2/10 Harper River Valley

Harper River Headwaters to Trust Power Campsite

27 k

The night was at least as cold as anticipated- frost covered the tent this morning. The longer the grass, the more condensation there always is, and the damp cold river air sank like stones to wall us in. But it worked, it was quiet, and now we can hike to warm up.

Within a short distance the river begins widening, and the crossings begin for the day. For quite a while, we are able to keep our feet dry by balancing on rocks sticking out of the streams. I relay a long blog post concerning a person’s right to speak up- and how far is too far to take it if they are not being heard- that I read, and the comments, to Prana as we walk, and we discuss the different angles of the complicated matter. It’s interesting, and the morning slips away with a pleasant alternating backdrop of beech forest and rocky cliffs corralling the river bed.

We reach Harper hut, a tired little 5 bunk bivvy, and eat breakfast outside in the sun. A Kiwi tramper joins us from the other direction, and tells us stories at request of his mountaineering in the area. “I’ve walked this track 8 times,” he says, “and I always see something i haven’t noticed before.”

We have some more river hop-across crossings, then cross on a swing bridge. There’s a tree down at the far end that we’ve been warned about- in fact the warnings have described it as ‘almost impassable.’ Perhaps it is only in contrasting it to the Flood Track, but I would call it barely in the way, and the three of us have a good laugh about this. A brand new bridge not marked on the map spans Hamilton creek, which is not necessary, but appreciated. At the far side is the junction to Hamilton Hut, and we decide we aren’t really so curious to go out of our way.

A short distance and a bit of searching brings us to a faint 4wd road, and we follow this for easy navigation and many shallow crossings of the Harper River. The day has warmed enough that the chilly water feels refreshing, and at 12:30 we stop for lunch in the sun in the long grass meadow on the bank. It’s delightful, and Prana marks the holes in his mattress (9!) while I journal and Mouse naps. A DoC guy drives up in a battered white 4wd truck filled with his family. “I’m taking care of the tree on the bridge,” he explains, “and I thought if I was coming out here, we may as well camp for the weekend.” I renew my reincarnation wish to the universe.

The rest of the afternoon is filled with easy, beautiful walking in the gorgeous valley; mindless flat tread, a few simple river crossings. A voluminous, tiered waterfall tumbles down a mountainside. A bizarre pillar formation emerges from the sandy rubble of another. I listen to a string Dear Sugars podcast episodes, and revel in the scenery.

Eventually we reach the Avoca river, and work our way across the braids one by one. The marked track veers away from the river and four wheel drive road and follows a fence along a turnip and sheep farm, which smells about like it sounds. We stop for dinner at 5:30, with a nice view back down the valley, and lots of menacing looking clouds have rolled in. Prana patches his mattress, while I cook ‘inside out samosas,’ basically Indian curry with mashed potatoes flakes stirred in.

After dinner we three walk on the road and chat, hoping to reach the tent site before any of the predicted rain or winds begin. We reach a sign that announces 4 k to turn off for the campsite that has been designated by the power company in charge of the area, at the corner where the Harper River is herded towards and then disappears into a power station.

Down the indicated road, the campsite appears on the left. It’s fairly exposed if the wind does come tonight, but what can one do. Jo is here, as are four other tents, and we chat with her as we filter water and do the evening chores. Then we batten everything down for the night and prepare for epic weather.

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