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

“On a Mish” #327 A Valley too Far Away (Part Three). Otira Valley. Arthurs Pass National Park. 13.5.2022. The wild world of mountains can be a tricky place to negotiate sometimes. Everything looks easy on the map from the comfort of your own home, and it isn’t until you venture out that you will find out what the area is really like. Having only 1:50,000 maps means you need to use your imagination, and be ready for anything. What I thought would be an easy stroll alongside a West Coast river turned out to be a battle with a track that made the place we were aiming for a valley too far away…

We had managed to survive the track alongside the Otira River for about an hour and a half, and that was enough for me and my buggered hip. We had expected a simple wander and were now going up and down the side of One Shot Hill(1214m) which was putting my unused legs to the test. Both body and mind had had enough so it was time to find a spot to pitch our tents.

I spotted the perfect location, the only problem was a near impenetrable wall of gorse in the way. We found some low lying animal tracks through the spiky barrier. These tracks were tough for me to crawl through, so it was even worse for my much taller father.

A few war wounds later we burst out of the bushes on the riverbed, and more importantly we had reached our campsite. Tents up and chill out time.

It was as if the weather gods had been watching our battle because we were rewarded for our efforts with some outstanding serenity provided by the mix of mountains, clouds and the setting sun. Just as the last of the day’s light was fading the night was set alight by a huge, bright near-full moon.

Early morning pack up with Mt Alexander

Both a bit buggered and covered in scrapes and scratches, it felt as though we had trekked for days and were resting for the first time. Hungry and tired, after dinner we both retreated to our tents for a much needed sleep.

During the night we both heard the mesmerising distant call of a couple of Kiwi. Even though it is New Zealand’s national bird, very few get a chance to hear (and only the very lucky get to see) a Kiwi in the wild. Even though we were somewhat close to the state highway the location felt remote and it was the exact feeling I was craving.

Early-ish the next morning I was up enjoying the eerie light of the bright moon. It was a night with very little darkness, which was ironic because we probably could have inched our way to the valley that was too far! As the moon was put to bed the sun returned to warm our little campsite and the Otira Valley. The magnificent sunrise was an excellent boost of motivation to get us on our way.

Both of us were nursing aches and pains from the mission to get to where we camped, so we decided to put up with wet feet and tackle the much easier riverbed route to get back to the car. This was a thousand times easier and we managed to knock off about a third of the time that it took us to get to our campsite.

At the Morrison Footbridge over the Otira Valley we once again had to deal with the exposed wires on the bridge. And with a sore hip and back plus an unexpected battle with nature, I really struggled to find the energy to lift my pack to avoid even more rips in my gear.

After getting back to the car and beginning the drive back to Christchurch we had a chance to reflect on our unexpected adventure in the rugged paradise that is the West Coast. Even though we didn’t get to the valley we wanted we still had a blast and got some epic views. Back in Christchurch we were both feeling a little bit sore but also very satisfied as if we had completed a much bigger mish. I looked at the map again… And yip, the track along the true right of the Otira River to the Taramakau Valley still looked flat and easy, at least I now know it isn’t! Sorry hip, I had no idea it was going to be that tough!!

New Zealand. What a place to explore!

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