This is Day Four of my adventure on the Heaphy Track. If you’re just tuning in, the full story starts here.
I wake up to a violent red sunrise flooding over the mountains and rose tinting the dim bunk-room. Kahurangi’s teeth-like mountain tops look even more magnificent in the bloody light of dawn. I’m in no hurry to hit the trail today, but I sit up to gaze over the wonderful scene for a while before napping again once the fiery light show is over.
The second time I wake up, I make a lazy start to the day and hit the trail late morning. Not too far from the Perry Saddle Hut, I run up to Flanagan’s Corner, a short side trail that leads to the highest point on the Heaphy Track. The views around the hillsides here are spectacular. It’s a perfect spot to stop and say a fond farewell to the surrounding mountains before starting the final descent into Aorere Valley.
It’s another long forest walk today but although this section is longer than the climb up at the Karamea end, it’s much less oppressive. There are some lovely big trees to walk through with little Riflemen climbing over their branches and tweeting merrily. The scrub is much thinner so I can always get a sense of how much progress I’ve made and there are some wonderfully sneaky views that peek through cracks in the trees. It’s downhill the whole way, but a pretty gentle climb that isn’t too hard on the knees.
As I get lower some ominous clouds start to creep in over the hills. They add a cool sort of eerie atmosphere to the hillsides, but I do hope I can make it to Brown’s Hut before the rain comes in. In the end I’m just off the hill and crossing over the Aorere River when the drizzle arrives. Success! The hut is only another few minutes away.
I’d had such good luck so far that I dare to think that I might avoid the worst of the rain and the sandflies for the entire track (which is pretty much unheard of on the Heaphy) but although I’ve finished my actual trekking, waiting around at Brown’s Hut quickly puts a stop to both aspirations. The drizzle sets in and the sandflies seem to have decided that I’ve had it too easy so far and they have some lost time to make up for. They come in absolute swarms. I’m covered from head to toe, so they can’t actually bite me, but it’s still horrible having them in your face all the time. It’s a shame because otherwise it would be nicer out by the river, even with the drizzle, but I can’t bare the little bloodsuckers for long. I shut the hut up tight and go on a killing spree to try and get rid of the swarm that’s followed me inside.
The shuttle finally shows up just as I’m nearing the end of my book and I begin the journey back to the airstrip where my car’s parked. Turns out I’m lucky to get out, the rain is coming down pretty good now and driver suspects that the people trying to get out the next morning might be stuck there for the day. The drive back is nothing I haven’t seen before, but it’s been a while since I’ve been this far out in rural Golden Bay and it’s a charming drive down memory lane. I make it back to Takaka just in time for a quick makeshift shower in the river before the open mic night at the local pub starts. The beer never tasted so good.
The Heaphy Track is a 78 km trek between the Western end of Golden Bay and the Northern part of the Karamea coast. Most people bang it out in 4 days but there’s a large selection of huts so it’s easy to split it up into as many as 7 days. It’s an end to end track that can be walked in either direction but getting back to your car can be a bit of a logistical difficulty. During the summer I would highly recommend flying between Takaka and Karamea. It’s the simplest way to get across, saves a lot of driving, the flight is wonderfully scenic and if you can catch one of their backfill specials it doesn’t end up being any more expensive than the other options. See the DOC website for more information on the track and Golden Bay Air for flights.
Listening to: Do I Wanna Know – Arctic Monkeys