Friday, January 11, 2013

Hopeless Ridge Part IV - a.k.a. the trip to Lake Monowai 2013

We began Day 3 with a descent to the lake where we were met with dense tangles of trees and vines.  Nothing about our trip was easy!  Hours later we reached Monowai Hut - such a sight for sore eyes!  We  cooked up a hot lunch and lounged for a little while before embarking on another 3 1/2+ hour walk to the Clark A Frame.

My walking slowed to a snails pace on our way to the A Frame.  Walking up hill was bad, but walking downhill was even more painful for the quads.  Nonetheless, I carried on.  What choice did I have?

The forest eventually gave way to a wide open field surrounded by, you guessed it, more mountains!!  It's amazing how the scenery can take away a bad mood in seconds.

After a night on the mountain, we were overjoyed to be in a hut, but the funny thing is this one in particular was quite cramped for four adults, had signs of mice-like inhabitants, and had mighty big spiderwebs with creepy crawly things lurking in them up in the corners of the ceiling.

No matter.  Chris surprised us with CHAMPAGNE!  I was walking slow enough that Chris had time to scoot ahead and scout out a place in the nearby stream to chill sparkling wine for us. It was SO refreshing to feel those little bubbles with each sip!  We had another special treat after dinner - steamed chocolate puddings. YUM!  Daniel broke off pieces of his chocolate bar with hazelnut chunks and sprinkled those on top, too.  Deeeelicious! 

It seems silly how little things can be such a big deal out there in the backcountry, but I guess that's why I love tramping so much... everything, from cold water to a cool breeze to a tasty treat, means so much more when you're far away from the comforts of home.

That night, I assumed, again, that sleep would come easily.  But, again, it did not. 

We tried killing all the sandflies that had snuck into the hut, but the crack in the door was wide enough for more to enter.  We tried retreating into our sleeping bags to escape getting bitten, but our bodies in such tight quarters generated so much body heat that it was too hot to sleep!  

My sleeping bag has a special zipper at the feet so that I could unzip it and allow some colder air in, but this put me at risk of something biting me.  So, I'd stick the toes of one foot out for a few seconds, assuming that sandflies wouldn't notice, and then I'd quickly pull my toes back in.  Then, when I assumed the sandflies lost hope of biting my feet, I'd stick out the toes of the other food for a few seconds.  Eventually, I realized the ridiculousness of this - there was no way I could play peek-a-boo with my feet and the sandflies all night.  So, I caved and just laid out there in the open - I didn't care if the sandflies feasted on me - I just wanted to sleep THAT bad.

Our last day had it's own challenges, but I think you get the idea that this was a tough, tough trip.  We reached Green Lake Hut on our route back to the car - what a fantastic location for a hut!  Mt. Cuthbert looked amazing from across the lake.  

As you can see from the sign in the picture above, we still had 5 1/2 hours to go before we hit the road that the car was parked on.  We ate lunch, I threw my bathing suit on and went for a quick dip in the lake (it was hella cold!!!) and then we set off for the last leg of the trip.  

You'd think that after four days of walking I would have gotten used to walking with a pack, but it never got easier.  That last day was hot and I wasn't sure how I was going to manage another 6 miles after already walking 6 miles before lunch.  I mustered up all the energy I could and got moving.  

But, you know what?  Just when things couldn't possibly get worse a sandfly would come along, as I walked uphill, and would look at me and say, "Oh! Hello there!  You look like you're a bit cranky and I see that you're walking a bit funny - you must be sore!  I'm also guessing that you're probably thirsty or hungry or, heck, both!  Well, why don't I make your day a little more craptastic!" and then, gosh darn it, the damn thing would fly right up my nose or straight into my eye.


Somehow, all of us made it back to the car without a mental breakdown (confession, I may or may not have whimpered once or twice because I just wanted it to be over).  Honestly, this was the type of trip where tempers could fly, but our crew kept it all together.  We put one foot in front of the other until we finished.

Once again, we were back to smiling once we reached the car.

This is our "And what?" pose after four days of tramping.  We're so badass.  

The great thing about this experience is that we saw parts of New Zealand that so few people get to see - most people don't think to hike off track where we had been (for good reason, I suppose, but those views were pretty darn awesome!).  There's something special about that.  So, no hard feelings.  We all knew going into the trip that no one in the group had been in this area before and we were in it together.  It makes me smile that the four of us pushed on and accomplished what we set out to do.  

With that said, I'm determined to make my next vacation destination as sandfly free as possible.  Maybe Antarctica?!!


  1. At least on a bike trip there is a sag wagon. Great post, Sara, makes me want to be sore and bitten along with you!

  2. Thanks Diana! I don't recommend sandfly infested lakes, but you're always welcome to visit me and we'll do something FUN!