March 23rd 1983

posted in: Innocents Abroad | 0
Chris on some bridge or other

A change in the weather overnight to the stuff the West Coast is famous for, grey, misty rain.  Drove north again, stopping off at a gold mine, which in fact proved to be very interesting, being a blend of the old, with loads of old tunnels, tools etc, all without cosmetics, + the present day, in that the thing is still working, still churning out gold.  Churning is not quite right – they produce about an ounce a week – but the guy was obviously knowledgeable, if a little over-technical in his explanations – + had some fascinating rocks.  A side note – how difficult it is to find new words – fascinating, remarkable, interesting… ah dear, I’ll try to stick to good in future, I think.

The gold mine

Arrived at Westport, shopped, + then on to Little Wanganui, + one end of the Wangepeka track.  We had told Andy that we would probably join him tonight at the final hut, especially since, according to his book, it was an easy two and a half hour walk.  Quite a little jaunt, we thought.  Ha ha.  It turned into something very nearly approaching a nightmare.  To begin with, we had to set off on the wet weather track – the true track led straight across the river, + we didn’t fancy getting our feet wet.  Not that the wet weather track was much better – very muddy.  And in that it went a good deal out of the way, plus we were picking our way gingerly over the mud, it slowed us down a lot.  Eventually, breathing huge sighs of relief, we emerged from our forest, + the “dry” track re-crossed the river to join us.  Right, we thought, now we can make some progress.  Only not for long, as the true track promptly took a right turn + disappeared across the river, + we, still reluctant to dangle the tootsies in what was really quite a powerful little river, headed back into the forest + mud.

We were beginning to become a little worried by now, as the light was fading, + visions were floating before our eyes of spending the night out in the open.  Eventually, we decided that if the other track, the true track, went on the other side of the river, that was where we had to be, so in we plunged.  It was very powerful – Val was very nearly swept off her feet – I think it was only the thought of the camera round her neck that kept her erect – but we made it across, + immediately set off at a mad gallop.  I think you can imagine our feelings when after just a few yards the track indicators switched back to the left bank.  Over we went once again (me taking the camera this time) + once again did our level best to keep up our speed + spirits charging thro’ the mud + undergrowth.  This really was a worrying situation.  Worst of all, I knew from the map that the hut was on the other side of the river, + the thought of crossing that river again filled me with no delight whatever.

The actual note (not a reconstruction)
Val crossing the bridge to the hut

Great pepper up for the spirits when we arrived at an old hut + found a note from Andy, telling us he was 15 mins away.  Wowee!  We really pushed on then, even if we hadn’t before.  And what a whoop of joy we gave when we saw not just the hut, not just the smoke coming from the chimney, but also a swing bridge across the river.  A good bridge too – exciting stuff, the crossing.  Andy was there too, welcoming us, even stronger when we produced the bottle of wine we’d lugged out.  In the warmth of the cabin, our fears seemed as nothing, but they’d been real enough at the time.  We passed an extraordinarily pleasant evening, the 3 of us, plus Steve, an American guy we’d met before briefly on the Abel Tasman walk.  We ate well, drank, + then sang just about the entire extent of our collective repertoire.  So all turned out well.

So, quite the adventure, all 5the more exciting (and worrying) for being unexpected. Still, what doesn’t kill you… etc.

You may have noticed an upswing in the number of photos I am posting, when a couple of months ago I was searching desperately for anything vaguely relevant, including more photos of Haruru Falls than you could have thought existed. It is just that this particular part of our trip was especially well-documented (from a photographic point of view) so it seems a shame not to share them. And we are coming towards the end of our New Zealand stay, so this is the last time they will be relevant… and I have still left quite a few out! There is (spoiler alert) another barren period to come, later in our trip. so maybe I will squeeze some more in there.

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