Fireweed Mountain

September 28, 2018

Thursday 12 July 2018


Around here the locals tell us they use the Fireweed flower as a weather barometer of sorts. The plant pushes up a single flower stalk which is preloaded with hot pink buds. These open from the bottom and over a period of time the initial blooms drop off and are replaced by new blooms opening further up the stem. So on and so on will the buds at the very top finally open. At that point, when the flowers have expired and the last ones transformed into ‘smoke’ filaments the first snow is due to arrive. There is no prospect of snow right now  since these flowers are only blooming halfway up the stem. However there is another metric at play. Fireweed Mountain, which looms high above us to the northwest of our lodgings and which forms the western buttress through which the Kennicott Glacier attempts to squeeze, is also a winter canary. Read more

Three Butterfish

December 24, 2016

The day started around 2 or 3. I usually check the time when I wake but didn’t do so on this occasion. The hut is warm. Too warm and I am lying on my sleeping bag in a sweat. The boys and girls around me are sharing snoring duties. As one stops another starts, the baton handed back and forth as sleepers shift and stir. I am sure I was contributing to the chorus. In my half sleepy state the atmosphere is surreal. The hut is bathed in LED white light, reflected in off the water and beaming from the moon. Read more

Zero Traction

December 16, 2016

This day is a mixed up one indeed. After our struggle through the night our timings are now messed up. The state of the track is so bad we have no confidence in our ability to get over to Masons Bay in the time we have allowed. We have walked in to the hut at Freshwater at the very time I was hoping to head out to Masons Bay. And the rest of the team are only just recovering from their ordeal so, even though I feel pretty fresh by having that midnight kip under the Rimu, I don’t want to push an agenda which no one will enjoy. So its generally decided that we will stay here for the day. Read more

One Loud (Female) Kiwi

December 7, 2016

creek (1)There’s so much to this day it’s a bit hard to know where to start. Maybe it best to start at the end. And the end was a damp arrival at Freshwater Hut the day after this section of the track was supposed to be concluded. We had departed North Arm Hut at 0807 in a light rain. It had rained all night and was not too heavy along the coast but as we were about to discover it’s been heavy up in the hills. In the end the rain made for a 22 hour day, far longer than anyone was expecting. Read more

One Robin

November 30, 2016

start-1It’s a tiny black and white bird that drops onto the track and peers up at us in some sort of weird avian challenge to our right to be on the track. He seems not at all perturbed by our size and proximity but soon flits off, joins another of his type and starts a chase through the fern and moss draped branches that close in this part of the track. We stop and watch them for a moment or two and before we know it the group has vanished into the bush. This is thick scrub and its capacity to swallow up fellow walkers and sound is not unlike the tropical forests of Papua New Guinea. We departed Rakiura Retreat at 0834 this morning amid birdsong  – tui’s chatting and chortling like possessed things. We reach the head of the track at 0937 at which point the bird chatter vanished altogether. It’s a strange thing but the bush is dark and silent. But welcoming and embracing as well. I had dropped Kathryn at the head of the track with all our packs at 0815 then returned the car and joined the others to walk back to the head of the track. That means we walk 5km to the start line without our packs. It’s a nice way to start. Read more

Two Kakas

November 29, 2016

arrive-1On last light , which at this latitude is about 9.30pm, two parrots arrive on the roof with a clunk. A few minutes later the older of the two shifts to an outstretched arm of one of our neighbours and chows down on a piece of apple. It’s a silver domed, bright eyed, ruby red bellied Kaka, with a wicked scythe of a beak and a raucous call. Soon one is on our arms eating dates from scones Barry brought along. The second, clearly a fledgling, is not so confident about the interaction with humans and fluffs its feathers, arches its neck and screeches its protest. Its parent, if it is such, pays no attention and gently and calmly works on the fruit it has so delicately taken from our fingers. Read more

Six Foot Track

October 31, 2016



1 October 2016


The cleft in the sandstone lets us down off the bluff through sheer slab sides that drop away into the bush below. The knees protest at each step but we are distracted by the howling wind that bends and buffets the trees on the edge high above us even as we stop and gaze at the buffeting out of our still, green hued glen of motionless ferns and mossy rocks. It’s two different worlds  – the icy wind that cut us to pieces as we departed is quickly left behind as we drop through this veil of green, and descend past water washing down rocks to Nellies Glen. Who is Nellie? We have no idea. No one knows. But in short order we find ourselves on the overgrown road that once pressed up into here as far as it could before yielding to those sheer escarpments behind us. I’m always move by the merest evidence of human endeavour, even if it is a mean scratching in the scrub. Someone with hopes and dreams was involved in the cutting of this road, while others used it in support of their families and farms. Some of those folk are buried at Megalong Cemetery though their graves are long gone and the names of the interred are remembered on a plaque. Families are buried together, too often without a decent interval between the dates. Read more

Orcs Be Here

January 29, 2014

orcs290The early morning call interrupted lurid dreams so bright they were my reality and despite the paucity of sleep I was glad to be awake.  Four hours sleep was not enough and I could have easily rolled back into the borrowed bed.  But we have seven hours of walking ahead of us on a loop near Mt Somers which will be a helpful warm up for the week to come. It is proves to be a walk down memory lane. How much is imprinted on our minds when we are young? More than two thirds of my life has been spent away from here yet lichens and trees, rocks and tussock, snow grass and birds, streams and insects, flowers and peat are all instantly familiar and, though I have never been on this particular track I walk with the conviction that from its edges I have never departed. Read more

Ferry at the top of the Garden (Day 8)

July 16, 2013

ferry290We wake to silent, floating, heavy snow, and  pick our way through a couple of inches of laid down flakes from our accommodation to the visitors centre across the road. A bacon and egg roll and a hot coffee made by someone else seems like a perverse luxury but it stops no one at all. It’s an indulgence we are all prepared to take after a week of home cooking on the track.  We have plenty of time to wait for Paul. I spoke with him last night from a pay phone since the wireless connections made for indecipherable conversations. He says he will aim to be here at 1100 but wanted to know what the road was like. I told him it was snowing in earnest. He said he would throw in the chains and hope that the road was clear in the morning.  I walked back from the pay phone thankful that we had cleared up the last connection we had to make but regretting not bringing a head torch. I walked in the dark by feel back to the communal kitchen – if I couldn’t feel the snow under my feet I veered back into it. The road was covered in the stuff but the forest canopy was keeping the worst of it from coming through. It seemed to work and I arrived back at the kitchen to that roaring fire and the pleasant company of walk weary but very satisfied trekkers. Read more

Softly Battered (Day 7)

July 16, 2013

khut290We aimed for a 7.30 start and were on the track by 0740. Heads down into a smashing wind right from the beginning. The first leg was only five kilometres but it was across open moor along an exposed ridgeline and that nor’wester hammered us as hard as it could. I watched pack covers ahead of me ripple and shimmer. Walkers, myself included would pause in mid step as gusts hit them least they get blown off the boardwalk. Sometimes the wind caught us unawares and we were off anyway. We were aiming for Kitchen Hut from which we plan to launch a run up Cradle Mountain. Read more

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