Dusky Track Adventures #1

2008: With My Son Bryn, Centre Pass, Tripod Hill, Dusky Track Fiordland NZ
2008: With My Son Bryn, Centre Pass, Tripod Hill, Dusky Track Fiordland NZ
2008: Kea, Centre Pass, Dusky Track Fiordland NZ
2008: Kea, Centre Pass, Dusky Track Fiordland NZ

I have been on this track now EIGHT times, first in March 2000; the last time April 2014. I hope it is NOT the last! Other folk go different places, I know, yet I keep returning to this magical place. (I go SOME other places too!) One reason I guess is I really like the solitude, and have pretty much figured out how to have the track to myself – or near enough, so sometimes I am there a week without seeing another soul, which is great. Another is I really would like to take a photo of a Fiordland moose – though I somewhat doubt that will ever happen, but I keep on trying. I guess I have been off track WAY up every watercourse flowing into the Seaforth Valley over the years looking for them (BEWARE: moraine holes!) I have seen lots of sign (prints, droppings, browse, barking, etc), even a glimpse of one once, so I guess I’ll keep on trying while I’m able. I know the DOC in Te Anau discourages people from venturing onto the Dusky (though practically none of the staff has ever been themselves!), but I am 65+, somewhat overweight and not specially fit, and I have no problem with it, so maybe you can give it a go. SOME ADVICE: Make sure you have the Backcountry Navigator App and appropriate NZtopo map on your phone (and a spare battery). Make sure your phone is in Flight Mode, and that the GPS is OFF unless you are checking your position – and turn it off overnight; it should easily last the trip. TAKE A TENT, or other shelter. It DOES rain awesomely at times and the streams can rise astonishingly, maybe leaving you trapped for days between huts/shelter. I usually carry a Nano Hammock (160 grams with Dyneema suspension) and an 8’x8’ zpacks cuben fibre tarp (150 grams) and my Neoair pad (320 grams), so for just under 650 grams I can have a dry safe night in the bush anytime (and I HAVE, lots of times!) You don’t need a flat spot for a hammock – and Fiordland has lots of trees! If the river starts rising, walk up a ridge (paying careful attention to your return route) until you are well clear of the high water, sling your hammock and wait it out. Such an eventuality won’t happen often, but if/when it does you will want to survive it (others before you have NOT!) The hammock & tarp also make for an excellent dry lunch stop on wet days. Take a Sat Phone or Mountain Radio &/or Epirb for emergency communication. NB: an Epirb is only for in extremis: Hauroko Tours tell the tale of a party dropped off at the Hauroko Hut who found they could not venture further up the Burn (high water/walkwire out) so hit the button. They were in a dry hut with a boat returning in THREE days. The Burn would also likely have gone down overnight. This is NOT what Emergency Services are for. I think the new Iridium Extreme is excellent (it also has Epirb and location logging functions) and will be updating my older model when finances suit. Lighten your pack weight as much as possible, but be prepared for a hike of at least TEN DAYS if attempting the whole hike. Mostly I do half the trip (Supper Cove either to/from Hauroko/Manapouri) taking advantage of the brilliant air services into Supper Cove (Wings on Water/Southern lakes Helicopters). I always try to share the flight with someone (eg as a backload) to reduce cost. The flight is so breathtakingly beautiful though, it is WORTH THE COST. Put it on your ‘bucket list’ (maybe stay a few days at the beautiful Supper Cove) even if you don’t walk much of the track. NB: You can walk across Supper Cove from approx half tide. In 2014 I placed some marker tapes and a buoy (just after the Hilda Burn) to aid finding this short-cut. It cuts out nearly an hour of not-so-pleasant root-tripping. A tramper we met on the South Coast Track this year said he had found and used it. Another way to lighten your load I have often used is to see if one of the flight operators is going in soon; ask them (for a fee) to hang a bag of food up for you in the Supper Cove boat-house. This way you can plan to stay even a week lazing and fishing at Supper Cove – don’t forget your hand-line and frypan/Alfoil! More posts soon…

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