Lake Monowai Circuit – Fiordland National Park, by Aimee Paterson

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  • #48352 Reply
    Tony Gazley

    We declared this trip to be one of New Zealand’s ’11 Great Packrafts’ (like the Great Walks).

    The trip started with my dad dropping us off at the road end by Borland Bivy – quite a way along the Borland Road. Alternatively you could start and finish at the Lake Manapouri Road end, and take the longer track to Green Lake Hut. As our packs were quite heavy, we decided to take the shorter route into Green Lake Hut, through some nice bush and swamp areas (wet feet guaranteed).

    Tussock flats on the way to Green Lake Hut

    On the shores of Green Lake

    Arriving at Green Lake Hut

    Green Lake Hut is a lovely newish hut with a great aspect out onto the lake. After a late lunch, we inflated our boats and headed across the lake to explore. We ‘discovered’ and named Rubber Ducky Bay, Mossy Landing Spot No. 1, and Grebe feeding area and Mossy Landing Spot No. 2 (insert map with names). Tony and I had never seen a grebe close-up before. They have excellent mohawks.

    ‘Unvisited’ new lands. Lower X is Landing Spot 1, Upper X is Landing Spot 2.

    After a very pleasant night at Green Lake Hut (where two of our bunk mates had day jobs inventing and programing solar-powered collars for cows!), we retraced our steps back to the junction, and carried on to Island Lake, and Clarke Hut A-Frame.

    Unfortunately we missed the turn-off to the old historic Clarke Hut (too busy gossiping) and by the time we got to Clarke Hut A-Frame we decided it was best to dedicate our energy to getting to Monowai Hut. However the historic hut is visible from nearby the newer hut, and if you were brave you could probably force your way through the tussock and prickly bushes rather than taking the track.

    The track between Clarke Hut A-Frame and Monowai Hut is not as well maintained as the rest of the walk. It is still marked and for most parts has a foot trail, but I did wander off it a few times. We also noticed that where the track is in real life, does not follow where the track goes on the map. For example, it takes a southern loop around to the saddle and point 484, crosses a stream junction, and carries on down river-left for at least 1km. After noticing these differences we gave up caring and just followed the track! As you get closer to Monowai Hut, the track flattens out and improves.

    Monowai Hut is rarely visited, for obvious reasons. Most of the entries in the log book were from boaties, a couple of kayakers, and a few brave souls who had bush-bashed over the tops. We had another very pleasant night here with the sound of gentle rain on the roof lulling us to sleep.

    With the ‘tramping’ part of the journey over, we could now rest weary legs in our boats. Launching from the little wharf was a bit awkward because it consisted of a set of steep steps into the water. However, after overcoming this obstacle we had a very calm and easy paddle to Eel Creek Hut. The only obstacle, and one that continued down the lake, was some dead trees sticking out of the water in shallow areas, where one might easily put a hole in one’s boat. However, we were very wary of this and chose our landing spots accordingly.

    Leaving Monowai Hut early morning

    Tony at Eel Creek Hut

    After 2 hours paddling, Eel Creek Hut was our first stop. Another nice orange triangle invited us in from the lake. It was great to have a look around and bag a hut that only boaties could get too! From Eel Creek Hut we crossed to the other side of the Lake, paddled around Tangney Bend and Shelter Point, arriving at Roger Inlet Hut at about 12.30pm.

    Paddling to Roger Inlet Hut

    Roger Inlet Hut was another lovely spot. It is actually home to an old hut and a new hut, both perfectly adequate accommodations. Because we arrived so early, we could lounge around in the sun and dry out all our wet things. In the evening we had a few games of rummy [which the Ed understands Tony lost 10 games to 1] and were in bed by 8.30pm.

    Our final day on the Lake started very calm. We were away by 7.45am (which I thought was very early!) but as we paddled around Shallow Bay the wind picked up. While we still made progress, it was a lot slower. After an empty in the shelter of Duncalf Point, we battled up the Lake to see my dad waving to us from the weir – perfect timing! I was pleased to get off the water at this point. The wind was making it cold and hard work, and suddenly every man and his boat seemed to turn up for a New Years Eve rip around the Lake!

    See Tony’s video below for New Zealand’s first official ‘Great Packraft’.

    Aimee P and Tony G, 28 to 31 December 2021

    #48377 Reply

    Cool trip pic’s Aimee!

    #48397 Reply

    Very cool pictures. But wouldn’t all these trip reports be better in the Newsletter section of the website rather than the Forum? They’re great reading, of course, but they seem to be completely diverting the Forum away from its original intended purpose.

    #48399 Reply


    Yes totally agree but it is now club policy to only post reports of club trips in the newsletter. Private trip reports are not published so the forum is the only option.

    Maybe you could suggest the policy is changed. Good luck.

    #48409 Reply

    Well, it’s clearly a completely stupid policy. Surely reports on private trips by such long-standing and esteemed club members as Tony and Aimee are perfectly legitimate. We’re not talking about reports by unknown strangers. This is a club made up of club members and we’re all interested in what our fellow club members are getting up to in the outdoors, even if they are private trips. (OK, we may not be so interested if it’s a personal family trip or something, but the newsletter editor can easily make a judgement call on that.)

    I hereby move that this stupid policy be revoked.

    #48416 Reply

    I second that.

    I’ll pass on your proposition to the club secretary for inclusion as an agender item at the next committee meeting.

    Any other readers care to comment?

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