Following a cruisey venture over the Five Pass trip, 5 punters (Eric, Roger, Andrew, Garry and I) sat in Wanaka, taking it easy, trying to work out what was next on the list. With only 3 days we were restricted but finally made up our minds, it would be a jet boat assisted trip through the Wilkin – Matukituki.
After arriving in Makarora in stunning weather we enjoyed a blast up the Wilkin river in a jet boat to Kerrin Forks, a couple of donuts and some closed eyelids at times from certain people. We then set off walking up a pleasant valley, appreciating the shade due to the heat as temperatures soared into the 30’s. The first few hours was pretty much all the same, but allowed some views up spectacular side valleys such as Wonderland. Short of Top Forks hut the valley opened up to some large grassy flats graced by some pleasant waterfalls, before sneaking around a knoll to a great hut lying under the stunning Mt Pollux. Arriving at 4:30pm we relaxed for an hour before an evening wander up the North Wilkin to view Lake Diana and Lake Lucidus. This valley was spectacular and the sound of avalanches was common before our return to the hut at 8pm.
After Andrew set off a great blaze while trying to start the MSR, we enjoyed a late dinner at 8:30pm. Roger then whipped out the “jelly” he had been promising for dessert – well, based on the tone of Rogers voice as he mentioned “jelly”, it hinted that jelly wasn’t coming. It was a full iced fruitcake, which was decorated with candles to celebrate Andrew’s 30th birthday (he now had the honour of joining the over 30’s and felt part of the group). After reading the guidebook warnings of the Waterfall face and Rabbit Pass, we were then ready for a visit to the long-drop and then a good sleep, apart from Garry who was hanging around hoping for some jelly.
There was some nervousness as we set off on day 2 as the warnings suggested some treacherous slopes, or is that faces ahead. It was steep and hot as we made the trip up to Waterfall flat – a breather on the flat before the short but steep accent. Heading up Waterfall Face, Roger’s eyes were firmly fixed on Garry’s feet ahead (well above actually), there was no way he was going to look down! We had the luxury of good weather conditions, so had completed the short, sharp climb in a few minutes.
After lunch on the stunning plateau, we had a pleasant traverse to the vertical face of Rabbit Pass. Suspended above the East Matukituki valley, the views were stunning. To descend required a steep uphill sidle to a gut, this time it was yours truly who didn’t enjoy the steep terrain and loose rock! After the gut we headed down, down and down to find a campsite of the flat tussocky floor of the East Matukituki valley.
Awaking to a still morning we progressed down the valley, Roger pausing to test out an amphitheatre at Ruth Flat with his rendition of ‘Morning Has Broken’. Due to a gorge we were then faced with a steep climb, which seemed to go on forever, especially as the sun beat down and the water supplies were scarce. From here the views were superb looking up the Kitchener River and into the Kitchener Glacier. A steep bush clad descent led us back to the valley floor and then we headed down stream to a beautiful campsite on grassy flats at the mouth of the Glacier Burn.
Onlookers, of which there were none, may have been surprised, that with so much flat land, why the tents were pitched so close together, they touched! Maybe the real estate prices were just too high? Property tycoon Roger Bolam clearly had heavily influenced the tent pitching arrangements.
Gazzo then choose to go for a swim, but the leap from the rock into the knee-deep Matukituki River must have been a knee jolting and uncomfortable experience. The evening concluding with the fiddly job of removing the mountain radio aerial from the rather high branches of a beech tree.
All that was now left was a gentle one hour wander out to Cameron flat to meet the bus to Wanaka, a drive back to Ch-Ch and the final Wellington leg. It had been tramping as it should be – without a single drop of rain, barely a gust of wind and very few others tackling this stunning route.