Puninga O te Okaka – Hump Ridge Camp

“A Mish a Day” #47 Puninga o Te Okaka. Fiordland National Park. 23.3.2014. We are very spoiled for choice in Aotearoa when it comes to stunning places to hike. The South Island has every type of hike covered, from easy to extremely hard. The desired scenery can be found with a quick browse of a map, and with good planning an epic mish is basically guaranteed. South East Fiordland is one of those stunning places that offers so much to those who travel to this remote part of the world…

From Aparima / Riverton to the west the towns decrease in size, and the hills begin to increase in stature, eventually forming a wall of near impenetrable mountains. I was lucky enough to work on the Humpridge Track for a few years and an absolute treat that came with the job was visiting Okaka Lodge. Sitting on a high perch overlooking Te Waewae Bay, the views (when visibility permits) are incredible. One day I got the bright idea to slowly carry my camping gear up the hill to the alpine lodge, on my routine track and trap checks. Then the next day I was technically on my day off so I headed off north following the Hump Ridge proper, over Peak 1014m to a campsite about 2km along the ridge from the lodge. I found the least damp spot I could, then pitched my tent amongst the impressive Tors and Tarns that are scattered all along the 9km ‘Hump Ridge’. I had an excellent vantage point at about 990m above sea level and climbed a large Tor (exposed rock on the ridge) to watch the cloud gather in the valleys below me. The sunset over Southern Fiordland was breathtaking, and for about 20 minutes the sky slowly danced with the land in a collection of soft orange and red colours which then faded to purple, a dramatic way for the night to announce its presence. After the show I returned back to camp to cook dinner, relax and kick back to watch part two of the presentation – The Star Show, in the clear sky above camp. The evening certainly lived up to and exceeded my expectations, till it was time to retreat to the warmth of my sleeping bag.

I woke early-ish to an amazing purple glow in the sky as the sun rose, with the signs of classic Fiordland rain coming in from the west. Even though I was less than an hour away from a very well formed track, my campsite felt very remote. I quickly packed up my damp tent and made my way back south along the ridge so I wouldn’t get caught out in the rain. I had the option of waiting for the day’s helicopter and getting a ride back down the hill, but as some extra training I continued back down the rest of the 21km track to the car park. As I wandered along Blue Cliff Beach I looked back at the Hump Ridge to see the whole range engulfed in dark rain clouds, and it wasn’t long before I felt the drips of impending rain. The rain had set in by the time I got up off the beach and back to the car park, but that didn’t matter as I had already clocked up another epic mish. South Fiordland is a very special place and I highly recommend chucking on the boots and making the very rewarding effort of venturing into its remote ruggedness!

Camping amongst the torns and tarns

New Zealand. What a place to explore!

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