5 October 2007

Eleven day tramp

Well, where to begin. Our latest trip was an epic - eleven days, 26 people and 90kilometres. The annual environmental journey (the main component of one of the level six papers) commenced on the 14th of September, on the west coast at the confluence of the Taramakau and Otira rivers. The start of the trip was met with mixed feelings - heavy rain and heavier packs resulted in misgivings for some, however the thought of not having to deal with schoolwork for nearly two weeks definately elevated the mood. Brian (one of the tutors) kicked things off in his usual style with a crossing of the rather high (gasp level) Otira river. This resulted in a few raised heart rates and laughs as usual when gus's pants fell off mid way across. Our campsite for the night was reached after an hour or so of gorse bashing unaware that there was a 20 metre wide track going the same way. Fire =smoke, smoke=holding breath and closing eyes for long periods of time

Our kitchen for the first night

The next day we packed up in a rare fine patch and walked for a couple of hours (30kg packs are not conducive to long walks) through amazing podocarp forests to lake Kaurapataka where we were to camp for two nights. The forecast showed the weather was going down the toilet so it was a race to get the camp set up. The night proved to be a tester for everyones tents and shelters - sadly mine and butters' failed and as usual butters came out fine while I was left with a rather soggy sleeping bag.

The next day dawned just as wet and we spent most of it searching for firewood, drinking copious amounts of tea interspersed with presentations about 'twiggy srubs' and suchlike. It was at this stage the resident of the area - Warren the weka decided to make his presence felt by snaffling 16 of the mountain crew's frankfurters - Jo had to step in and remind everyone that wekas are in fact protected and do not taste like chicken.

Rain etc

Looking back down the Taramakau valley

Day four dawned with the whole class trying to suck sugar out of bush lawyer vines - Garry's presentation on edible plants. We then packed up and embarked on one of the bigger days of the trip - about 12km up the Taramakau river still with packs which made shoulders talk quite loudly to the owner. Luckily the weather came to the party and we arrived at Locke stream hut in varying degrees of happiness, tiredness and chafe (Jamie). Most people elected to stay in the hut which could accomodate 18 people. This was also a two night stay, the next day was mainly taken up with 'solo' time - a time to reflect on sense of place, one's place in the environment or.............STICK BOATING !!!!!! The creek next to the hut provided the kayakers with a minature grade V+ run which saw the new sport of stick boating take off and become a pastime for the rest of the trip.

Stickboat pulling a fontloop

Butters... fishing?

Locke stream hut

Day six was a revelation for some ("Are we halfway already"). The focus of the day was altitude and all things relating. The reason for this was that we were going up and over Harper's pass (the main divide) and down into the headwaters of the Hurunui river. It was another mint day and one of the most enjoyable of the trip, standing at a place where the rivers stop flowing west and start flowing east was a pretty cool experience.
The podocarp forest of the west coast gave way to Beech forest and river flats, our destination was Cameron's hut which was a bit small for us to fit in. The Hurunui provided the first wash of the trip for some and an excellent salmoning pool (ice cream headaches all round).

The Taramakau valley from Harper's pass

Crew at Harper's pass

Everyone chilling at Cameron's hut

Another beaut day and the easiest walk of the trip (1 hour) was ahead. Packs were definately getting lighter ("Its like we're just starting a five day tramp"). We went to No 3 hut - another big one and with a few more presentations, ice cream headaches and buildering (climbing around the inside of the hut) by the rock crew we hit bed looking forward to the next day.

Pizza in a frypan - yeah!

Hotpools campsite

The reason for the excitement was that at the next campsite there were HOTPOOLS!. A few more hours of river flats and we were there - it was undies all round and a quick soak before going across the now freakishly cold Hurunui to the campsite. The frisbee also made an appearance at this camp as it had a perfect field (dodge the cow shit). Whisperings of another front coming had everyone making sure the tents were waterproof this time. The rain never eventuated and our next day was the biggest of the trip - 15km to Three mile stream on the shore of lake Sumner. We made short work of the flat walking and it only took us around four hours. By some sort of uncanny coincidence, Three mile stream just happened to have a reputed flood run further up, so it was off with the packs and a mad dash up the track and down into the gorge for an intrepid crew of the kayak faction. The run looked ok and it was a happy group who got back to the camp on dark.

Cheeky soak in the hot pools

Rapid on 3 mile stream - potential?

Day ten came with the rain which had been holding off - the day started with the walk up to lake Marion and the identification of some Kaka (native parrots). The lake proved to be a good spot for lunch and yet another swim for the water bugs (Jdog and rick) - apparantly this lake was also ludicrously cold. The afternoon stroll around Lake sumner in a raging southerly was one of the less pleasant experiences of the trip, however spirits were high as the first symptoms of get home-itis started to appear. The southerly had mainly passed by the morning and we had made it to the last day! There was still 10km to walk but everyone knew we would make short work of it. The walk was about as pleasant as one can have over farmland (cough) and took about three hours. Finally we reached the swingbridge over the Hurunui - this was it, the end of our trip. A savage demolition of all remaining food preceded a review by Jo of the trip and some recommendations for next year's crew (take flour and spare tarps) we made the final few hundred metres to the waiting vans.

A great trip (the longest away from town for most of us) and a massive amount learned had everyone buzzing and definately keen for more (after a quick restock and shower). Murch here we come!

A happy team on the last day apart from RJ who was having a mare with his camera - Come on Richard!!!!

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