We picked Samantha up from Nelson airport on Sunday morning – drove up from our campsite at St Arnaud . The 70 series land cruiser flat bed , is a strictly a one man and a Sheila type truck – but Barb elected to tag along , such was her enthusiasm to see her Sammi. The downside is the difficult seating position — no bench seat – and the price to pay was the discomfort of a contortionist position straddling the handbrake , enduring your left butt cheek does not accidentally activate the electric winch switch with dire consequences.
Arrived back at St Arnaud and enjoyed a sunny arvo , a swim in Lake Rotoiti and a wonderful last supper and hot shower in the van. One last sleep before an early departure up the lake on Hamish’s shuttle fizz boat – a trip that takes you to the head of the lake to where we would begin our walk.
An uncertain weather forecast for 2 days hence meant we had decided to compress 2 days walking into one BIG day . After starting at 8.30 our day did not finish till about 5.30 pm when we finally arrived at the upper Travers Hut , which was an additional 3 hours from the John Tait hut. ( about 23 kms) The last 2 hours we began to get slower as bodies started to run out of energy , and doubts surfaced about all the little decisions we had made about what we were loaded into our backpacks. Did I really need that blue cheese or the kg of snack & protein bars in Sammi’s case . The packs began to feel heavier as the afternoon wore on.
We feasted like kings on a pork stir fry , with real pork and real veges and brown rice , rested well despite the hut being in overflow mode , with odd bods sleeping on the floor after the 25 bunks were taken. We had arrived early enough to score reasonable bunks , but top bunks. As the evening progressed more and more trampers arrived to the grim realisation that the hut was full.
Tuesday dawned clear and fine with almost zero wind – a perfect calm before the storm forecast with wet weather due the following day. This was the big day – tackling the Travers Saddle. The upper travers hut is on the bush line , so the walk from there was all into alpine tussock and thru majestic craggy peak country. After a mere hour and a half we breasted the highest point of the trip , the Travers Saddle at 1787 metres.was calm , perfect temperature and we were all in fine form.
The pain was about to begin as the next 4 hours was all downhill — just over 1100 metres of often very steep descent. Muscles eventually begin to tire of ceaseless descent , strength fades , joints complain at the punishment being dished out. Our Travers saddle traverse began to look like a “Travers Shuffle ” as pace degenerated to a geriatric shuffle . Barb became a little confused , muscles were not responding obediently and for a while she became convinced she might be displaying early onset cerebral Palsy 😱 She never stopped smiling though – she’s tough and never a quitter. She gifted multiple rest stops to Sammi and I , as we waited up for her.
The West Subine hut was a welcome sight , and we had three wonderful bunks secured by Samantha who made a last few km dash to claim better beds for “her Olds.” Faster trampers who had left the hut much later than us eventually overtook us as we shuffled closer our destination. With Sammi given leave to fly our beds were secure!
The hut was bursting full again , but everyone had a story and often involving pain. The hut became deathly quiet at about 9pm as all these tired bodies fell into comatose sleep. Thankfully no heavy snorers ruined the first night and even first light at 6 failed to stir early risers. I was first up at 7 am!
The rain that was forecast arrived as predicted giving Barb and i a suitable excuse to have a restful hut day. Sammi who is still a bunch of birds decided to have a pack free walk up to see the famous blue lake ( 6 hour return) Having been there once before we have been happy to restup. She joined a group of Aussies who did the day walk — the rains came down but they all had a great walk. She had a fantastic day despite the rain – she may turn into an outdoor adventure enthusiast yet 😉
Heavy rainfall set in as the day progressed and the roar of the river got getting louder as nightfall rolled on.
West Sabine hut – was crowded here for the 2 nights . A very distinct strong smell of body odour — unwashed bodies seems to cling to everything in the hut — possibly worse than a Greek wrestlers jock strap , but never having met a Greek wrestler I can only imagine. I had to abandon my slot on the sleeping platform on the second night as the nice old woman to my left ( not barb) snored and snuffled like an old sow 😳 I relocated a mattress to the kitchen floor, where the cascading rapids of rushing water of the Sabine River lulled me into a sound sleep.The heavy rain and extended well into the night , with the roar the Subine river the constant helping to cancel out the snuffles snores and farts of all the bodies and in the close confines of the hut. We managed another early departure as we set off for the lovely walk down the valley to the lake and the Subine Hut.
Barb lead the way for the majority of the way , she had made an amazing recovery with the benefit of the rest day – no more talk of early onset cerebral palsy , and the geriatric shuffle was no longer obvious. She powered along at a great clip and Sammi and I were content to follow the draft. Was a ” wet feet ” type of day , impossible to keep socks dry with all the smaller rivulets in full flow. The sun returned and we made the walk back before late afternoon rains returned. A great walk . Sammi’s only complaint was that our adventure was nearing its end.
A final boat trip and shuttle service back up lake Rotoroa then a van to St Arnaud and our hot showers in the 5th wheel. We had a celebratory meal out at a nice lodge — thanks Sammi 😘. All that was left was a major laundry wash up and a trip back to Nelson so Sammi could fly home.
Great trip — think she may be hooked 😉