Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Day 78. John Tait Hut to Blue Lake Hut.

Today 22 km. Total 1973 km. 8 hours 45 minutes (0750-1635).

I woke up at my normal time but as everyone else was still asleep and I didn't have a big day I snoozed for a bit longer.  I then got up and tried to be quiet while making breakfast and packing.  I left at 0750 and the track was in the bush beside a river heading uphill.  Generally the gradient was pretty easy and the track in good condition but there was lots of rocks and roots so not overly fast.  For some reason I was feeling quite lethargic and was taking lots of breaks.  It was overcast for a while then the sun came out in force and it got even hotter.

Good trail beside the river

Different type of bridge

I heard a loud roaring and then there was Travers Waterfall which was pretty impressive and worth the 1 minute detour.

Travers Waterfall

Near Upper Travers Hut two trampers came towards me - not TA. They said the hut was close and 5 minutes later I arrived, 2 hours 20 from John Tait Hut.  There were two Germans in the final stages of packing up but I was in and out quickly just filling in the hut book and eating a snack.

Upper Travers Hut

From here it was into the open and the track was tussock and rocks and went uphill with a few steep bits and some flats. I could see I was at the head of the valley but all I could see in front was large steep mountains and no obvious track up. Then the track curved to the right and we started climbing up a place which has been out of view.  The track was now steep all the way to Travers Saddle.

Leaving the hut

Slowly climbing

Mountain Daisy

End of the valley-every slope looks steep

Near the top the tussock changed to scrubby plants and more rock fields.  I was looking out for geckos as there are alpine geckos here but all I saw was lots of crickets in all sizes and colours.  I was amazed at the variety and huge numbers of them. There was snow patches on the nearby mountains and the scenery was spectacular no matter which direction I was looking.  The mountains were much closer and higher than the Richmond Ranges.

After 1 hour and 450 vertical meters I reached the saddle and it was now a nearly 1000 meter descent that had the legs aching. The final part was steep and was a switcback (zigzag) but I am not sure the European and North American trampers would call it a proper switchback given eack leg was only a meter.

Looking back from the saddle

Still snow in the mountains

Nearly at the top


The way down

The infamous spiky Spaniard plant

Switchback down

Splash of colour in the grey rocks

 In 1 hour I reached the bushline and the descent kept going until reaching the East Sabine River. There I met two ladies who were recovering from the descent before continuing.  They were doing the Travers Sabine 5 day circuit and finding it harder than they were expecting.

I continued along the track which for nearly 100 meters was perfect then there was a swampy section and it got rougher with more roots.  We crossed over the river which had turned from a normal stream to a narrow but really deep canyon which was crossed by a bridge. The force of the water through the narrow  canyon was really loud. The track then climbed a bit and sidled aling a hill. Along here were heaps of huge Dragonflies.  They were nearly 15 cm long and 1.5 cm wide. There were also lots of tiny birds about the size of a small mouse that I hadn't seen much before.  Through the trees I could make out a huge waterfall on the hill opposite.

Huge Dragonfly

Nice bush

Looking up the valley to Blue Lake

I arrived at West Sabine Hut and there was a family with two teenage boys just leaving.  I filled in the Hut Book and saw the family were heading to Blue Lake Hut as well.  It had taken me 3 hours 40 minutes from Upper Travers Hut.

From the Hut I crossed the Swingbridge and 5 minutes later found a nice lunch spot.  A lot of people have lunch in the huts but I prefer to have them away from man made structures when the weather is nice to take in the sights and sounds of nature as even after 2 1/2 months I still haven't had enough. I was also hoping some of the small birds would come as I haven't managed to get a photo of one yet.

After 20 minutes I carried on trying to estimate how quickly I could catch the family in front of me. I estimated 1 1/2 hours but managed it in 40 minutes.  The track was steadily climbing and was rough with lots of roots but I was able to move at a good pace without rushing.  I saw my first TA NOBO (Te Araroa Northbounder, going opposite direction to me). Nathan was wearing a distinctive Aarn pack with the big pockets in front.  He recognised me as a TA tramper.

West  Sabine Hut

Different type of bridge

Log bridge

Rocky track

Back in the forest

Nathan the first NOBO (northbounder)

Steep river

I arrived at the hut at 1635 which was 2 hours 15 minutes from the last hut. Fred and Nev were there.  Their friend stopped in St Arnaud to rest his injuries so Fred and Nev were back to full speed.  They left to walk to the other end of Lake Constance to camp there to make the next day easier.  I was slightly tempted to do the same but I had walked further that day and decided despite it being early I would stay at the hut. Also in the hut were a family with 2 girls and a boy that I would guess were all under 12. Pretty impressive walking for young kids. They didn't come the same way as me but still came a long way. Thankfully the children were very well behaved and the parents fun to talk with.

I walked down to the lake. Blue Lake is the clearest lake in the world and only fractionally away from the theoretical clearness of distilled water. To keep it this way, and for cultural Maori reasons there is no washing in the Lake,  though the stream below is fine for this. After lots of photos I headed back up and the family I passed was just turning up.

Blue Lake Hut

Blue Lake

Blue Lake

Blue Lake

Night 78

I wanted to really be hydrated for tomorrow so I was having lots of hot drinks. Before,  during and after dinner.

The family with teenage boys was doing a 9 day tramp over 4 passes and some rugged terrain,  some of it untracked. They were really interested in my food and gear so I did a show and tell and their reactions were hilarious at the weight of things.

After another social night it was bed time as it got dark.

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