Tramping Lake Roity-toity

Hola! It’s been a minute since I’ve posted a blog, I’ve been busy tramping around the Nelson region, (which is not what it sounds like, Mom.) Remember, tramping=hiking in Kiwi-speak.

Having checked off the westward tramping venture, next on the list was the southward-bound journey to Nelson Lakes, a national park centered around two major glacial lakes carved out of the Southern Alps during the last ice age, Lake Rotoiti and Lake Rotoroa. Nelson Lakes National Park is chock-full of great tracks; you can walk for an hour or two, or take on as much as an multi-day alpine trek. My hiking buddies and I had two days off of work, which meant just an overnight trip, so we chose the Lake Rotoiti circuit track, starting at one end of the lake, spending the night in the Lakehead Hut, and tramping back to the start the following day.

For this outing, my hiking buddies were my Nelson gang, the Americanos. How did I end up with a solid group of kick-ass friends here in little old Nelson who just happen to be from my home country? It’s a funny story. About the same time that I decided I would settle in Nelson for a bit, my best friend who’s currently living in São Paulo sent me a message saying that a girl she studied abroad with in Rio back in 2013 just posted a photo from Nelson, where she was living with her boyfriend and sister, all three of them on the same year-long visa as me.

Now, Nelson is great, but it’s not really considered a working holiday “destination;” as I’ve mentioned before the population here is highly concentrated with elderly folk, so I was pretty surprised to learn I actually had connections here. So anyways, we got connected on Facebook and they invited me over for the quintessential American pastime, a hamburger barbeque, and the rest is history. Life is funny, isn’t it?

In my humble opinion, the key to any solid day-trip is starting with a good old-fashioned supermarket run. So we threw our backpacks into Lil' Beezy's trunk and the four of us hit up the local New World for the hiking essentials: chocolate, black licorice, beer…oh, you don’t consider these hiking essentials? Well then you can’t hike with us.

When we arrived at the visitor center in St. Arnaud we were each prepared to pay the $15 Department of Conservation (DOC) fee to stay overnight in the hut at the other side of the lake, but as we told her our plans the attendant said, “I’ll do ya a deal, if you take this intentions book to the hut and bring us back the old one that’s there, I’ll give you four free passes.” Sixty dollars worth of DOC passes in exchange for carrying in a book weighing maybe a pound at most? Deal done ma’am, pleasure doing business with ya! So with the book in tow, we set out on the track around Lake Rotoiti.

Since the track is just a circuit around the lake, it's relatively even with very little elevation change along the way. Still, with full packs on our backs it was a decent amount of effort. We stopped at Whisky Falls for a lunch break, where unfortunately and quite disappointingly there was no whiskey to be found. (It’s called Whisky Falls because back in the 1880s an illegal whisky still was found nearby.) After lunch we stocked our pockets with black licorice for the trail and continued on.

After a few more hours of walking we reached a shallow but wide riverbed at the lakehead, as well as a sign indicating there was a swing bridge crossing further down the track. Three hours further to be exact. So, my friends, this is the story of how yet another New Zealand tramp resulted in a river crossing and wet boots. Dan and I tried to be strategic at first by crossing barefoot and carrying our boots, while Maddie and Iz charged ahead knee-deep into the water. It took about 7 seconds to realize the sister duo had chosen the better option. But hey, you live and you learn, right?

It all ended well though, since the hut wasn’t more than a couple hundred meters from the river (look at me, using the metric system like a damn Kiwi!) We got a fire going as soon as we reached the hut and set our boots and socks nearby to dry before grabbing our beers and soaking in the sunset on the hut deck.

After the sunset we went inside to play more a few card games by headlamp. Things were going well until someone pointed out the thick layer of mist that had rolled into the valley, through which the dark silhouettes of scattered trees were just barely visible. Now, I haven’t had a ton of experience with zombies, but if I were to imagine it, this was the perfect mist from which zombies would appear. So I was a little bit ill-at-ease the rest of the night, but I put on a brave face and thankfully the only thing I had to slay that night was the competition in our card games.

I was pretty stoked to see dawn the next morning, both because I could watch the sunrise out on the deck and because the threat of a zombie attack was no more. We whipped up some oatmeal for breakfast and drank a fair amount of coffee before realizing that while this particular DOC hut was stocked with firewood, it was unfortunately not stocked with toilet paper. Yikes. Luckily the walk back to the carpark (where we could use the facilities) was just a little over three hours. And we all made it without any accidents.

We filled the drive home with more than a few rounds of “Hey Cow," a game that consists of spotting some cows, rolling down your window and yelling, “Heyyyyy coooowwwwwww!” as loud as you can for as long as you can, then counting the number of cows that you get to lift their heads to look at you. It sounds kinda dumb, it is kinda dumb, but it is also kinda the best entertainment I’ve had in a car in a long time.

So Lake "Roity-toity" as we pronounced it, was a great little overnight tramp, not too challenging, but enough to feel it the next day, with great scenery the whole way. And how amazing that we could find all of that just a little over an hour’s drive from our temporary home of Nelson.

That's it for now, but Nelson Lakes is somewhere I'll definitely be returning to for more exploring. Here's to adventures close to home, surviving zombie mist, and pockets full of black licorice!