Still a Bit Buggered (Part One) – East Eglinton Track

“On a Mish” #280 Still a Bit Buggered (Part One). East Eglinton / MacKay Creek. Fiordland National Park. 2.6.2021. Not being able to do what you used to do can be very frustrating. For me, my injury has meant going from 12 hour days in the mountains to 12 months plus out of the game. The few forays into the hills I have been able to do have definitely kept me sane, but I still crave a solid multi-day mission. Unfortunately the engine works but the tyres are still a little bit flat…

Being totally exhausted after tackling some undulating terrain is a very satisfying feeling, particularly when coupled with enjoying the simple pleasures of either hut or camp life in the destination you have got yourself to. The want to tackle tough terrain will become a need, and before you know it you will become a certified wilderness addict.

I hit a plateau in my recovery, and things weren’t going to plan (if there ever was such a thing). I was enjoying the benefits of mobility while I slowly improved after my hip accident, but for some reason I got to a point where it felt like I wasn’t making any forward progress. Luckily and at the very least I wasn’t going backwards like many months ago, but I was frustrated at the delay in getting back to being 100%.

I decided I needed to test my current capabilities with an easy hike. So with a couple of days off work on my schedule I headed from my home in Te Anau straight into Fiordland National Park via the magnificent Milford Road.

Over the years I have slowly kept collecting memories from many missions available from the side of the road. My plan this time was to finally tick off the last marked track starting from the road, the only track I hadn’t hiked yet. On the map the East Eglinton Valley Track looked reasonably straightforward and my goal was to get a little along the trail and find a quiet place to camp alongside the river. With a bag pack I began my quest and apparently the forecast was for rain to clear in the afternoon. But I tended to disagree with what I had read as the rain pelted the windshield of my car.

Ten minutes after leaving my house I had to turn back as I had forgotten my water bottle. Not the best start and I should have taken this as a warning sign of things to come. I headed back and got my water bottle, and then it was back on my way with no sign of the rain clearing.

I arrived at the start of the track and thinking (because of the forecast) it was going to clear, I saddled up and began my slow plod up the valley. In the beginning I was protected from the now much lighter rain by the beech forest canopy. As nice as it was it was being mostly dry, the overhanging trees meant no views to begin with.

To my surprise the track immediately began to climb away from the river. I had taken a lot of time to study the map of the track and area, and the track definitely didn’t climb away from the river to begin with.

I followed the markers up into a section of the forest which was dominated by large red beech trees. It had been a while since I had seen beech trees (or any trees) this big, and the sight of the massive towers of tall timber motivated me to continue further.

After only 20 minutes or so I could feel the weight of the pack pushing on my hip, and it didn’t feel too good. Because of the pain I didn’t do my hip belt up and this meant all of the weight was on my shoulders. A big positive to today’s packs is the distribution of weight. So throwing that out of aliment makes for uncomfortable tramping. As if they felt like they were missing out, my shoulders began to strain under the weight with the pain added to my already sore hip.

As I pushed on further up the valley I had to check my GPS a couple of times as I was climbing far away from the river. This unplanned route change meant I was climbing away from my convenient riverside camp spot.

I reached a deep gut which I had to clamber down into and then up out of. I would have eaten up a small challenge like this for breakfast pre-breakage, but now the weight of my pack plus my bad hip made me feel like I was doing everything in quick-sand. I could tell I was far from being back to 100%, I was definitely still a bit buggered!

As I scrambled up the other side of the gut I was having doubts about what I was doing. I was starting to think going camping in the East Eglington wasn’t a very good idea…

The start of a stroll through the woods…

New Zealand. What a place to explore!

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