Zen On Dirt

Boatrides, tramping, and lakeside huts

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As I’ve mentioned many times before on this blog, I’m not really a details person.

For example, there are a handful of tramping tracks down here in Manapouri, and I’d pointed at them on the DoC map and said, ‘Let’s do those!’ With the possibility of a hut on a bay as an overnight destination, Scott had agreed.

Neither of us had realized that you have to take a boat across a giant river to access the tracks. Whoops?

For a few minutes we debated whether we wanted to pay the $20NZD per person to get across. Half the idea of going to stay at the hut on the track was to save ourselves the cost of a holiday park, and the boat fee was going to pretty much kill that. But we also figured that there wasn’t a huge reason to rush out of a place over $15USD per person, plus the hut was right on the lakeside and looked really cool.

So we spent the morning working, bought enough food for an overnight at the “store” in Manapouri, stashed the bikes in the bush, and headed down to wait for the 3pm river crossing.

Our skipper was a crusty old Kiwi.

‘What’s yer name?’

‘Scott.’

‘What?’

‘Scott.’

‘Jack? J-A-C-K?’

‘No. Scott, like Scotland.’

A look of confusion, frustration, and slight amusement came over the guys face, and he proceeded to hand Scott the clipboard so that he could write his name.

‘Oh! Scott! Your bloody American accent.’

And with that, he took us across the river, agreeing to come pick us up at 11 the following morning.

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We went for a walk that involved climbing up to a highpoint up a stupid steep trail, then descending down a lovely ridge, and then a few more K to the hut, which really was situated just in the bush off the lake.

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We got the last two bunks. Who else was here?

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As it turned out, the Otago Tramping and Mountaineering Club had chosen the hut for their weekend trip. Their plan was to kayak to the hut, but the wind was so bad so they’d gotten a boat ride out there, stopping to do another tramp on the way. There were 6 of them and another couple, a Polish Kiwi and a Polish Canadian. The tramping club included two hut rangers from Kepler Track and Milford Track. They said that you didn’t actually need any qualifications to be a hut ranger aside from being good with people…hmmm.

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We had a lovely dinner together, and as it turns out, tramping club members try to outdo each other with the desserts. Long story short, they had more than enough, so the non club members got to indulge in strawberries with chocolate sauce, cheesecake, tiramisu, and raspberry tart.

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I was so full I couldn’t move.

Then two more trampers showed up, youngins on their year-long work holiday visa. An Italian gal and Japanese guy, they had hauled two guitars and a drum the 9km into the hut, as well as a massive bottle of Jaeger and a few tall boys and were planning on staying two nights and using the day to practice music for New Years when they were planning on going busking in Queenstown.

We all ended up next on the lakeside beach with a fire, and they played us a few of their songs. The Japanese guy was actually pretty good, and he sang a few songs in Japanese, which were way better than the ones he tried in English. We told him to work the Japanese angle in Queenstown.

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At 10:45, still far from dark, we finally decided to go to bed. We wanted to be moving by 8 to easily make the 11 boat.

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So it worked out really well that we woke up at 8. People in huts don’t believe in early starts.

We were packed, caffeinated, and fed within 45 minutes and happily and speedily going down the track. We still made it to the dock with 25 minutes to spare, which is a testament to the benefits of light packs.

Mike, the boat skipper came across the river, picked us up, and took us back to Manapouri, the bustling metropolis where you can’t even buy methylated spirits, which was awesome since we had no stove fuel. We retrieved the bikes from the bush and headed back to the holiday park.

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Green bikes are easy to stash in NZ

Plans were made, boat tickets were bought, we had an afternoon and night to kill before heading south…via the adventure route.

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Getting some extra help with tent setup

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