Monday 12 December 2011

Hollyford Valley Walk

Hollyford Valley, done and dusted. Three days of walking, all different: 17km the first day, easy walking but SO MUCH OF IT along the valley bottom, following the beautifully clean, clear, turquoise Hollyford River with the snow bright on the peaks, finally getting to Pyke Lodge where we were met with drinks and nibbles and venison and pud. Then another day of walking through ancient forest and along the coast, 12km interpersed with jetboat rides past the hard and tedious Demon's Track to the end of the river and the rookery where we found not rooks but NZ fur seals, including cute fluffy babies; and another lodge with more drinks and nibbles and salmon and pud. And then today there were 7km along the Hollyford Bar, the long sandspit that back in 1860s claimed one ship in every three that tried to sail through the narrow gap (the Baby, who was with me, claimed Hollyford Bar should be a pub where you could buy, as well as drinks, tshirts reading 'I got wrecked on the Hollyford Bar').

In this rainforest area we struck a two-week drought, with the river dropped by 2m and the filmy ferns shrivelling up, but everything else green and lovely, and the track dry and easy. A wind got up on our last night and it rained, but it was gone by morning and we had a spectacular flight out in little planes that taxied over from the grass airstrip to pick us up right at the front door of the lodge. We flew along the rugged coast and took a sharp left at the entrance to Milford Sound, flying below the tops of those astonishingly high, bare peaks, streaked with waterfalls - though not as sharp a turn as the last one to line up on the strip at Milford, when we stood on one wing.

The star of the whole show was Mike, our young guide who was so knowledgeable and enthusiastic and thoughful and funny, and got us excited about a spindly moss - the world's first vascular plant! it's Jurassic! - and fascinated by early pioneer history - Big John Roberts lay face down on his living room floor for 10 days while his wife tried to organise the dressed wood for his coffin - and able to recognise rocks from the different ranges all around us. It was a brilliant three days, and the walk was a stunner.

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