20. Upper Spey – West Arm (Dusky Track 8/8) – Manapouri – Te Anau

Thursday, March 2: Overcast to begin with, a little variable, changing to sunny in Te Anau

Tramping: 13.5 km

Steamer’s Backpackers

My decision had been a long time in the making as well, but probably not as excruciating as the waking in anticipation of leaving that had people fiddling about from 4:00 onwards. Eventually Dave made a call of, “Time to get up,” at 6:00 and up everyone was except for me. That meant that the first to leave were out just after 7:00, the last around 7:30, and me as the rear guard @ 8:00.

I had decided to join my new group on the ferry back today, and not spend the night on the track as previously planned. The weather was not great for one, and while I could get little done in what was left of the afternoon, I could at least have a shower and eat something halfway decent, in order to get some serious work done on Friday and Saturday.

The plan was to reach the first pair of walkwires at around 9:00; have an hydration break @ 10:00; reach the last set around 11:00, and by that time I would know whether I would get the 13:45 boat or not.

The plan was well executed; I avoided getting stuck in the mud and in my view the mud was no better or worse than in other places on the track (and certainly over a longer distance the mud seemed average). One or two completely unbridged streams but nothing much worse. Bruce’s warning (and Peter’s later observation) that the track was hard to find around large tree falls was not really founded – at least if you took some care to work around the tree falls and not take off into the bush the track always seemed to reappear on the other side. Perhaps they had been to generous about avoiding the fallen trees.

The first walkwires were reached on time and an open area was found a little later for the hydration break. I could see a very steep ridge on the left which was the boundary of the last part of the Spey Valley, and marched on, sometimes faster, sometimes slower. The next pair of walkwires turned up just after 11:00 and were photographed; now on to the final slog.

This was indeed the end of the Spey Valley and the track was mainly along its upper sandy banks, but occasionally descending onto the odd tributary bed. About halfway to the end a sign had writing on it: Either 200 m into the bush followed by 800 m climb to the road (high water route) or 1.2 km low water route along the river. I saw no reason for the high water detour & continued along the river.

About 15 minutes later I spotted Paul & Kerrie, and overtook Kerrie. At one point the track left the river bank and ascended without any clear rationale (e.g bypassing a bluff) and at the top there was the road, with Gort & Louise waiting for us, and Cathy & Dave a little way up the road. I took photos of the fabulous five for them and then we did the lap of honour together.

We were well in time for the boat and could have our lunch. A woman, Jocelyn, appeared after a little while and she was apparently the purser. She took the voucher for the others, and had me write my name on her manifest. A boat arrived and disgorged a larger group of people for an “overnight cruise”. Then a bus arrived and likewise disgorged its contents. Eventually the contents of the bus and we trampers were all let onto the larger boat that had been waiting the whole time and the bar was raided for coffee.

The trip back was fairly uneventful but it did become noticeably warmer & brighter as we crossed the lake. Nice views of the mountains including Titiroa with its snow white peak, and also of the – again, alas – unreachable Monument, who someone pointed out was a volcanic plug.

Ending the great Dusky Track. GPS quality: 30/30, coverage: 100%, Upper Spey - West Arm GPX (52 downloads) West Arm - Pearl Harbour (Boat) GPX (57 downloads)
Change to ferry route
Can’t see map? Click here!

Dave offered to take me to Te Anau, and as we were all planning to stay at Lakeview this would be convenient for both of us, apart from saving me $8. I went to the ticket office and paid my $44 for the boat trip alone, and was so quickly dealt with that I was able to follow Dave up to his van where we all threw our packs into the back, and Terry & I travelled with Cathy & Dave to the motorcamp. There was a short stop at a petrol station to wait & see whether Gort & his party had gotten their car started and soon we were on our way to Te Anau.

The accommodation question had to be resolved. Gort had sorted out two four-bed tourist flats, which would have left one bed for me, but that would only have meant I would have to move to my designated single room with all my stuff the next day. I arranged to have my booking extended to today and this was able to stay in this single room with a slight lock problem for three days.

Stripped off the hiking stuff & put everything that had to go in the washing machine in a pile by the window, then took off down the hall draped in only my towel to the showers. Warm water! Then the boots, which were clearly stinking out the whole room, had to be washed, and now clothed in something fresh & smelling respectable I took off for Luxmore Lounge for some internet (ho hum), meeting Bo & Sjos on the way in, the Englishman from Mason Bay once there, as well as Ida who had also just come off the track.

Time was moving on, and I needed a shopping list so that I could have breakfast here tomorrow, as well as a celebratory meal. I chose the beef & cheese hamburger with chips at the Ranch ($16 plus $9 Speight’s Gold handle). Nice how they get the pattie to be so crispy. I had a hard time finishing it, but it was good to be eating some real food again.

On the way back ran into Jack at his hostel, strumming away at a ukelele and sipping some red wine. Nico’s gaiters had fallen apart and he is considering a lighter pack for the next round. But the track had left its mark on both of them.

Back here some sort of Kiwi cookout marathon with loads of food had been ongoing in the West Arm recreation room. I tried getting some internet but it was very poor & the laptop was behaving poorly (an hour and twenty minutes to copy all the pictures from the card to the internal hard drive). Packed everything up & went back to the room where I copied all the pictures to the external drive in a couple of minutes.

Time for bed – a soft bed, a real pillow, room to move my legs, and no fear of making too much noise rolling over, no steps to climb down if I need to get up. Part of the world is back in order.