice Box also up above the day before’s water mark. A stop in at Hanmer to soak the bones at the hot pools, well deserved.

There is no time to be bored in a world as beautiful as this and, to experience it with a couple of novices made the adventure magical.

And the next ‘Ruru’ adventure before dementia with Mandy, Andy, Tin and Lisa … google Mueller Hut!

A mare 2,200 steps give or take a couple. Up.

Angelus Hut, Nelson Lakes National Park: Robert

The bunk room rustle is the trekkers rooster ‘cockadoodledoo’ squawk. After the first one starts, it isn’t long before another, then another.

Except a couple of us had already snuck out under the cover of darkness to experience sunrise.

It’s always been a thing to get up to watch the yellow ball appear beyond an horizon as a habit. It means you have survived to live another day and therefore, you had better make the most of it if it was to be your last! And by crickey, you had better be doing something you love doing if it is.

There were some moments following the Robert Ridge Route rocky sections whereby one quarter of an inch step to the left or right and over you would have gone! The same for not placing your footing on permanent terrafirma!

The flip side when the head looked up, the panoramic three sixty degree view. It allowed for the heart rate to settle before navigating a next part of Robert.  Most importantly, if this was to be our last moments on the planet, then we had already arrived at heaven. It was just spectacular.

The trail snail tracked down and dishing out a ‘Kia Ora’ salutation allowed those making their way up to make eye contact. The eyes told a story and you knew even though they were hurting, the reward at the end would worth the effort and energy expended. Persons older then us gave us peace of mind that perhaps there mayby a second time to watch sunrise from the Angelus Hut again. Perhaps.

Diverting right at a junction to take in the view of Lake Rotoiti was a bonus; the descent grade burned the thighs but by now, the taste of a melting paddle pop ice block at the end kept the legs on auto-pilot.

The Department of Conservation brochure reads: You must be fit enough to walk for 2-3 days, up to 12.2 kms for 6 hours per day and climb to1,800 m. You must be comfortable on rough terrain and without a fear of heights.’

Our summation is whether an overnight hump into where giant monster eels reside; or ascending four or so football fields to watch another day arrive; or catching up with Robert – it’s up there as being an adventure before dementia one should attempt to tick off.

And certainly before your last day.

Angelus Hut, Nelson Lakes National Park: Peaceful Absorbtion

Angelus Hut is sited adjacent to Rotomaninitua/Lake Angelus. At 1,650 m altitude, snow, frost and freezing winds can occur even in midsummer. The alpine pond or tarns in winter are as hard as the surrounding rock topography frozen solid.

Avalanche signs in red didn’t deter us reaching the Cascade Track junction. We bid farewell to Julia and Ryan as they were heading deeper on the flatlands as our noses pointed toward the up.

The steady climb beside the Hukere Stream was beautiful. As we emerged from forest to alpine grasses, flowers welcomed us with the buzz of life from bumble bees tendering their crop. Do bumble bees hibernate during winter?

Then the only path to go was straight up. Literally. About four football fields, give or take!

We could have been ascending Mount Kilimanjaru in East Africa or Gokyo Ri in Nepal except we weren’t. We were in our Aotearoa and the slow pace to absorb what is ours shifted mindset over matter to keep going and not give up.

The final brow to reveal Lake Angelus Hut and it’s adjacent reflection, stunning.

It took about 4.5 hours; the hut that accommodates 28 was full this night with fellow humans from all parts of the planet. You have to book in advance and there were some who braved the minus 6 degree celcius overnight temperature under canvas. Young ones today, pfft!

The arrival of the hut wardens was a pleasant surprise. We had met Prue and Malcolm at a hut that they were hut wardens at on Stewart Island a couple of Christmas’s ago so the chit chat catch up was like picking up the conversation as if it were only yesterday. Roughing it like we were does that.

Watching the shadows colour the opposite crater rim can be described best as how the lake was previously known as – Rangimarie.

Translated, it means ‘peaceful’.

Ya gotta love this country.

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