We finally decide on an overnight to Sylvester Cottage in the Cobb Valley. It should be a reliable and not too excessive step up from our last tramp, and would be moreout in the wilds as compared to the more civilized and paradisaical Abel Tasman last week.
It is a two hour ride in to the Cobb Valley, up a winding, narrow gorge road, past the Cobb hydroelectric plant and then up and over the saddle and zigzag down to the reservoir, across the earth dam. The dam and hydroelectric power station are quite unusual in that they are separated by 4 km and an almost 600 meter (1968 ft) drop, connected by a high pressure steel tube which runs high speed turbines and supplies the power for all of Golden Bay and beyond. See more here.
Across the dam we find the carpark, don our packs and start on the track. At first it goes gently up along the shore of the reservoir, then enters the forest and zigzags up. The slope is an old beech forest with many huge grandpa trees and lots of native undergrowth, perfect environment for bellbirds and other native species.
It is a two hour slog up for most trampers, but we do it in about three or three and a half. At the top we emerge from the treeline into native tussock grass, with the hut at the edge, about 1300 meters (4265 ft) above sea level.
We have the hut to ourselves (except for the numerous wekas, or “bush hens,” cheeky little flightless critters that have no fear of humans and will steal anything shiny or colorful and drag it into the bushes), and after a hearty dinner and a beautiful sunset I read the last of our book (“Scaramouche”) and we sleep. Moreporks (native New Zealand owls with a distinctive “more-pork, more-pork” call) are heard in the night.
The morning dawns clear and we head up to the right of Lake Sylvester along the ridge,
to the Iron Hills where we get tremendous views, to the north 1621 meter (5318 ft) snowy Mount Lockett (1621m). You can see the beautiful tarn Lake Lockett at its base:
and to the south and west distant snow-capped peaks.
The next day we hike out and that night have dinner with friends and see a wonderful one-woman play about Annie Fox who, in the early 1900s, left her abusive husband and went to live with Henry Chafee in the bush, eventually staying for 40 years in what is now Asbestos Cottage, the track to which which we passed on the way in to the Cobb Valley. Her life was one of solitude, which was grand, and loneliness, which was painful, and the play was fantastic. It seemed like art imitated life as we walked home under a slivered silver moon and spied the glow worm families cozy and glowing under the banks of our road.