Wednesday 18 January 2012

Day 290 - Otago Hike

Antonia thinks we're very cute! That's what having a daughter is for...
 Today we were supposed to be going on a longer 'stroll' to Macetown which is a ghost town from the gold era not far from Arrowtown.  Instead of doing that we ended up having quite an adventure.  The first part of the walk was straightforward enough and we got great views over the surrounding country.  When we reached an intersection in the trail system, we realised that the supposed distance to Macetown was stretching out, and if this sign was right, we probably couldn't make it that day.  We started following a route off to our right, which the sign said would get us back to Arrowtown in two and a half hours.  Unfortunately, as we were soon to learn, this is a route where you have to follow poles.  Half of them are down, and they have only a vague relationship with any paths there may be, which are probably mostly made by sheep.  There were some French Canadian guys just in front of us, and when they lost the poles and ran up against a fence, they decided it was probably meant to be followed.  I couldn't see any more poles either, and the fence seemed to be going in the right direction, so off we went.  We actually had quite a good time sliding down the tussocks of grass on our behinds!

What shall we do now?
The fence led us to a precipice from which we could see the road and the river below, and even Arrowtown but couldn't get down.  We had to start working our way along away from where we wanted to go and mostly uphill.  At this point I was starting to worry about the water more than anything.  We had passed lots of water sources earlier and I had iodine tabs but for some reason we were now in a dry area and being forced back uphill away from anything that looked like it might be wetter land.  We were really tired, because it is twice as hard work fighting your way through grass as walking along a path.  In the end we got to a flattish place and Mike decided to call for help.  I wasn't too sure about this because it seemed to me that it sets in motion a train of action that leads to an expensive and embarrassing helicopter turning up and I didn't think we were there yet.  We really had everything we needed except more water, which I was sure we could get, and a route.  Fortunately, they didn't do the helicopter thing.  Mike spoke to someone in Auckland who relayed him to someone in Christchurch.  That person took a detailed hiking map and gave Mike the gps coordinate for the path.  It turned out to be only 400 metres to the north west but completely invisible from where we were sitting.

Otago foxgloves for my father, to distract him from fussing when he reads this post!!!
 It turned out that the only problem with the phone calls was the time it takes.  I'm sure we spent 45 minutes over the first one, then Antonia and I waited about 30 minutes when we got to the path, waiting for Mike to get back in touch with the guy to let him know we were OK.  When we finally made it back to Arrowtown, we had to make another call to them to let them know we were back.  Although they asked us to call us, it was very hard to get back in touch with the right person each time, or feel sure that they had really updated our situation.

Back on track - the small point in the middle is Antonia standing by a post.
In the meantime, we were back on the path.  Antonia, who had been getting quite worried was now full of energy and raring along, so she was the first to find the spring just above the path.  We filled our bottles and drank what was left of our remaining water, knowing we would only have to wait 30 minutes for the iodine to work.  It still wasn't absolutely easy finding our way down, because the poles are badly placed and falling over, still only vaguely connected to any existing paths and they finally dumped us just above the road.  We had to scout around again to find our way down to that, but it wasn't too hard.  Finally we were matching along the 4-wheel drive Macetown track on a 6 km trek back to Arrowtown, swigging down our iodine juice.  We arrived at dusk, which is about 9.30pm around here.  Sort of typical for a New Zealand hike really.  We are all completely exhausted and in full-on recovery mode.

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