Back in the Game (Part Two) – Lake Marian Trek

“On a Mish” #269 Back in the Game (Part Two). Lake Marian Track. Fiordland National Park. 14.4.2021. Taking steps into the Darran Mountains alone is a way to appreciate how big mountains really are. We (human beings) are just a couple of drops of water in an ocean of tectonic plate uplift and glacial carving on steroids. From sculpted peaks of ice and snow to colosal cliffs with drops that, if you fell off them, would give you ample time to ponder life’s choices as you plummeted towards the deep valley floor far below. And if it is your first big hike after a long time out of the game, the Darrans can be a way to make you feel very small…

As I gathered my gear and locked the car I heard the distant call of the Kea as if it was welcoming me back to the mountains. Usually the local Kea would have a buffet of vehicles to chew on, but now it was just my car on offer as breakfast for the cheeky alpine parrot.

For now the Kea were cruising the skies far above, and my focus wasn’t on parrot protection, it was on the task at hand and that was getting my broken self up to Lake Marian.

Marian Creek

The mish got off to an excellent start with a spectacular crossing via a swingbridge of Whakatipu Ka Tuka / Hollyford River. As clear as water can get and with surrounding scenery to match, a visit to the swingbridge alone is well worth your effort.

After the bridge the first part of the track rivals the famous Milford Track in width and grade. The established track means easy access to the Marian Rapids, and no matter what the flow of the water, the rapids will always look good in person and in pictures.

After a section of wooden walkway over the rapids of Marian Creek the track deteriorates and becomes more like a rough Fiordland track. Although well beaten, it has parts that involve scrambling up tree roots and rocky creek beds to negotiate, things I knew would be a challenge for my hip.

Views are rare while climbing up to the lake, with foliage hanging over the track most of the way up, but the glimpses of the cliffs of Mt Christina(2474m) are enough motivation to keep going. I was definitely moving slower than I used to, and setting a good pace was near on impossible. I had to take many rests, and every now and then I would get into the natural rhythm of hiking and go to use my bad leg to drag myself up some steep ground and ‘nope’ my hip would give out mid step. This would usually result in a stumble, but on a couple of occasions I was sent crashing down on the uneven ground. Knowing that Lake Marian’s beauty was going to distract me from my pain was enough motivation for me to pick myself up and get back in the game.

I got to a point where the track levels out and knowing I was now up in the hanging valley of Lake Marian was music to my hip’s ears. Now more a shuffle than a walk, I was still moving and my uncomfortable forward progress came to a halt when my eyes became overwhelmed by the spectacular sight of the lake and its surrounding mountains. I made it, and now it was time to bask in the glory of victory!

Views of stunning scenery to rival any on the planet greeted me and I was the only person there to see them. Legendary Darran Mountains like Mount Christina(2474m), Crosscut(2263m), Adelaide(2162m), Sabre(2086m) and Lyttle(1899m) surround the still, deep, dark green waters of the pristine alpine lake. I made my way around the lake and found a huge rock just perfect for me to sit back on and enjoy my breakfast. As I began to eat, the reality of my predicament began to flood my mind like the rain that falls in this area so often. I had got up to the lake, now it was time to see if I could get back down to my car…

New Zealand. What a place to explore!

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