Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Humpridge Track

Last weekend I tramped Humpridge with Maddie, Sammy and Matt. This is the second trail we were supposed to do over Spring Break, but the weather report at that time was dismal. So it was a good thing we waited until last weekend when it poured wet hail all day Saturday! (The weather did clear up for remaining two days, thankfully!)

We arrived at the carpark very late Friday night (or very early on Saturday, if you will). Sammy and Matt set up a tent in a little shelter, while Maddie and I curled up comfortably in the car. We started the track on Saturday morning. This first day of the hike was long, made longer by the need to bushwhack in order to circumvent the flooded path in several places. We also had to deal with quickly accumulating hail / snow as we climbed higher up the mountain (the elevation change was about 1000 m). It was a tiring 7.5 hour day, about half of which was pretty steep uphill. We finally made it to the Okaka hut / lodge, though. In season, this place is luxurious - they make your bed, cook your food, and provide entertainment. Off season, however, it is not quite as nice. There is no place to build a fire, so it was rather chilly, especially since we were all soaked after the day's hike. [Note: Saying that place was chilly is the biggest understatement I have perhaps ever made. I legitimately had no feeling in my hands for about an hour and a half. Using a lighter to start the stove for dinner was a challenge without functioning hands, let me tell you!] The hut also had no water supply, so we finally appreciated the snow when we had to melt some for drinking water!

(photo courtesy of Maddie Smith)
Another group of international students from Otago were also hiking Humpridge, and we met up with them at the hut. Brett, Corey, Michelle, and Caroline had hiked faster than we had, so they arrived only several minutes after us even though they left about an hour later. We all changed, made dinner, scarfed down the deliciously hot food, and then slipped into our sleeping bags in the bunk room. We played countless hands of rummy, then enjoyed some of Michelle's homemade hot chocolate with Tim Tams (a type of cookie here, or biscuit, I should say).

(photo courtesy of Brett Higgins)
The next day was much nicer, so we could finally enjoy the view from the mountaintop that had been hidden in clouds the day before. The others walked up to the summit that morning, but I decided to rest my aching feet a bit more before hiking all day again. We all started off on the track together. It was beautiful, and I finally got the chance to take out my camera without fear of water damage. After walking along the ridge for several kilometers, the path went down the mountain and then along an old train track to the second hut. School House Hut may be my favorite hut that I've stayed in so far. As the name implies, it used to be a schoolhouse, and is all one room - the kitchen, fireplace, and three-story bunks. The water supply is also hooked up to come into the sink in the kitchen! Such a luxury in a hut off-season is unheard of. It was fortunate that this minimized our time outside, for Humpridge Track is back in sandfly territory.

Sunday night consisted of the same activities as Saturday - cooking and eating dinner, playing cards, and drinking hot cocoa with Tim Tams. The next day we split into our respective groups again and set off for the final leg of the track. This part gives you the option of an inland or a beach route, and a book in the hut cautioned not to take the beach route during high tide (or as the book so alarmingly put it, "it's not worth your life!"). Oh, we should have heeded that advice. But we didn't. We ended up in a rough situation where we had to walk over wet, slippery, seaweed-covered rocks (I fell half a dozen times), bushwhack and slide down an almost vertical rock wall, leap over large rocks covered in rough barnacles (on which I cut myself), and deal with the incoming waves that forced me off a rock and wading up to my knees in water to get back to land. Let's just say that this was not the most enjoyable time I've ever spent on a beach. Or anywhere, for that matter.

After drying off a bit (or at least attempting to wring the water out of my boots), we finally got back to an actual path that wasn't so rough on my aching knee and blistered feet. A little further down the path we ran into some friendly fishermen who were heading back towards the trailhead, and they gave us a lift in their truck. I think that saved the day, for my spirits lifted considerably as we drove down the beach in the truck bed (and my knee didn't mind the rest, either). About 40 minutes later we finally made it back to carpark (all alive, though there were some moments I doubted that would happen!).

the beach a bit later on, where there was actually sand to walk on (photo courtesy of Maddie Smith)

So overall, I'm not sure how I judge the trail. It offered some beautiful views, cool huts (or one cool hut, at least), and a variety of surroundings. Nice weather would have improved the experience, but the hail did not greatly dampen my spirits. Tramping in an uninjured condition the last day would have been nice, or, you know, at least not taking a trail that required me to crawl on all fours over sharp rocks that dropped off into the cold ocean. But I made it back alive! Finals period has begun, and I sit my first exam in two days. I'll probably be studying a lot the next few weeks, but hopefully I'll be able to fit in some stuff that you'd actually want to read about too. So long for now!

Maddie and I at Okaka (photo courtesy of Maddie Smith)

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