Days two and three walking one of the best tracks in New Zealand, the Hump Ridge Track, a 62km three day hike through southern Fjordland. I walked it during the last days of 2021, five years after my first time on the track. I found it more of a slog in places than I remembered, and I’d somehow forgotten about the masses of sandflies, but the highlights remained as compelling second time around.
I woke at dawn at Okaka Lodge to a view of cloud, but thankfully after breakfast it cleared to sunshine.
The near 900m climbed yesterday was lost today, though initially the track was undulating, a couple of hundred metres up and down over a few hills. The boardwalk and the views continued. The track can only be walked in a anti-clockwise direction so there is a bit of a procession of people first thing but they spread out over the day.
It started to rain quite heavily so I was glad to reach the lunch shelter.
From here was an endless downhill, a mixture of boardwalk and tree roots, hard work on the knees.
It also got increasing muddy as I descended. Not to the levels of Stewart Island but certainly enough to warrant watching your step.
The track becomes super flat from Edwin Burn Viaduct, the first of a series of giant wooden structures seemingly in the middle of nowhere. They were built in the early 20th century as part of one of the largest forestry operations in New Zealand. Along them ran a railway carrying equipment and logs to Port Craig, the destination for the day. Left for decades to ruin, they have recently been restored so that they’re safe to cross.
The largest is Percy Burn Viaduct, 125m long and 36m high.
Neighbouring the viaduct Percy Burn Hut is a rather odd looking place, available for private hire from the Viaducts Trust.
From here it was a bit of a slog walking for a couple of hours along a flat, straight, and often muddy track, on sleepers from the original railway.
The old Port Craig schoolhouse remains and has been converted into a DOC hut as part of the South Coast Track.
Port Craig Lodge is the accommodation for Hump Ridge Track walkers. It has more features than your typically DOC hut with showers ($10 for 4 minutes), sofas, and food available to buy, including tasty sausages from nearby Tuatapere, the sausage capital of New Zealand. It is also one of the more sandfly infested places I’ve been, so insect repellents or longs are recommended. Both this and Okaka Lodge were built for 44 people but they’ve recently converted three of the 8 person bunk rooms into 4 person private rooms. Having fewer people in the lodge definitely helps in the common areas during peak season.
There are a number of reminders of the once quite sizeable Port Craig community, the hub for the forestry work, and port for exporting the logs.
The old wharf remains down at the bay, where Hector dolphins swam by, and the air was thick with sandflies.
The third and final day was the least memorable, repeating half of day one as it’s a loop track, but there were still some attractive sights, including this beautiful fern filled bush, and cold sausages to snack on.
The track was undulating, quite tiring work, before returning to the coast to walk along these stunning sections of beach.
At the last, and smallest section of beach, I stopped for lunch. As if on cue Hector Dolphins swam by. I had to quickly layer up to protect myself from the ever present sandflies. The photo of clothing left on the ground shows how many there were.
Just beyond the beach the track completes the loop by rejoining the section walked on the first day. I was looking forward to finishing by this point, but enjoyed walking back along Bluecliffs Beach.