My Tour Aotearoa was a success and on the way I got to know Claire, an amazing lady I met tramping a while back. I am writing the whole adventure into a book hence the silence, but I still want to record my tramps in the meantime so here’s one Claire and I did on a little roady down south last week.
We cram our packs into the tiny rental car and set off from Christchurch, keen to explore the West Coast and do some tramps on the way. Only wanting to do overnighters we investigate the relatively accessible huts dotted throughout the Southern Alps. Many aren’t ideal – tracks washed away, old tin shitboxes with warnings about tourist overcrowding, no fireplace, others with warnings about likely excessive hunters due to it being ‘ballot season’ (whatever that means). With the cooler evenings I was encouraged to leave the tent at home – whatever hut we get to, we need to fit and it’s school holidays, it’s got to be big. Claire discovers Hawdon Hut, a modern valley-placed 20 bunker 3-4hrs up a river on Arthurs Pass.
We park next to the Hawdon Valley campsite shelter. There’s an old couple basking in the sun ready to spend the night and get the shelter fire crackling. With the knowledge they’ll be there keeping any louts away from the car, worry-free we head north in the beach forest.
Quite promptly we drop to the Hawdon River and get soaked feet. The valley is large and the river meanders about – counting crossings is pointless, it’s plenty. The deepest crossing is this first one, about knee high in the clear water.
From here, it is just a task of walking up the river. Rugged 4x4s can make it up at times, and the more aged, grassed floodplains have a proper little 2-rut 4×4 trail to follow. We find our Topo maps don’t match the sporadic warratah track markers, the road or anything. Even later in the walk, well-established bits of track are on the opposite bank of the river, so I wouldn’t pay too much attention to the track on the map. We set off about 1:30pm, a bit later than we might like for winter – so it’s just a bomb-it trip up to beat the cold.
Following a ‘track’ is a challenge, with the flats so wide you’d need your wits on constant alert to know your location without GPS. I lazy-it-up, bless phones.
You could walk the river pretty much the whole way, but bits have track on either side; these are generally marked if you keep an eye.
At Discovery stream there’s one of the big orange markers, and shortly after we reach a silent Hawdon Hut, 3hrs 20 on the trail. We’ve got the place to ourselves! Yuss!
The hut has 2 bunkrooms of 10, a sink inside (all taps are outside, due to freezing) and 2 of the nicest longdrops you’ll ever find. There’s even a radio you can use to call DOC on for weather updates.
I dash about finding firewood in the waning light (plenty of fallen beech around) while Claire ditches her frozen boots and builds the fire. We have a great candlelit curry before freeing the pyromaniac on the candles and settling in for a cold but comfortable sleep.
In the morn we watch as the sun thaws the forest over coffee. It’s magical, not a breath of wind. I drop my DSLR but the lens hood takes the hit, shattering and saving my zoom lens. Phew! Carefully I carry it out, getting a few pics of the wonderful variety of curious birds that visited us on our way, including:
We pay more attention to any indications of trail on the way out, finding a stretch of 4×4 road we didn’t spot yesterday. There are little cairns dotted about which provide something of a game, spot the cairn! We get out in about 3:30hrs. A wonderful night, thanks Canterbury.