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The Rock-itt : June 2011
The South Island New Zealand is home to its two premier Great Walks; the best known is the Milford Track and a close second is its neighbour, the Routeburn Track. Unlike its senior cousin, the Routeburn has a variety of options for starting and beginning but we chose to approach it via another track called the Caples Track. Starting from Fiordland’s wilderness gateway, Queenstown, the frontier outpost for adventure we settled in for our first night at a small settlement called Glenorchy on the far north eastern shores of Lake Wakatipu. Here trampers are conditioned to the journey ahead where huts are equipped with bunks and little modern day luxuries. The township has a pub and a restaurant for hungry hikers at the start or end of their trips. Next morning we took a bus past an even smaller locality called Kinloch on the opposite shore of the lake where two river valleys meet at the lake, a bay known as Elfin Bay; the Greenstone valley and the Caples valley. Taking the right fork we started from the car park through beech woodland and old farm land. Crossing streams, the former Birchdale Station Homestead and open flats we trudged through the Caples valley en route to the Upper Caples Hut, a walk of approximately 6 hours from the car park. A short lunchbreak was taken at Mid Caples Hut in warm weather and as bookings for the overnight stay are not permitted, we pressed on to ensure we could guarantee a bunk in the 16 bunk hut. The hut itself has only has a pot belly stove and no lighting, is in a clearing and by the Caples river, which serves as a useful, though very cold, bathing spot. As dusk settles, the hut is a hive of activity with trampers cooking up their evening meal after a hard days walking. The scene resem bles a mine chamber with miner’s lamps providing the only light. Dawn reveals a wintry scene with frost tipped grass and sun bathing the peaks above the hut, and with a long day ahead of us, breakfast is finished early. Carrying all food, cooking equipment and sleeping bags, our packs are carefully reorganised and the hut is cleaned for the next guests.