This article was first published in the Tararua Tramper in May 1998
Travers - Sabine
Waitangi Weekend 1998
Thursday Night: While it was still a rush for some, we all got away safely on the 6.30pm Lynx sailing. A chatty captain and smooth waters made for a quick crossing to Picton and the waiting van. Anja sped us (not) on up to St Arnaud and the cosy bach of Ardenay.
Friday: An earlier start than needed had Wayne taking advantage of a hot shower before the tramp. Then it was onto the lake and admiring the view and swatting sandflies while waiting for the water taxi. A quick trip to the lake head with a bow and arrow hunter as company and we were off on our way at 8.15am from Coldwater Hut.
Steady progress was made up the Travers in the cool of the morning. The morning valley cloud soon lifted and the temperature steadily rose.
We arrived at John Tait Hut just before noon in what was turning into a glorious day. We were keen to move on and travel a little further then planned - but not so keen as to rush lunch. After an hour we were on our way. However, the heat proved to be an energy sapper. 25°C in the cool of the beech forests. Even the rocks appeared to be sweating!! We took time out for a diversion at Travers Falls. Shortly thereafter the next bridge proved to be another excuse for a rest. From there we managed steady progress arriving at Upper Travers Hut two and a half hours later at 3.30pm.
By now, the heat had stolen most of our enthusiasm to carry on, so it was time to rest. In the sun for as long as you could bear it, or the shade by the creek for the cooler option. Hugh napped, Dave Tantrix'ed, Ron read, Wayne sorted out his Festival of Arts events, and I wrote.
Later on Ron went to take photos, which inspired Wayne, Dave and I to scramble up the scree slope to our true right. It proved hot work being back in the sun and on well warmed rocks! Dave was first to realise the folly of this, me next, leaving Wayne to make it to the top The higher you got the better the views down the Travers and of Cupola and Hopeless.
Saturday: Saturday turned into another scorcher! We wanted an early start so we could spend a bit of time at the top of the Travers saddle, yet escape the worst of the midday heat. So up at 6am and away at 7.15. Even that early in the morning it was t-shirt weather as soon as we hit the sun.
It took one and a quarter hours to reach the saddle. Hugh stayed with the packs and chatted to others coming over the saddle while the rest of the party headed up to the left to check out the source of the Travers. Wayne did a mountain man impression swimming in the tarn. He assured us that the water wasn't cold, but no-one else was tempted. We then headed up to Rainbow Pass and a great view down the other side. It was 10.15 by the time we regrouped and started heading down towards the Sabine - and already it was getting very hot. An hour down the grass, scree and rocks to the bushline and we were ever glad to see the shade. At least we had it easy compared to those we passed going up!! The flat track of the Sabine was most welcome after the steep descent. Uneventful, but very warm progress to the West Sabine bridge for lunch and rest at 1pm.
A few of us went to check out the mansion that is now the new West Sabine hut. At 2pm we headed on down towards Rotoroa. It was a long walk in the still heat of the beech, so our rest stops were long and welcome. Trout spotting on the way proved another diversion until we finally arrived at Sabine Hut at 6.30pm.
The first order of arrival was a swim in the lake. Oh the bliss! The top 30cm of water was warm, the rest nice and cool, the overall effect absolutely refreshing. However the sandflies were as bad as ever, and with the hut being shut up all day to keep them out, it was worse than a sauna. Some flyscreens on the windows please DoC!
Wayne, Dave and I opted for the cooler option of sleeping out beside the lake. A wonderful way to drift off to sleep - and watch the morepork catch moths in the trees. Of course it did mean an early awakening when the sandflies woke up in the morning!
Sunday: We had discussed another early start with the idea of returning to St Arnaud via Angelus Hut and Roberts Ridge. So while some had a sandfly enforced early start, others voted by staying in bed - despite the even earlier rising of the fishermen sharing the hut.
After the energy sapping heat of the past two days, the consensus was for the easy way out-along the new track to Speargrass and other Roberts carpark. Leisurely packing saw us leave at 7.45am. And it was already 20°C and with wicked humidity. The decision not to climb Mt Cedric was feeling pretty good.
We came to the start of the new track with rather interesting DoC signs. To take the closed track, or the track under construction - both at your own risk! What are you supposed to do, turn back? The new track is certainly a track of contrasts. A veritable highway in the middle surrounded by "normal" tracks on either side. We lunched on the "boardwalk to the sky" - complete with the viewing platforms - before arriving at Speargrass Hut five and a half hours later (including the lunch break).
We decided to put our foot down and try for 3pm at the carpark to catch a ride from Warwick's Easy group. We got there soon after 3pm - or in Ron's case, well before 3pm! But no bus- too heavy to cross the bridge. So it was a case of trudging down what we were trying to avoid, the road.
At least we got a ride the last part of the journey once reaching the Buller River and the waiting bus. And I'm told we were sweaty and smelly and that they were pleased we got off at the St Arnaud Store. I just can't understand why?!
Cold drinks and ice-creams hadn't tasted so good for a long time. And as for the shower - bliss! A hint for the future - take more cotton t-shirts! Anja took us back to Picton with enough time for a bite to eat and a cool beer before the Lynx back home.
The locals were saying that it had been the 3 hottest days of the summer, and I'm not going to argue. Made the trip more taxing than expected, but nevertheless was rewarding and enjoyable. Nelson Lakes is a marvellous area of mountains, bush, lakes, rivers and scenery. And good company!
- Party consisted of
- David Nethercliff, Wayne Hennessy, Ron Stutter, Hugh Barr, Alistair Betts (Leader and Scribe).