2/27 Down and Around Lake Hawea

Stody’s Hut to Albert Town Campground

33 k

We have the alarm set for an early start today, possible once again due to the magic technology of headlamps and the generosity and integrity of Jenny. A gorgeous pink banner sky is our reward, and it morphs colors as the sun rises.

The track is fairly mellow, undulating, easy walking along an old four wheel drive road. There are unbelievable numbers of ranges and peaks to gaze upon, and I itch to explore, knowing our path won’t go anywhere near most of them.

Behind us, we can see all the way back to Martha’s Saddle, the forboding and beautiful dark and windy pass.

Mouse had left before us this morning, and we reach her at the trig station that overlooks Lake Hawea. Jagged cliffs and rocky plates line the walls that careen straight down to the lake, which is the ghostly shade of glacier blue.

The trail follows a fenceline that swings close to the cliff edge several times, allowing great views steeply down, and when the ridge widens out again Pakahuti Hut is visible down in a meadowy bowl. We branch away from it, the trail diving over the edge of the cliffs, stair stepping down along a short ridge then dropping over a rock pile. This scrambling pattern repeats until the draw where it goes down in more than 20 short tight switchbacks, to land at a gravel road on the edge of the lake.

This road leads to a Bike pathway, which yields easy pleasant walking along the lake shore all the way into town. Even with the ease of walking, it feels longer and longer; I was ready for lunch an hour ago, but am determined to hold out for the cafe

In town.

We pass lovely picnic tables tucked under towering eucalyptus, and several strips of park fronting the lake, framing views of the mountain walls at the far end. The town of Lake Hawea seems quiet and peaceful, not the bustling tourist area I was expecting.

We finally reach the road turn off to the cafe, and there it is. Glory! We choose a wrought iron table outside, and go in to order. The barista is friendly, with one long feathered earring, and when we order one helping of the fish and chips each, she hesitates. “Are you sure?” she double checks. “The scoops of chips are massive, and most groups can’t finish one between them. I know hikers eat a lot, but…maybe start with one?” Prana and I agree good-naturedly, smugly certain we will be be back to order another round. She makes our coffees for us, and when we ask about plugging in our batteries to charge, she munificently unplugs the open sign for us so we can use that outlet.

When she brings us the fish and chips, we have to laugh. Each plump piece of cod is about a foot long, and one scoop of chips fills the shoebox sized cardboard server that the fish is draped over. We polish it off with relish and happily concede that one scoop is plenty, and leaves just enough room for dessert.

Hoping to find pints, we peruse the ice cream case, but our choices are either an expensive ice cream bar each, or for the same price to split a half gallon. Prana is always in favor of the half gallon split, but I seldom am, seeming to be the only one of us that remembers how we feel afterwards each time. We finally settle on scoops out of the case at the register, knowing we will wish for more, but I prefer that to feeling sick.

We order a double scoop cone each, and watch in growing amazement, then delight, as the clerk scoops and rolls and scoops and rolls until he has balanced two grapefruit sized scoops on each tiny sugar cone. I laugh. “How long do you have to train for that?” I ask in jest. There is at least a full pint of ice cream handed across the counter to each of us. Prana balances his in one hand while he pays with the other, and when I notice one big chunk of chocolate calving off while he is distracted, I snap out my hand and miraculously catch it before it hits the counter. The three of us just stare at the glob in my hand. “Wow,” says the clerk. I shrug nonchalantly. “I’m not that fast, I just froze time and you couldn’t tell.”

Mouse catches up and follows lead on an ice cream cone for herself. When we are all satisfied we take the river front walk out of town. It’s a perfectly mellow and awesome walk along the Clutha River. At first the path is next to an empty canal, and we try to figure, did they turn the river off? Then the actual river appears at a distance, and the trail works its way over and down to it. We pass two play-park waves, named after old features that were submerged by the dams and power plant schemes. The kilometers roll away, and the river path becomes a bike path that crosses a broad forest of kanuka. Just before the campground we are aiming for, we assess where we are. We could go on to the campground…or we could go way off the track and find a much quieter, probably cleaner spot. We go with the latter.

We search around until we find a good flat spot, completely shielded from view, and mostly rockless. We pitch the tents, and since we are too full for dinner and Mouse has been wishing for an avocado, we gift the one left in our food bag to her. (Turnabout’s fair play, she made my avocado dreams come true in Boyle!)

Fully content from the day, I work on my journal until I fall asleep.

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