A Valley to Far – Part Three

“On a Mish” #327 A Valley to Far – 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, as well as being 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, until seeing it, I thought was easy and flat…

We had managed to survive the track alongside the Otira River for about an hour and a half, and that was enough for us as we had expected a simple wander and were now going up and down the side of One Shot Hill(1214m). 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 wall of gorse in the way. We found some animal tracks through the spiky barrier, but in the end we had to put our heads down and push our way through the nasty introduced plant. A few war wounds later we burst out of the bushes and were 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 views provided by the mix of 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. Both a bit buggered and covered in scrapes and scratches, we were ready to rest our weary bodies. Hungry and tired, after dinner we both retreated to our tents for a much needed sleep. During the night we both heard the distant call of a couple of Kiwi, and even though it is New Zealand’s national bird, few get a chance to hear (the very lucky get to see) a Kiwi in the wild.

Early morning pack up with Mt Alexander

Early-ish the next morning I was up enjoying the eerie light of the bright moon before the sun returned to the Otira Valley. The magnificent sunrise was an excellent boost of motivation to get us on our way. As both of us were nursing aches and pains, we decided to put up with wet feet and tackle the riverbed on the journey 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 after an unexpected battle with nature I really struggled to find the energy to lift my pack to avoid more rips in my gear. After getting back to the car we had a chance to reflect on our adventure. Even though we didn’t get to the valley we wanted to get to, we still had a blast and got some epic views. After getting back to Christchurch and feeling a little bit sore but also very satisfied, 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! Sorry hip, I had no idea it was going to be that tough!!

New Zealand. What a place to explore!

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