Everyday is Different (Part Four) – The Humpridge Track

“On a Mish” #98 Everyday is Different – Part Four. The Humpridge Track. Fiordland National Park. 28.4.2011. As Track Manager on the Humpridge Track I would often walk the track with some gear to repair any sections that had suffered any damage while being constantly battered by the Fiordland weather. This meant spending a lot of time with a hammer and nails up on the impressive boardwalk that spans huge sections of the alpine area of the track. A real testament of how everyday is different is the fact that after starting at the tracks lodge in the sky, Okaka. You then make your way out of the alpine zone, down through the different layers of forest and bush down to the south coast. I would repeat this walk many times as Track Manager, however back in 2011 I was hiking the track for the first time and every step was accompanied by views that I was seeing for the very first time.

We began the descent to the coast after a break at the little shelter where we spotted the massive Percy Burn Viaduct. Down, down ,down was the theme for the next couple of hours and it is safe to say we were happy to see the tram tracks and first of the three viaducts at the bottom of the Humpridge’s southern reach. From the base of the ridge the tram tracks continue over the Edwin Burn Viaduct before getting to the largest of the wooden structures, the Percy Burn Viaduct. The massive bridge has had an interesting life and was closed for many years due to it being deemed ‘unsafe’. Now and back then you could hike across it and the view from the middle is a real testament to the amazing construction of the bridge way back in the 1910s and 20s. The Sandhill Viaduct is the third and final bridge and after that is a notorious section of track leading to Port Craig Lodge. The hiking is flat and easy but due to the deep trench of the tram track, you get no reference points which makes the journey seem like it keeps going on forever.

Finally the tracks finished at the very cool Port Craig Schoolhouse, a DoC Hut that was once the school for the kids living at the Port Craig Timber mill back in the day. Twenty metres beyond the hut is Port Craig Lodge and most enjoy the pleasure of taking off their boots after hiking just under the distance of a half marathon. The site the lodge is built on was once the most modern sawmill in the southern hemisphere and the history of the sawmill still lives on in the form of many relics spread throughout the remote location. After a short rest we somehow mustered the strength to head down to the beach at Mussel bay. The lodge manager promised us dolphins and after clambering down the steps to the beach, we were rewarded with the opportunity to see a pod of tutumairekurai (special ocean dwellers). Evening very quickly became night and it was time to retreat to our rooms to recharge and prepare ourselves for the last day of our Humpridge Track adventure…

The Percy Burn Viaduct

New Zealand. What a place to explore!

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