The Caples is much more interesting than the Greenstone.
The Upper Caples Hut has been turned over to the Deer Stalking Association which makes the walk out to civilisation, ie, The Divide, from the new Caples Hut an additional two hours. But what was once at 10 to 12 hour struggle up over McKellar Saddle has been almost halved by the re-benching of the Caples Track, basically from the river flats over to where the track joins the Greenstone between Lake McKellar and Lake Howden. $1.2 million has been spent on the Caples in the last year, half on the new Hut, the other half on the track, itself. It’s a substantial change, the track is wide, Great Walk standard, ie, a ditch one side, the ungenerous would say a bulldozer has just smashed out a new track despite what was in the way, a road, in fact a highway, super quick to stroll up despite the constant gradient, before you know what you’re up amongst a 800m cliff, the winter avalanche danger zone.
There’s a burst of barely believable grandeur, the Fiordland that is absent in the wider, flatter, lower Greenstone Valley.
Just at the top of McKellar Saddle, full boardwalk where required across the damp sections, a tarn or two, and plenty of swampland, the predicted rain swept through, but I was just about back in that sheltering forest. By the time the Howden Hutt came around, for the third occasion on this trip, the rain was belting in and didn’t let up until I was cruising into Te Anau.
At Howden Hut a couple coming out from Mackenzie Hut, gee, that seems a while ago, even if it was only six days, mentioned a 3 15pm bus, it was 2pm with a one hour walk, that might prove a better option than trusting my luck hitching once again in the rain, that hasn’t been a task that has operated with any degree of brevity in recent times.
As it turned out another bus company was waiting for some stray eco-tourists who had zipped up to Key Summit, it had started raining after they had left the car park. I recognise the driver, and his name, he took me down the Hollyford around six weeks ago, suddenly I’m drinking a hot cup of tea in sitting in the shelter of the front seat of the minivan, experiencing the warmth of one of the locals, the rain hosing down.
Yup, the whole of the Fiordland/Te Anau experience is just about over.← Day 16 | Mid Caples Hut, Caples Track, Greenstone Conservation Area