Sludging in Swampland to Climbing Mountains

Trip Start Feb 09, 2010
Trip End Jul 17, 2010

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Lake Manapouri/Borland Road

Flag of New Zealand  , South Island,
Saturday, May 8, 2010

           We didn't exactly know which tramp we were going to do. There were a few options. We drove to the town that we would start "The Monument" on. To get to the start of the trail though, we would have to get a fairy ride across to the island. To get a fairy ride during the off-season (which it currently was) we had to go to the local Dairy. Paul and Tim went in to talk to them about the trail. They came back out. We drove to where the fairy leaves (with Tim driving) and once we got there realized that we had to go back to the Dairy to actually get the tickets or something like that. ...I’m not really sure, I just know that Tim parked the car and then Paul said, “Well, we should probably be at the Dairy if we want to do “The Monument”…” And then Tim laughed and said “Why didn’t you say something?” and Paul said, “I thought you were taking us somewhere else and knew what you were doing!” We ALL laughed so hard, and then started the van and drove back to the Dairy. Once we got there the guys got out again, this time to return and inform us that they called for a fairy but were told that it had flooded…guess no fairy rides for us. Apparently all transportation to the island had been shut down and there were no ways to get to the start of the trail.

            With this, we chose to do the Green Lake area. We drove (one of the most beautiful drives yet) through mountains that towered directly on either side of the dirt road we were on. We finally got to a point (the Borland Saddle Trail start) and reasoned that we should park the van and then walk to the start of our trail to avoid getting any deeper into the steep dirt road that was prone to flooding over the night. We piled out of the van only to feel the crisp cold air. We could all tell it was going to be a very cold night. We packed up our bags for the night, got our packs ready, soaked in the view for a few minutes, and set out for our trail.

            We hiked first through thick, lush forest (running into a bit of mud…yet we had no idea what was to come!). Next we came to a huge open valley of tall wheat-looking grass surrounded completely by towering mountains. We walked through this open field for a good hour. The ground was extremely muddy and I think almost everyone had at least one fall into the mud. The mud would grab onto your shoes and just wouldn’t let go sometimes. At one point I remember I was tramping along pretty well, was in the middle of talking (of course), and BOOM! Fell face-first all the way down onto the ground; backpack and all. The thick weeds softened my fall as I could hear Mike (who was walking behind me) burst into laughter and yell out, “MAN DOWN!” It was one of the most funny (should be “embarrassing”, yet I’ve had too many of these moments to be embarrassed by this point) things that have ever happened to me! I just remember my hands clinging to the tall grass on either side of me as my face hit the ground first and then my backpack thumping up against my back a second later. The funny thing was, I was still talking to Mike as my face was in the ground. Ah, this memory still makes me laugh so hard; even while writing this now.

            Soon after, we came to the true swampland. There was sponge-like mold growing over the soft ground and at any point you could just sink right through to a mud-hole. In fact, both Tim and Paul did sink all the way through at times. (See pictures.) It was so fun trying to walk quickly enough to not sink, yet slowly enough to not step right out of our shoes. The next terrain we encountered was a beech forest with wet, gray sand in parts. We walked through a forest of tall, white-barked trees before coming to another mountain. We climbed up the side of a mountain, using mainly roots as our footholds. I remember thinking, “Don’t look up. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other, making sure not to slip. Don’t get tired. You’re almost there. Just don’t look up.” As we reached the top, the trail just went back down. So we went straight back down and soon back up and over the next mountain. By this point in the trip it was getting dark and the trees towering around our path made it even darker. This was when I was so thankful to have my own headlamp. We turned our lights on and kept going. We had been hiking for hours and didn’t quite know how long we had left. About another hour or so later we came to a second field of tall weeds/grass (whatever they were). It was slightly harder to navigate around the mud this time with it being dark. I remember just giving in and stepping through the mud (after hours and hours of being in the mud, you really have nothing to avoid anymore…you’re already covered). We jumped over a few creeks and finally made it to the lake. We knew we were getting close. The combination of the very cold air (especially since the sun disappeared) and the wet conditions made us ready for a hut. We followed the banks of the lake around and finally saw the light of a hut. When we arrived there was another group of trampers there that had already started a fire. The air inside the hut felt so warm against my skin. Everyone slept inside the hut (mainly on the floor in sleeping bags) to stay warm through the night. Paul and Mike braved the tents outside.

            We woke before sunrise, packed our bags, ate breakfast, and set out for the tramp back. Back through the beech forest, over mountain tops, across swampland and wide grass-filled valleys, over creeks, and directly through the mud. It was easily the most diverse-terrain trail I have encountered yet!

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