Wednesday, December 06, 2006

South Island Serenity

"Beauty is the moment of transition,
as if the form were just ready to flow into other forms"

-Ralph Waldo Emerson

Reading the fine print on the map was always going to be a big ask, and in the end, it made little difference. It was too late. We were half way through the second day of our 5 day tramping adventure in the Kahurangi National Park, and it had been raining pretty steady all day. The forecast was for clearing during the day, but I didn't like our chances. After exposure to the alpine-like Tablelands around Mt Arthur, we began dropping down into the Leslie River Valley, and took some shelter in the famously eccentric Spludgeons Rock Shelter, complete with fireplace, dirt floor, and photo of Albert Einstein...

...whose dilapidated, but still framed photo had the following quote under it:

"The most beautiful and most profound emotion we can experience is the sensation of the mystical. It is the source of all true science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer wonder and stand rapt in awe is as good as dead. To know that what is impenetrable to us really exists, manifesting itself as the highest wisdom and most radiant beauty which our dull faculties can comprehend only in their most primitive form- this knowledge, this feeling is at the center of true religiousness.”

Inspiring as his words were, there appeared from the track sign to be another 3 hour drop down into the Leslie River valley, and then some way along to our destination, Karamea Bend Hut. The fine print I mentioned earlier by the way, warned of long delays if weather was poor, due to flooding creeks and rising river levels. OK then.

That made me feel a little less than the bold adventurer I picture myself at times, when I read it the next day, after a 7 hr ordeal of fording streams and racing the dwindling daylight in an effort to get somewhere dry. My tramping companion was less than sympathetic the next morning when his first words were: "Called that helicopter yet?"

Water is omnipresent in this part of New Zealand , and I was fairly certain we would see some rainy days, if not all of them. It has been a particularly unsettled Spring, and so we packed accordingly. It looked to be a fairly straightforward tramp, with a slight climb up to Mt Arthur tablelands the first day, then down into the valley for a stroll along the rivers edge (more debatable was the route back to a pre-arranged pickup, which involved a place called Batons Saddle, which ominously had "horror " written on the track marker).

The storm lasted a day longer than we anticipated, and had a very significant and immediate effect on the water level, so much so that I thought it might be the first and last trip my partner would take with me. All ended well, and although a bit of a stretch at times. Some altered plans were necessary (Baton saddle, with all its rumour of "horror track" was given a swift boot in favour of a more reliable return route), and of course some very wet feet were had. The pictures of me pouring over maps with a look of concern will no doubt come up again in discussion.

On the first day, we came across several great looking rock shelters that are strategically placed throughout the park. They are obviously well used and full of character. Great in a pinch, or if there is a bad storm out (ours was tolerable). This one had it's own built in loft and fireplace:

Here is the hut that did save us from the wet, halfway to the West Coast. After a long 7 hr tramp in the rain down the swollen Leslie river valley , it was a warm and welcome home for a days rest:

The Mt Arthur tablelands and Ballon Hut, where after 4 days of no one in sight, we ran across at least 3 different parties in one of the smallest huts. However, by then we were somewhat relieved to know there were others actually in the park:

Kahurangi tranlsates into "prized possession" in Maori, and a prize it is. The nearly 1 million acre national park is the second largest in New Zealand and only brought under Dept of Conservation since 1996. Its unique biodiversity provides a sanctuary for some of the rarest of flora and fauna in the country. It is well known for its superb geographic diversity as well, with some unique landforms and a complex network of ranges, peaks rivers. It is home to a Great Walk called the Heaphy Track, with its trademark lush coastal scenery.

The birdsong was outstanding, with comments in all the visitors books in huts raving about it. Tuis, bellbirds, bush robins, grey warblers, fantails, are amongst the common bush birds, whilst the park protects a number of other notables such as the kiwi, falcon and blue duck. It is the northern most point in the Southern Alps for the alpine birds the kea and rock wren. Trout are abundant in the rivers, with deer and goat are amongst the more common mammals. We spotted some baby goats, obviously separated from their mother and not pleased about it).

I have been over the map many times now, fine print and all, and the only thought that comes to mind is: what track will I choose next when I return?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Einstein would enjoy the panoramic beauty surrounding Spludgeon's Shelter and his soul would relish the stark simplicity of the hut wherein his words wait to inspire weary trampers.