Posted by: Talie Morrison | January 22, 2015

Lake Poteriteri (and beyond)



After getting back from Stewart Island, I started putting together my next trip.   I needed to coordinate a drop off and pick up with the Wairaurahiri Jet Boat folks.   It worked out for them to take me in on the 10th of January (I just was off of Stewart Island on the 4th) and pick me up on the 20th of January.   So before my scratches had even had time to heal, I was on the go again!   I have definitely decided (the hard way) that Dirty Girl Gaiters are not beefy enough for the New Zealand Bush Bashing that I always seem to have going on!   But considering that those are the worst of my problems, I feel pretty lucky!


So Johan (Wairaurahiri Jet Boats) dropped me off along the side of the Wairaurahiri River and said if I followed a little creek up a ways, I would get to the route (not quite a “track”) to Lake Poteriteri.   That worked great – and the route was a bit rough!   When the ferns have overgrown the trail, I can’t see where I am putting my feet, and there are all sorts of things under the ferns to worry about: logs, sticks, rocks, holes, mud, just to name a few!   It is sort of like walking by braille.   I just have to feel my way before actually stepping.   So if you think I am slow – I get really slow when I can’t see my feet! Anyway, I got to the hut at 8 pm (a 9 hour walk) and the DoC worker who was there was pretty surprised to have someone show up at that hour! I set my hammock up next to the hut in some trees on the beach and had a view of the lake from my “bed”.   It was great! Of course the wind was blasting pretty good, and when the wind stopped the sandflies and mosquitos were thick!   But nothing that I hadn’t expected! I was just very excited to actually be at Lake Poteriteri after having seen it in 2002 from the Humpridge and wanting to go THERE!   It took me 12 years, but I made it!


From the Lake Poteriteri Hut to the Slaughterburn Hut there is NO track – so it is about 17 kilometers of bush bashing.   Ok – I expected that too.   The notations in the hut log were pretty intense: “13 hours, had to camp along the way”; “12.5 hours, don’t forget your compass”; “12 hours, camped on the tops”.   So I was in for some interesting travel!   However, the DoC worker (that’s Department of Conservation – like our Forest Service) said that on Monday (it was Saturday when I got there) a helicopter was taking him over to a river called the Grant Burn.   That would be on my way past all the bush bashing …. Hum…..   So I crossed my fingers and said some prayers and at 8 am on Monday, just in case, I was ready to go – and sure enough it was a Helicopter from Heaven and there was room for me to ride in the backseat!   YEA!   Was I ever HAPPY!


So from Grant Burn, I had to do a wee bit of bush bashing to get to the South Coast Track – but once I was on it, it was a beautiful thing to get to Westies Hut.   It is the last hut on the South Coast Track.   To get down to it, you have to hold onto a pretty flimsy rope along side a pretty intense cliff – but I guess I can thank Skip and Ruth for taking me to so many scary places – I didn’t even think twice!


Westies is an old hut – not even managed by DoC – that has lots of character and “funk”.   It is in a cave which is just above the high tide line. I guess you just can’t let your mind wander to the “what if’s”….. So I loved it and spent 2 nights there.   The day between, I hiked the rest of the way on the South Coast Track to look down onto Big River – which was where I had originally planned to turn around.   The maps show that it is the end of the track, but I have a feeling that some track must go on up Big River.   Anyway, I was happy and well willing to head back to Westies.


From Westies, I hiked back past Grant Burn, to the Waitutu Hut.   I still wanted to get to Slaughterburn Hut even through there wasn’t an official track going up there.   In Waitutu’s Hut register, someone had written directions on how to get to Slaughterburn (following a trappers line).   It was perfect and, by being diligent in following the yellow trapper’s markings, I got to Slaughterburn in 5 hours. Another, Yea!


So the rest of the trip was pretty straight forward – back down to Waitutu and then along to Wairaurahiri Hut (even though that was a 7.5 hour slog in the rain and mud!).   On an 11 day trip, I only saw people 2 days (and that was at Westies).

Johan with his Wairaurahiri Jet Boat met me at the mouth of the Wairaurahiri River where I had a lovely lunch feast with his clients and then a spectacular jet boat ride (1.5 hrs) back up the Wairaurahiri River.   Even without the great backcountry trip, the jet boat ride is well worth it!   Very exciting – if you are in this part of New Zealand, call up Johan and Joyce and definitely book a trip down the Wairaurahiri for the day!

So now I need a little time to let my scratches and scrapes heal.  I guess I am looking for some slightly “beefier” knee high gaiters for my New Zealand adventures!  Ah, well, sometimes I learn the hard way!





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