Nadia and I were lucky enough that a quick burst of summer in Fiordland coincided with our days off as we headed further south to tackle the Humpridge track. We stayed a night in the lakeside town of Manapouri and early Saturday morning drove through mist which twinkled with the early morning mist, down to Tuatapere (pronounced too-a-tap-ary and one of my favourite words.)
We got a coffee and headed down the gravel track to the start of the track, neglecting to check in with the information centre, so had to ring to get garbled instructions over the phone, so on a whim and a prayer we set off through the forest to the coast. After a short while we were walking long white sand beaches reminiscent of the Mediterranean. As we walked, chatting away we noticed Hectors Dolphins playing in the surf very close to the shore and couldn’t resist jumping in with them for a swim.
At the end of the bridge we started up into forest and the 6 hour hike up ‘the hump.’ When we got to the water stop, Water bridge, we puzzled at where the water was. A saucepan on a string was balanced on the bridge and we entertained ourselves plunging it into the water to fill our bottles.
We were walking through the tree line with occasional glimpses of spectacular views. We enjoyed burning calves, forest snack stops and finally emerged at Stag rock from which we could see Bluff, Stewart Island and the stunning white coastline. We could finally appreciate how far we had climbed that day. Another hour later and we arrived to Okaka lodge situated on the hilltop with welcoming tea, coffee and showers. The balcony looked down into the valley, and a summit track above looked over the surroundings. After a relax, a meal and a briefing about the next day, we marched up the boardwalk to watch sunset. Beautiful juts of rock sat out of the hillside accompanied by glacial tarns. As we walked we spotted faces in the rock and mountain lilies in the grass. Around the back of the mount, Lake Hauroko came into view, shadowed by the mountains and the dipping sun which ignited the clouds into beautiful pinks and oranges.
The next morning after porridge we were on the track in good time to follow the tree line to luncheon rock where we were treated to an incredible panoramic view over the coast and back up to where we had come from. We steadily descended until we were in the low country, home of the logging project which once characterised this part of the park. There was a rail line and a series of impressive viaducts built to carry out wood logged from this area. A combination of land disputes and economic difficulty meant that the line only ran for five years and didn’t reach the success which was predicted. We crossed the viaducts, dipping below the largest, Percy burn, which is no longer stable but still impressive. Our lodge was at port Craig, once a community of workers and family’s, now a lodge on the beach next to the old school house.
We were early in and after cleaning up went to see the old school house which held interesting pictures of the area as it was in the early 1900’s, it’s prospering years. As we walked down to Mussel beach, remains of the machinery and pulleys could still be seen allowing us to imagine it in action. The beach was a short stretch of coastline, at each end rocky outcrops. The water was beautiful in the heat of the day but the sandflies meant we kept having to pace to enjoy it. We did many laps of the beach, enjoying the sand in our toes and the cold water washing away our aches, disbelieving that this was still a part of Fiordland National park.
We aimed for an early start on the track, so were munching our porridge as the sunrise broke through the clouds, again glowing pinks and oranges. By first light we began our traverse through the forest climbing up and down over 14 creeks leading to the ocean which we could hear just to our right. As we finished our forest stretch at Break Neck Creek we were excited to follow the coastline, blowholes beach and several other hidden hamlets protected by rocks and boulders. When we got to the junction we met the track we had followed on day one and headed for the first beach, Bluebells beach, where after a lunch of Brie and crackers, we ditched our shoes and walked feet in the ocean, once again Hectors Dolphins surfing to our right.
By this point we had discussed every topic, debated, played games which had had us giggling, pontificated and planned many exciting things to come. Nadia and I had shared stories, sweat and secrets. By the time we got back to the dusty car, we had done 20km by lunchtime and hit the road for coffee and a scenic drive back to Milford.