St James/Harpers Pass blog | November/December 2013
The St James Walkway and the Harper pass route are not full-on, in your face, super magnificent scenery with the spectacular vistas of, say, Travers saddle, or around Anapai, or the nikau beaches of the Heaphy, or the constant but changing sea views of Stewart Island.
No superb highlights, instead it’s all somewhat low-key: the Cannibal Gorge swingbridge; the climb up towards Three Tarns Pass, getting stabbed by that pointy aciphylla: the paradise ducks, err, ducklings; Caroline Creek bivvy in all its tiny glory; Lake Guyon; the 1870s Stanley Vale hut still with some ancient paraphernalia; the spectacular and unexpected Stanley Gorge; the Waiau River crossing, well, that last one and then the even more heart-rate-pumping Henry River the next day; some snow in the hills at the Anne valley; the red beech forest around Lake Sumner; staying at Harper Pass Bivvy, seems I like the confined accommodations; the views around Harper Pass and, indeed, trudging down the bouldery Taramakau River . . .
Yeah, nothing much really.
Cannibal Gorge is gorgeous, a scenic river, the Maruia, and there’s plenty of flowering happening, most notably a profusion of white on the otherwise dark green of some species of hebe.
Back at the hut mid-afternoon I’m now on my lonesome, might stay this way for a few days, ie, solitude, it’s sure quiet, just the nearby stream doing it’s rushing sound and the rain dripping from the roof.
A night of conversation with strangers in a hut, that’s much of what this tramping business is all about.
It’s not often I have a change of plans about my destination on an impromptu basis.
The hut is on the edge of a small patch of mountain beech, the lake just down there and a considerable expansion on last night’s bivvie, fully cat, or possum, swingable.
The direct route, plow straight across the Waiau, a more serious prospect down here, but the river fans out somewhat above a set of rapids, from this elevation you can see the bottom, doesn’t look completely ridiculous, I planned the route from on high, found a trusty stick, and the river turns out knee deep, flowing swiftly, 6 inches more would have been interesting, the main thing is to take it slow enough to be sure of the footing and stashing those two cameras in waterproof bags.
The day’s major adventure, and it was a serious enough situation, was crossing the flooded Henry River, not looking too promising at the nominated point, the dirty water washing past in one channel of unknown depth.
First day of summer, so I guess that means we get snow.
Tired? Yeah, a bit.
It’s the middle of the night, then, as predicted as soon as horizontal Phil started snoring, a degree of contentment there in the tone, almost like a cat, but then, a very large cat indeed. A giant lion, or tiger, perhaps.
The bivvy is three quarter size, just the 6 feet wide, 8 feet long, ie, I’m not actually able to fully stretch out in the bunk, and I’ve hit my head on everything, the upper bunk, twice, the short door, twice, the low-flying collar tie, a rafter, twice, basically I’m getting intimately involved.
Much of the interest was in the vegetation today, the pass is at 965 m and there’s some sub-alpine species, two dracophyllums, an oleria, a hebe or two, flowering flax, flowering celmisias
And so ends that almost two weeks in the hills.