Wednesday, 12 November 2014

To the Lakehead- Nelson Lakes

…and don’t spare the horses (horsepower)!

It’s only 8kms to the top of the Lake Rotoiti so once the weather settled David got the boat out so we could go exploring and he could go fishing.

When we’re camped beside the water David manages to manoeuvre the boat in and out by himself but when we’re a little distance away, like we are here at Kerr Bay, we've come up with a novel way of towing it to the boat ramp. We used to walk it all the way to the water from wherever we were, but after doing something to my hip at Kaiteriteri and being in pain for days, I refuse to pull it any distance now. It wouldn't be so bad if the outboard wasn't on there but then David would have to cart that and set it up at the water so it’s easier towing it down complete.

A rope is attached from a centre back eyelet underneath to an upright that’s in the wellside and David sits on the tailgate holding it off the edge of the door and balancing it as I drive very slowly down to the water. The drop down back wheels allow it to roll along quite nicely on the road and I just have to watch turning any sharp corners as the boat catches the corner of the tailgate. We’ve had some odd looks and comments from people but it works for us. And anyway they’re just jealous!

Black billed gull #E61 was at the jetty to see us off.

The snow capped Travers Range comes into view as we round the bend past Mt Robert on the right.

Along the way we hear helicopters again, this time over the St Arnaud Range that runs right along the left hand side of the lake. And far off in the distance we see two helicopters with buckets underneath, this time, we know from the date on the signboards, they’re doing the placebo 1080 poison drop. They must have a very good tracking system of where they've dropped as they look like tiny dots on the landscape as they move back and forward along the range.

The lake, mountains, hanging valleys, beech forest & SANDFLIES remind us of the Mavora Lakes (still our favourite lakes), along with the rock & scree slides off the mountains which fan out towards the bottom killing trees along the way. This slide must be quite a few years old, scrub and regenerating forest is already taking hold.

As we get closer we can see the Travers River gravel flat and a tiny hut tucked into the trees, there are many tramping tracks & huts up the valley and into the mountains here, to the right behind the Robert Ridge are the tracks through to Lake Rotoroa. The Nelson Lakes National Park is very popular with trampers and a good area for families to experience the great outdoors.

A little closer and we can see a couple of boats beached at Coldwater Hut (no, you’re not blind, one is out of shot on the right)

There’s no one in sight, they’ve probably carried on up the valley to the another hut which is about 2kms up stream or to a swingbridge further on.

This is as far as we’ll go this trip, we had lunch at the picnic table on the hut deck looking back down the lake with just the ducks and pesky sandflies for company.

That was until I heard a noise, and a sweaty, boot and pack clad guy stumbled around the corner of the hut and sat on the steps. I don’t know who got the biggest surprise, he rested there for about 5 minutes telling us he’s walked up the lake from Kerr Bay, on up to the swingbridge and was now making his way back down the otherside of the lake. Each side is around 12kms long as it weaves around many small bays and the round trip takes 8-10hrs without adding the walk to the swingbridge into the mix. It was now about 2:30pm so he had a few hours walk ahead of him.

We finished our lunch and headed back down the lake, this time a little slower with David trolling on the way. The wind was picking up and there were a few whitecaps about but we stuck to the side as I wanted to visit the Whisky Falls which were about half way back along the lake edge.

David stayed with the boat and I walked up to the falls which are almost 40 metres high. The remains of an illicit whisky still were found here in the 1880s, giving the falls their name.

It was a short sharp climb up to a viewing area which happened to be on top of a whole lot of interwoven and exposed tree roots where many people have stood over the years. It was with some concern, that in amongst the roots I saw a pack & jacket. There was no one about, I looked over the edge; perhaps somebody had thrown themselves over- not likely it wasn’t that high and it would have hurt hitting those rocks ;). I looked all about and wondered what to do. Perhaps someone had forgotten them, again not likely, you would know you’re missing your pack after walking in to here for 3 hours.

I was just about to check the inside of the pack when I saw a tiny red dot (a cap) appear over the rocks at the top of the bottom cascade (see left photo) and a guy came slithering and sliding very carefully down the wet and mossy rocks. The Czech Republic guy we’d seen at the hut! He’d made good time but what a silly man venturing up to the base of the falls. He told me when he got back that he’d been very worried as the rocks were extremely slippery and he’d had a couple of near misses. If he’d slipped and hit his head on the otherside of the rocks nobody would have known he was missing; well maybe I would have as I’d have had to check the pack. But still what a drama it would have been. Now he was keen to get back to Kerr Bay and asked if he could fit in our boat!

“Sorry mate” I said, “It’s a squeeze with two people and we're going fishing, you’ll have to get walking, you’ve still got a few of hours ahead of you” 

I walked back down to the track with him and he headed off again, I carried on out to the jetty to find David had disappeared. He’d decided to do a little fishing while he waited.

We cruised back along the lake, David fishing on the way. The lake had settled down and it was very pleasant. I stretched out across the boat, lounging in the warm sun. Arrrr…..this is the life! But I do need to paint those toenails when I get a minute.

David hooked a small brown trout on this run but it spat the hook before he got it close. It would have been released anyway. He’s been out three or four times since, nearly all day on Monday and is thoroughly enjoying it and the Takacat. Unfortunately he’s yet to bring home the bacon, he has had two beauties on, played them all the way to the boat but both have managed to get off. I think it’s because he’s being super cautious; he’s darn scared the hook will puncture the boat!

And while he’s been fishing I’ve been keeping an eye on the duck families and they’ve been keeping an eye on me.

Remind us to never park beside nesting ducks ever again! It's been a very stressful week; the duck with 9 ducklings now has only 4, I’ve had to round up a wayward Mum & Dad a couple of times when they've disappeared after chasing other ducks and not returning to their babies who were squeaking under the van. I found them sunning themselves beside the stream way down the other end of the park! I think they had a brain fade and forgot they were parents, and this has happened more than once too. This family is the only one that has a drake in attendance, although a fat lot of good he does most of the time; he pecks the ducklings heads if they get in the way. He sometimes returns to the van late in the evening with another couple of drakes, it's like he's out with the boys for the night.

These ducklings are the cutest though, they feed on the sandflies that hover around my ankles when I sit at the table, jumping and grabbing them and scampering over my feet as they chase them. Mum is adorable too, I call her Daffy Duck, she stands beside me, as I sit at the table, peering over my knees just staring at my face, she lets me pat her neck unlike the other mothers who launch attacks on me if I get near.

The family with the eight bigger ducklings now has only seven, one disappeared overnight a few days ago which was strange after such a long time looking like they'd make it through. This family are spread far and wide when they're moving through the area feeding and I've found some of them lost without their mother anywhere in sight. Most of the time they seem to meet up at some stage and the next time they pass through they're back to being all there.

I did have to catch one lonely duckling who squawked his way through the vans while we were sitting outside one evening, I tracked his family down to the stream way over the other side; luckily as he wouldn't have made it home before night. And just today I played pied-piper and dropped a bread trail across the park so Mum & 5 ducklings would follow me to the stream mouth where two ducklings were fending for themselves.

And then to add to the mix another duck came out of the bushes a few days ago with another 9 tiny ducklings. I swore I wouldn't get attached to them but I did notice that they only numbered 8 the next morning and yesterday I found another one of them upside down dead in the stream behind the van- he must have been the one with the sore foot. Then to add to their(my) woes DOC came to mow the lawns & weed-eat the stream edges and that scattered the family far and wide, She now only has 3 ducklings!

I can tell you, I’m ready to pull out of here today, that’s for sure, I'm sure the families will be fine, there's plenty of other suckers in the campground each night.

 We're heading back to Blenheim for a couple of nights then onto Picton before we cross over Sunday morning. We've enjoyed out time at the Lakes but it's time to move on.

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