Following our gruelling walk to the Waitutu River, we had a rest day at the WaitutuLodge (http://www.waitutu.co.nz/ on the Wairaurahiri River to pamper Della’s knee and socialise with the delightful caretakers. Well restored we said our farewells to Rose Baldwin who had made us a delicious dinner the night before, and set off to conquer the track to Port Craig school house. Pete accompanied us (half way) as far as the Percy Burn (private – can be booked) Hut (lunch) where he met his son, Daniel who was walking in for a visit.
After the first half hour from the Wairurahiri the track follows an old tramway all the way to Port Craig which was an old logging town in the 1920s. It is astonishing how well the 90 year old sleepers have lasted. There are a number of trestle bridges, the most spectacular being that over the Percy Burn (unfortunately closed since the recent earthquakes) at 125 metres long and 36 metres tall (unbelievably vast single eucalypt trunks from NSW). It took us about 8 hours to do what was suggested to be 6-7 but it was easy flat going with many mementoes of the early logging days along the way: wheels, hitch pins, sections of track, old saucepans…
The Port Craig Lodge was (unfortunately) closed for the season (16th April!) Normally you can have hot showers, heated accommodation, booze & etc here. The old school house is lovely though, much like my memories of my old primary school Martins Creek, and is a ‘serviced’ hut meaning eg that wood is supplied (it wasn’t cold enough for a fire though). It costs three hut tickets ($15) unlike the ‘normal’ ‘DOC huts ($5). There are many curios of the old settlement scattered about here, including the framework and winch from a huge log hauler. It would be well worth spending a second day and exploring further.
Just after Port Craig you CAN walk along the beach at low(ish) tide cutting off an hour of track time (but there is some rock hopping – unwise with our knees) and the tide was near full anyway. Breakneck Creek bridge (Hoka Stream) is about half way (and is where you would normally enter/exit the alternate beach walk. After that, the track often takes you along interesting beaches which is lovely on a sunny day (it was raining all day – except lunch – for us!)
After you pass the weekenders (NZ = ‘bachs’) near the Waikoua Mouth there is a very tall, steep staircase up into the Rowallan Forest and about forty minutes flat walking to the car park (which Della misheard me saying was only a ‘few’ minutes!) We took about 8 ½ hours for the section from Port Craig (I took 6 ½ last year one way, & 5 ½ on the beach the other) In retrospect Della would have been better suited to roughly halving the walks (as her eyesight makes for very slow going). We should have planned to camp half way out to the Waitutu and again to Westies. A night at the Percy Burn hut on the return trip would have been more congenial, and on the next day a camp after the Track Burn (a number of private hut verandahs available) or grassy areas along the Blowholes Beach where we could have pitched our tent.
She IS happy to return to the Waitutu Lodge eg next year (via jet boat), stay a little longer and walk out more slowly. I might leave her there for four days and make a break again for Westies! Average temperature (Invercargill) is 17-18C in April (warmer in the forest along the South Coast Track, probably 1-2C warmer in March. You can use Elders 28 day rainfall forecast for SW Tas to give an indication of a High coming. No rain would be welcome:http://www.eldersweather.com.au/raindates.jsp?dc=disableCookies<=wzdist&lc=t03 If you want to check where we went, go to this page (http://www.nztopomaps.com./), find your way to Tuatapere (bottom centre South Island), then head West along the coast: