Three day (two night) trek, (almost) to Finella Hut. We set out last Monday at around 1230 from the car park at the end of the Cobb Reservoir, hot in the sun, cool in the shade. The track heads along the glacial valley floor, through alternate forest and meadow, very beautiful.
The forests are old growth beech with scattered lancewood, ponga and other natives, and the meadows are flowering in brilliant yellow buttercups and “Maori onion.”
Bellbirds with their musical call abound. Huge erratic boulders scattered here and there, the track coming and going from the noisy stream, every now and then little tempting views of beautiful rocky pools.
The tramp to Chaffey’s Hut is supposed to take an hour and a half but it tales us three, and we arrive at 4:30 where we find an older man sitting at the picnic table, having a snack, admiring the view. He says he had brought his fishing rod but the streams are too shallow for trout. This becomes a refrain for us for the trip; “that stream’s too shallow, no trout in there!”
The cute little hut had been abandoned for years but then was refurbished in 2013 by the Golden Bay Deer Stalking Association, separate from D.O.C. (New Zealand Dept of Conservation). Three bunks, two in one main inner room and a third in the entryway. We head off again toward Cobb and Finella Huts, expecting to arrive after dark, but a full moon and clear skies would make it doable. We get a few meters down the track and decide to turn around and stay at cute little Chaffey. Good decision. We are pretty slow, and I think we would have ended up tent camping along the track.
The black flies (or sand flies as they are called here) are pretty bad and drive us inside soon. Nice dinner, nice read-aloud (The Scarlet Pimpernel!), we bed together in one narrow bunk, a little uncomfortable because the cover keeps slipping off in the middle of the chilly night.
In the am, fortified with coffee and hot muesli we stumble out — and find someone sitting at the table! He had got an early start from Finella and was heading back home today, so he was gone shortly. Another ruddy-faced Kiwi.
Wekas with their big beaks and big claws are everywhere, looking for something, anything, to steal. Chicken-sized, completely fearless. And Cheeky South Island robins come say hi. They are unexceptional looking charcoal birds with dirty white breasts, sharp little pokey beaks, long spindly legs. They have a habit of coming right up to you, standing up proudly on their longish legs, cocking their head and looking way up at you, in the eye, as if to say “who are you!”
We head on toward Finella, supposedly a 2-4 hour trek, starting at 9:30, and at 12:30 we make it to the Tent Campsite. The trail is similar to yesterday’s, beech forest interspersed with meadow, minimal climb. The mountains at the end of the valley get closer, overhang the tent campsite. I mistakenly think Tent Campsite is Cobb Hut and thus only 30 minutes left of steeper uphill to Finella, but I am wrong. The track starts to go up, and two hours later we reach Cobb.
It is dreadfully hot in the meadows and clearings. Two elderly and very fit Kiwi ladies pass us, and then we meet them again at Cobb Hut. There is water there, and after a good drink and a snack we head out. The track goes through a meadow where, looking up you can see Finella, but it is a steep track to get to it, and soon Cris decides to turn back, and we do, disappointed. The elderly Kiwis just don’t understand. What? You can see it right there! Yes, well.
By 4:30pm we are back at Tent Campsite where we spend the second night.
We think we might have the place to ourselves when, around 5:00 pm a young couple shows up. We had missed offering tea to the two Kiwi ladies, so this time we are prepared and as they approach we offer them a spot of tea, water boiling. They are charmed! Turns out they are a couple from the UK; of course an offer of tea is irresistible for the English! Beth and Mike end up sharing the Tent Campsite with us. In the evening Mike makes a magic fire that turns to cozy red embers that seemed to stay all night, keeping the cold and the bugs at bay. But the night is cold when I got up to pee; the setting full moon is visible through the trunks of trees to the west.
In the morning we breakfast, say our goodbyes and head in separate directions, us on the return, Mike and Beth setting out for five more days.
We retrace our steps out. The heat seems not as bad — perhaps we are more ready for it. Nevertheless around 2 pm we look for a secluded spot for a swim. A lovely dip takes the heat and sweat and stink off like magic. I change my clothes and feel completely and utterly refreshed. Dipping my shirt in the water and sitting in the shade for lunch I am actually chilled!
By the time we get to the car park I am hot but not dripping. We feel great. Home by 7 or so. Bed by 8:30. Lovely trip.