Best tramp ever?

Of course. Then again, I guess there’s been a few of those.

It was strange to have a single tramp separated so clearly into two parts. The first was the pre-New Year major adventure part, mostly solitary, then once back to Rakeahua, back to the hordes.

Which part was preferable? Well, have a guess.

The Tin Range is just 28km each way from Rakeahua Hut to Port Pegasus and is really a two day trip from there, camping at that small but pleasant site almost exactly halfway. Somehow I took five nights getting down, just the standard one on the way back.

The weather? Close enough to perfect, it is Stewart Island.

The track? There’s no official DOC markers, well, that’s the way it’s advertised and the route is not shown on the map so you basically follow where people have been in the past, following what’s on the ground.

The reality is that DOC uses the trail up to Table Hill at least once a month on the southern dotterel protection business, about 200 remaining birds breed up there, so the route is relatively clear through the forest, if you have imagination, and it’s been trimmed once you get into the lower parts of the scrub. Except DOC peels off to a secret hut on their own track, so you end up with about 2 km where no one much goes, it’s possible to guess where to go but there’s no footprints, part is following up a creek swimming through the manuka, the track is totally overgrown, then when you make it to a collapsed bivvy it’s straight up with olearia added to the obstacles. Physical stuff.

Then you get into the chest high manuka, try getting through that, at least there are faded snow poles over the top of Table Hill.

It must be 15km mostly over rounded ridges, the trail is marked by twigs in the spongy alpine herbs, is that marker? Could be, keep going. Would be a real problem in poor visibility, and that could be a fair proportion of the time.

A few olearia bashes to remove more divots from tender areas of skin.

At the other end there’s a kilometre or so of more full body wrestling but then you get on the old tramline and 6km of the best Dun Mountain Tramway style walking, all trimmed to the coast.

There’s big views of most of the island and particularly the southern parts, just two hunters’ huts accessible by boat, and a history of crazy adventurers from 100 years or so ago.

And the whacky Gog, 400 m, an inverted ice cream cone but there are plenty of other shiny granite domes. I felt right at home.

One 600m long bush bash was enough to make me to realise I’ve passed that era in my life, days of it to go further south, both ways, I’ll let the views be sufficient.

Once back at Rakeahua, the hut full of seasonal trampers, and some grumpy DOC types, camping seemed a good option. 17 people at the eight bunk Doughboy Hut, many camping, on New Year’s Eve. I crashed out in my tent in the rain at 6 30pm, but in my three nights at one of my favourite huts I met some great people, not so antisocial after all.

So 16 nights on Stewart Island for this major southern excursion, only two in a hut, if you carry a tent you might as well use it. Now it’s straight onto Te Araroa.

← Day 16 | Back at Oban