A Valley to Far (Part One) – Lower Otira Valley Camp

“On a Mish” #327 A Valley too Far Away (Part One). Otira Valley. Arthurs Pass National Park. 12.5.2022. If you have hiked in Aotearoa enough you have learned that our 1:50,000 maps are just a rough (very) guide of the terrain you will encounter on your mission. What looks like a simple track meandering across easy ground can turn into a challenging trek very quickly. The West Coast and Arthurs Pass National Park are places with hiking trails to keep you entertained for a lifetime. However, do be prepared for an adventure even when tackling what looks simple on the map…

After a couple of easy weeks up with my family in Christchurch I could feel the urge to go on a mish getting stronger. A trip to the doctor had revealed that my hip is potentially in a very bad state. One particular spot had the doctor questioning how I was able to walk around at all!

With the potential of surgery looming, I had to go on at least one more mission before possibly a long stint on the sideline.

Being up in Christchurch means I am close to one of my favourite playgrounds, Arthurs Pass National Park. It was here I reintroduced myself to the outdoors after my initial hip injury, so it seemed fitting to head there considering my current condition.

Obviously I wasn’t in the position to take on one of the many multi-day tranzalpine tramps, so I had to look at something nice and easy. As far as locations for a mish go the West Coast is hard to beat on a sunny day, and I remembered really enjoying a visit to Paratu Stream which flows into the Otira Valley.

The massive Otira River flows into the even bigger Taramakau River, and the junction of these two magnificent bodies of water was going to be my campsite. An added factor to my overnight outing was the company of my old man Jeremy, a mountain mate on many previous missions.

Making our way down the Otira Valley

Now with a location and team assembled we had to drive from Christchurch on the Alpine Highway over Arthurs Pass to the lower Otira Valley.

The mish before the mish, as the drive through the mountains that surround Arthurs Pass and the views from the road are some of the best vistas seen from any road in the country.

Sitting is the worst position for my hip, and the drive probably seemed longer than it actually was. I was happy when we saw the Morrison Footbridge and we could finally stretch our legs. Along with access to the Otira and Taramakau Valleys, the bridge also gives access to the Deception Valley. This unassuming spot is a hive of activity once a year with the Deception Valley being part of the gruelling Coast To Coast multi-sport event.

My hip wasn’t feeling great as I lugged my pack onto my back, but luckily we only had about 5km to hike. And more importantly it was on flat ground, right?

As we crossed the bridge we both encountered problems getting off it as there is a section of exposed wires which are sitting at pack height. A few rips later we were on our way and I am sure (according to the map) it will be an easy stroll from here. I hope this valley is too far…

New Zealand. What a place to explore!

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