Kiwi As_________ The New Zealanders never finish that bit of the simile, which is too bad because that’s the crux of it. “Sweet As______,” “Cool As_______,” “Kiwi As________.” Never closure. It’s a particular shame because in other styles of expression, they can be quite colorful. “I’ll bet my left testie” comes to mind. Or “as obvious as dog’s balls.”
At any rate, last weekend I went tramping Kiwi style–Wet Boots. “Kiwi As wading thigh deep through crystal clear snow melt in one’s prize leather hiking boots.” Striped polyprop leggings with short shorts and gaiters would have completed the picture, but it was too warm for leggings that day. Growing up in the northeast USA I had adopted the hiking mantra: “whatever else comes, at least keep your boots dry, and you’ll be ok.” Walking straight through thigh-deep rivers in expensive leather boots seemed a travesty, but, “when in Rome, do as the Romans”….I’ve adopted the practice. Besides, at times there’s not much choice.
My friend Carrie and I took to the hills with a forecast of “fine” weather (to this day I’m confused as to whether that means “sunny,” or merely “not raining.” As we chatted our way up the Minga river valley in Arthur’s pass I thought of a book I’d read by a British author, characterizing kiwi trampers as chatty and always coming in pairs. Yup, that was us. It was Carrie’s first weekend away from her baby, so she was particularly giddy with the regained freedom.
Mingha River narrows up towards the saddle to a stream, and a gorgeous one at that. What makes that blue color to the water? I’ve been told “glacier flour,” which is particularly unsatisfactory answer because glacier-crushed rock is still made up of specific minerals that have distinct names. Plus, we went up to the river source for this watershed and there aren’t any glaciers. Whenever I see beautiful cold pools of clear water like this I think of my college buddy Emily, from Oregon, who, like a naiad, never able to resist a dunk in alluring stream pools.
There’s our hut for the night, in Goat Pass. We dropped most of our gear there, then climbed up a mountain overlooking the pass to find a little alpine lake reputed to be beautiful. This bit of the hike had no trail, but it didn’t really matter because there weren’t any trees either. The Deception River valley is beyond the hut, a sinister name if there ever was one. One day a year scores of intrepid runners traverse this pass, competing in the Coast to Coast race, an endurance test that includes biking, running and kayaking. We decided that we were quite happy walking.
We got up the shoulder of Mt Oates (the peak is behind), and realized that the lake was up still a bit further. That dark spot where all the snow is melted is where the waterfall exits the lake. It looked like a long way away from where we were standing, but the snowy landscape wasn’t as massive as it seemed, and we tooled along to the lake in short time.
There she is, Lake Mavis, tucked into the clavicle of Mt Oates. Whatever possessed the namer to label this alpine tarn with such a stodgy and unromantic name, I’ll never know. Even the alpine mud puddle that is the official headwaters of the Hudson River has a lyrical title, “Lake Tear of the Clouds.” In summer this would be a superb place to tent, but given the dark early nights of winter, we scrambled back down to the hut to put on our “puffer” jackets and ensconce in our toasty sleeping bags.
Here’s our hut, 20 bunks but we’re the only souls out here on a gorgeous winter weekend. Not sure why DOC thought it necessary to put the water cistern in FRONT of the porch…. The hut has no heat so we watched the stars come out while completely swaddled in our mummy bags, then went to bed early and slept nearly 12 hours.
Morning found the valley swathed in mist, with the tips of the sunny mountains promising warmth to come. I could imagine native peoples coming up with interesting mythology about creatures who breathed over the land and created fog.
Boiling water for tea and oatmeal is a good start to the day. Hurrah for efficient little camping stoves and tidy canisters of butane.
The night before we had wagered from the sun set position that the hut wouldn’t see the morning rays, but we were wrong. We sat with our breakfasts, sunning ourselves like turtles on the front porch.
There was a little knob protruding from the valley near the hut, and we decided to climb it and take in the view. Frost had turned to icy dew on the grasses, but the puddles were still frozen.
Here we are on the nob. What a backdrop for a cartwheel! Carrie is a much more accomplished cartwheeler than I, my wobbly flips hardly deserving to be called true cartwheels.
Carrie, thank you, we’ll do it again!