Now I’ve been in New Zealand for 9 months, I thought it was about time for my second overnight tramp with the club. For a Brit, looking at the summer schedule in January was a little confusing, but the Edwards-Hawdon trip looked like a good one; good potential for great views and nice timing for a long weekend after just one week back at work. I am a man who likes views and my tramping trips so far have been lacking in these. The fog closed in as we approached Mount Hector on my first trip in the Tararuas and spending Christmas in the mud and rain marching round the Rakiura Track on Stewart Island had me questioning the wisdom of tramping as a view-finding hobby. So there was a lot hinging on this tramp.
Things didn’t look good when the Captain announced that predicted turbulence meant the on-board service had been cancelled – no wine again! Saturday morning brought the rest of the group – enter Beccy, Jo and Meena who all looked fresh, beaming with enthusiasm and ready for the adventure ahead. We climbed into our hire cars in search of brekkie and hastily arranged to head for the bakery at Darfield – I had heard good things about this place. The bakery stop provided us with the necessary nourishment to start our trip and I also enjoyed the last ‘proper’ cup of tea I would see for the next 2 days…as well as liking views I am also a man who enjoys tea!
We checked into DOC at Arthur’s Pass Village to check the weather and spent the next hour faffing with kit, sun cream, and moving one of the cars to the pick-up point in readiness for our exit in two days’ time.
Our tramp began by getting our feet wet crossing the Bealey River. We followed the path in sparse woodland which closely hugged the Edwards River. Over the course of the weekend, the path disappeared a number of times; this happened early on Day 1 when we found ourselves at the top of a mini waterfall and had to clamber down. The afternoon walk was a mixture of river bed, bush and tussock and it took us 5 hours. En-route there was an interesting steep climb which most of us chose to come down on our bottoms holding onto the hand chain. We arrived at Edwards Hut around tea time.
The hut was already busy but we did manage to grab the very last bunks. For dinner we were fortunate to benefit from some leftover meals from the Christmas trips (many thanks to Debbie). This evening’s meal was a personal favourite of mine, a homemade chilli. After some initial concerns of whether there would be enough for everyone and much debate over whether to add some additional vegetables to the meal, we laughed as all six of us forced second helpings down to finish the full billy of food! In the meantime, the sand-flies were also enjoying a sumptuous meal of their own!
We were the first group to leave the hut on Sunday, as we had 6-9 hours DOC hours ahead of us. We made our way over tussock flats crossing the river a number of times, enjoying the stillness with lots of photo stops of the magnificent scenery…finally some views! We naturally split into two groups, with Beccy, Emily and myself setting a quicker pace, whilst Megan, Meena and Jo took time to enjoy the wildlife. We re-grouped for the Tarauhuna Pass. You could easily see why it’s called Falling Mountain which has created a massive scree field which we scrambled over. From here the DOC leaflet suggests the route turns extremely steeply, and at that point it looked almost impossible! However as we got closer, it became apparent that it was climbable. Beccy led the way, and we all followed plotting our own course up the stream trickling down from above. Actually with all the ledges and tussock to hang onto, it was far easier than it looked from below! Only 20 minutes later, we were at the top and Jet Planes lollies were handed round! As it was lunchtime, and the wind wasn’t so bad, we settled into a lovely lunch at Tarn Col, which was one of the highlights of the trip. From here, the path drops down the side of the creek crossing a number of times as it descends, which made for more great photos with all the alpine flowers in the summer sunshine. At the bottom of the creek where it flows into the Otehake River we had to bush bash as the path disappeared a number of times again.
After a short break we all made our way up to Walker Pass and round Amber Col. From here the path winds its way through low vegetation, and we lost count of the number of times we crossed the creek. With the increased exposed position the wind was starting to get up, and it became a bit of a struggle to walk straight with the wind taking our packs and blowing us off course. We arrived at Hawdon Hut at around 5pm, and were pleasantly surprised to see only one other person was there so we took over one of the dormitories and set about putting the dinner on. We were lucky to have another dehy dinner of vegetable noodles (thanks to Megan Banks) which was equally yummy. The evening’s entertainment of playing bananagrams was enjoyed by the rest of the team, whilst I did the washing up much to the delight of more sand-flies!
After another bowl of porridge we wended our way back to civilisation. Our journey started in the bush along a well-defined flat path; before it changed to flat green grass and finally along the dry river bed marked out by cairns. Our last obstacle of the day was crossing the Hawdon River. There were concerns earlier in the weekend if there was heavy rain as forecast this could jeopardise our exit. However the river looked navigable, and after some quick instruction from Megan we teamed up in 3’s and linked our arms around each other’s packs and crossed the river. My slight apprehension turned quickly to excitement and wanting to cross another river. Back at Arthur’s Pass Village we made ourselves comfortable at The Wobbly Kea café where I personally enjoyed relaxing on the sofa with a pot of tea and we all tucked into a hearty meal to reward ourselves. Arriving back in Wellington and before getting into my comfy bed I enjoyed that G&T I was looking forward to all weekend, pleased with myself for completing such a great trip, enjoyed the lovely weather whilst seeing some of the South Island with a friendly team.