Late October last year, Christchurch crawled out of its prolonged winter and the weather warmed enough to take us out of hibernation. We eagerly took our chance at the first long weekend that came around and drove to the West Coast for the Inland Pack Track.
The Inland Pack Track is one of many walks in the beautiful Paparoa National Park. It promised multiple river and creek crossings, which excited some but failed to appeal to others. (I rarely enjoy getting my shoes wet and am uncomfortable with the idea of soggy feet.) However, our investment in expensive hiking boots was sufficient counter argument and the waterproof claims had to be tested.
We started from the Punakaiki end and made our way through apocalyptic forest to Bullock Creek Road, navigating under and around fallen branches and rooted trees – the remains of Cyclone Ita of Easter 2014. A lot of work has been done by DOC since and sections of the track only reopened a few weeks prior to our hike.
We crossed Punakaiki River and Pororari River with the aid of footbridges, wondering if we were no longer required to wade through water. The track opened out onto farmland and before long it took us to our first creek crossing.
Though our boots were waterproof, it became pretty redundant once the water reached knee deep. We adjusted to the unpleasantness of wet socks after a little while and the focus shifted to the weighty amounts of water in our boots.
The walk continued through dense forests and we were fascinated and saddened by the amount of destruction around us. It soon took us to Fossil Creek where the real creek crossing adventure began. Wading through water knee deep (and often thigh or hip deep), we navigated the obstacle course over and under fallen trees in our path.
Rather than continuing on to the Ballroom Overhang, we irresponsibly camped on the beach at the junction of Fossil Creek and Dilemma Creek. That evening we anxiously watched the clouds and lay sleepless worrying about the possibility of flooding. Fortunately, we lived through the night and woke to a beautiful misty morning.
Day two took us straight back into the water as we followed the creek towards Fox River, looking for shallow areas to pass. The water was cold, the current fast and the boulders slippery. Some sections were unexpectedly deep and proved difficult for those of us with a height disadvantage. Added to the challenge were the sore thighs we earned from the ducking and climbing we had done the day before.
But the views were spectacular as we meandered through the limestone gorge. Though we missed some crucial orange triangles and hence missed some key tracks, we made it to the end just in time for our pickup.