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Evan Hunter's Round The World Diary


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Monday, March 14, 2005

R&R in Wellington

After getting ready for the day, I had breakfast at the cafe in the hostel, then walked into the city centre. I'd found last night that it was quite a walk to the main part of the city. I went to the Information centre and checked out options for getting to Nelson Lakes.
From there I walked around to "Te Papa" (The national museum). I spent a couple of hours meandering aroudn the exhibits, and found the Maori parts the most interesting, especially the old photographs from the late 1800's.
I walked around town for a while, then decided to take the cable car up the hill to the botanic gardens. The cable car was really just a steep train, and once at the top, the views of the city were very good.
I walked down the ridge back toward the hostel, through the edge of the botanic gardens, which were more like a park there.
I came out at the Lady Norwood rose garden, which smelled quite nice. From there I returned to the hostel, where I relaxed and read for a while.
Toward dinner, I used the internet, then went looking at the 4 cinemas around town to see if anything I felt like watching was showing. I eventually settled on "Spanglish", and ate a quick Subway dinner before it started. I discovered that I was the only one seeing the film, which was fine with me. It was a fairly good story with an ending not as predictable as usual. After the film, I walked back to the hostel and went to sleep.


Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Modified Travers Sabine Hike Day 1 - Wellington to Bushline Hut

Yesterday afternoon, I'd booked a ferry seat to Picton for this morning. I got up at 7:00am, packed and dressed quickly, before checking out, and walking across the street to the Lynx terminal. After checking in there, I boarded the huge catamaran ship, and we departed at 8:00.
The views of Wellington as we slowly motored out of the harbour, were quite good despite there being low cloud over much of the area.
Very appropriately for New Zealand, the giant ship was a jet boat, with for big nozzles which blasted water out from the stern.
After we passed the harbour heads, the speed picked up considerably. The wind and spray on the rear outdoorarea were now quite bad, and the ship was rolling very slightly as it laid a huge white wake across Cook straight.
After only about 1.5 hours, the ship reached the south island - the entrance to Queen Charlotte Sound. I knew the trip was about 2.5 hours, so I was a little surprised to be entering the sound so soon, but I soon found out why, as the speed dropped to a very slow crawl.
The entrance to the sound was quite pretty, with rocky points and small islands. As we cruised up the sound, I decided I didn't want to walk the Queen Charlotte trail, as although the area was somewhat pretty, probably about 50% of the area was covered by pine plantations. Also, it wouldn't be great having boats and ships constantly going past.
After quite a while cruising down the sound, passing many side branches, and a small town, we arrived at Picton. The ferry terminal seemed to be by far the largest building in town. Disembarking, I claimed my pack, and walked past rows of car hire shops, before coming to the visitors centre.
I was able to organise a bus seat to St Arnaud, on Nelson Lakes, leaving at 1pm.
Before the bus came, I went to the local supermarket, and used the internet briefly, before repacking my gear into hiking mode.
The bus (van) came, and took me fairly soon to Blenheim, then onward into hilly country, toward St Arnaud. I met a bearded American guy on the bus who was going to do the Travers-Sabine circuit. We talked for much of the trip. At one point, an enormous bumble-bee was sucked in my window, hitting me hard on the face.
At St Arnaud, I was dropped at the DOC visitors centre, where I bought a map, hut tickets, got Sunset Saddle route notes, and registered my intentions.
After filling my water bladder, I set off up the road, then through a short bush track, and onto another road, then onto a second track, which arrived at Lake Rotoiti, which looked fabulous with steep, scree and forest covered mountains surrounding the lake.
I followed a dirt road, for quit a long way, over the outlet of the lake, and to the start of Paddys Track.
It followed the lake shore for a little way, then turned and headed straight up the mountain. It was quite steep and hot work. it wasn't long before I popped out above the bushline, which appeared to be unnaturally low, due to the trees having been cut down. The track sidled the grassy hillside for a while, still climbing, then whent into a rediculous series of switchbacks, which had snowpoles all over the side of the hill. Finally, at the top of the switchbacks, I reached Bushline Hut. It had awesome views over Lake Rotoiti. A little while after I arrived, the American guy arrived, having left earlier, taken the other route, and also having gotten a lift part of the way.
The sunset was very beautiful, but because of the surrounding mountains, the lake was in deep shaddow.


Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Modified Travers Sabine Hike Day 2 - Bushline hut to Hopeless Creek Hut

I've been really slack with my diary, and it's now over a month since I wrote it regularly. I'm going to try to catch up, but I'll have to cut down on detail - it just takes too long.
I left Bushline hut and followed the track as it climbed up to the main Roberts ridgeline. The sun was still low in the sky, so Lake Rotoiti wasn't yet lit due to the mountains. When I reached the main ridgeline, I could see out to the west and north, where I could see another mountain range far to the northeast, and closer, a valley in the distance, with a big cloud bank, above lake Rotoroa.
The ridge continued slowly climbing, now with virtually no vegetation, just rocks. Soon I passed a small ski area, and the track became rougher and hillier as the ridge turned into a series of jagged peaks. The views were excellent, but the track was rough - I'd forgotten what the south island shingle was like - lots of unstable dinner plate sized rocks with lots of sharp edges. The track traversed several shingle scree slopes as it bypassed under rocky peaks.
After a couple of hours, small tarns started appearing in the valleys below. The mountains to the south looked more and more jagged.
I climbed to a high point on the ridge, and was suddenly presented with a spectacular view - Lake Angelus, and possibly teh best placed hut ever - Angelus hut, right on the shore of the lake, surrounded by high jagged mountains.
I descended to the hut, ate some lunch, and talked to some others who were there. My plan had been to stay the night there, and go to Hopeless Creek Hut, over the Sunset saddle tomorrow, but it was still early (~12:30) and I was considering going over the saddle today. The only issue with doing that was the weather, which had been pretty clear, but now was threatening rain.
I decided to go, and to turn back if it started raining. The climb to the Sunset saddle took me off the main trails, folloing a fairly well defined foot pad through the grassy meadow, past ??? tarn, and up the feeder creek.
Soon I reached a second small tarn, and the pad became quite indistinct, but the route was marked with rock cairns. The cairns were often very hard to see in all the other rocks, which entirely covered the ground.
After a fair bit of effort, I reached the Sunset Saddle, and was presented with the aweome view of Mt Hopeless, which was enormous, far more jagged than any other mountains I'd seen so far, and crowned by some small glaciers, with cloud whisping around the summit. I had considered finding a route over Mt Hopeless to ??? basin Hut when I was looking at the map, but one look at thee mountain changed my mind - it would be very very difficult.
At Angelus Hut, I'd discovered that the map of the park I'd bought was missing contour lines! Fortunately the lonely planet map had some, so I could piece things together, but might have been in trouble if I got very lost. I did have a good route description for the Sunset Saddle route.
The descent from the saddle to Hopeless Creek Hut was almost entirely on unstable, difficult large shingle. It started sprinkling a little rain partway down the valley. I also passed a snow field, and two tarns, the second of which had amazingly beautiful blue/aqua tinted crystal clear water. After this tarn, the route traversed around a large bluff, in steep tussock, then descended straight down an enormous sea of small loose scree. This was much faster and easier going.
After a little boulder hopping in the creek, there was a proper track which went into the forest from the tree line. The track was covered in mud and tree roots, and at one point I slipped, and would have fallen with my back on a tree root if I wasn't wearing my pack.
Soon after this, I came to Hopeless Creek Hut, about 5 hours after leaving Angelus Hut. A sign in the hust says it was opened by Sir Edmund Hilliary in 1976?. Two other guys arrived almost at dark.
Looking at the map, I realised I had enough time to actually complete the Travers Sabine track, if I moved fast, as I hadn't expected to reach Hopeless Creek Hut so soon. I decided to do the Circuit.


Thursday, March 17, 2005

Modified Travers Sabine Hike Day 3 - Hopeless Creek Hut to West Sabine Hut

I made sure I got an early start today, as I planned to try to reach West Sabine Hut. I followed the Hopeless Creek track over more roots and mud, and soon reached the Travers River (quite big and fast flowing).
Following the Travers upstream, I climbed gently on a good track, and soon came to John Tate? Hut (2.5 hours from Hopeless Creek Hut). After this however, the track deteriorated as it climbed more and more steeply, following the river, as it became white water. At one point, I took a small side track to see Travers Falls, which were quite impressive.
The Travers River shrank and became full of boulders as I climbed to its headwaters. There were occasional limited views through trees of mountains towering above me, but quite suddenly, the trees ended, and I found I was in a truely massive glacial valley, with enormous jagged, and snowcapped mountains rising almost vertically on three sides.
In the middle of this huge open grassy valley, was Upper Travers Hut, a brand new hut with amazing views. I ate lunch at the hut, then started on the hard part of the day - going up over the Travers Saddle.
The track followed the Travers, which was now just a creek, up to its head, a huge glacial cirque. At this point, the track left the valley floor, and started climbing straight up the side of the cirque. At times it must have been at 45 degrees, climbing through snowgrass.
After quite some climbing, the gradient reduced to a moderate uphill, with Mt Travers? now looming high above, crowned in ice, and wreathed in cloud which obscured the summit.
I soon came to the very wide Travers Saddle, where there was a huge rock cairn, and amazing views of scores of dark craggy peaks towering above the valleys far below, some with cloud and ice around their summits.
I spent about half an hour climbing to the top of a gigantic pile of rock on the north side of the saddle, which afforded even better views. I could see the East Sabine River far below, and Sabine Forks in the distance, where I had to reach.
From the saddle, the track descended fairly quickly through snowgrass and also cut across toward one of many large scree slopes. Reaching the scree slope, I found it was a narrow riverbed chute, that descended almost to the East Sabine River before being enveloped by the forest. I also found that the scree was very shallow or hard packed, making the very steep descent difficult, and hard on the knees.
The descent went for ages, and at one point, passed through an area of trees blasted by an avalanche. Finally the track entered the trees, and levelled out as it reached and started following the small East Sabine River. My legs were pretty tired, but I still had a fair way to go. I followed the river, over countless tree roots and watery mud (I half slipped into one mud hole).
Eventually the track reached an area where the valley seemed unchanged except that the river dropped down into an extremely narrow and deep slot. The track then crossed this canyon (on a bridge), which was about 2m wide, and well over 20m deep. The water was hidden by the walls being uneven, but could be heard roaring far below. It was quite impressive.
After this, I followed the track as it contoured higher and higher above the river, crossing, climbing and descending over countless spurs and gullies. I was extremely tired by now, and now there were sections where the tree roots had become a maze of aerial roots as soil had been compressed or washed away from between them, so that they were left 10-30cm off the ground. It was slow going at times.
After what seemed like an age, I started descending steeply toward Sabine Forks. Near the top of the descent, I suddenly felt an intense sharp pain on my right leg above my knee. After a melee with myself, I found I'd been stung by a wasp that had somehow got up inside my trousers!. It was quite painful for the rest of the day.
Reaching Sabine Forks, I turned left, and followed the West Sabine River upstream along a nice flat even path. Passing the swing bridge across the river, I continued the short distance to West Sabine Hut, where I could hardly move, having hiked for about 9.5 hours.


Friday, March 18, 2005

Modified Travers Sabine Hike Day 4 - West Sabine Hut to Angelus Hut


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