Wednesday 15 February 2012

Upside down

It's a dreary sight, watching your togs and sarong hanging from the washing line, dripping wet as the rain pours down. It's Nature saying, Your holiday is over, yah boo sucks to you.

It's also a little bizarre, to see steady drizzle, normally a rarity in Auckland which tends to favour more the short, sharp, bucketing-down variety, in usually sunny February - while I write about a drought in Fiordland, where they get around 8 metres of rain annually. Unlike my previous tramp down there, along the Milford Track, when Day 1 had us wading through waist-high icy water as waterfalls sprang off the bare rock of the cliffs and the river overflowed its banks, the Hollyford Valley treated us to clear blue skies and a river with wide stony banks for us to sprawl on at lunchtime, gazing up at the dazzling snow on the peaks.

All the guides and lodge staff were astonished by the weather, but we walkers took it in our, er, stride, instead marvelling at the literally over-the-top scenery and at the stories we were told of drama, duplicity and derring-do. The star of the walk is Davey Gunn, who won the Coronation Medal in 1936 for a magnificent Iron Man-type performance when he ran, rowed ("with uneven oars!" guide Mike squeaked incredulously every time he told the story), rode and ran again for 90km in just 20 hours through the night to the nearest telephone to get help for four men injured in a plane crash. It's a great story - though the one where he got snagged on a broken branch while chasing steers through the bush, ripping open his thigh and scrotum, rode back to the hut to stitch the wounds with a darning needle and fishing line, and then continued the muster, is pretty nearly as compelling.

With a commentary like that, you need something quite spectacular to compete for attention. Luckily the Hollyford Valley has that sort of thing in spades.

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