Lake Rotoiti, Travers Valley, Nelson Lakes National Park

Description board of the Lake Rotoiti area at the track head.

The week of October 9 Cliff and I went on a tramp in the Travers valley with the Buller Tramping Club which we’ve recently joined. It was our first time in Nelson Lakes National Park other than driving through. It’s a beautiful park with plenty of opportunity for walks and tramps of almost any length. After stopping at the visitor centre in St Arnaud to buy our hut passes we had lunch at a modern shelter (which even had gas hot water) at the beginning of the track we were to take. It started to drizzle just as we were on our way so we put on our raincoats and pack covers before setting out.

A silvery Lake Rotoiti.

It wasn’t much of a day for taking photos but I got this shot of the lake before heading into the bush. Rotoiti means small lake. (roto = lake, iti = small)

Crossing the stoney beach.

After three hours of walking through beech forest we were glad to arrive at the Lakehead hut where we built a fire to warm the hut and help dry out our shoes and socks.

Lakehead hut.

Lakehead hut has 28 bunks. A group of four young 20-somethings were in their sleeping bags in a bottom row of  bunks when we arrived. They didn’t seem to move until we took off the next morning around 9:00. They didn’t make a sound and were more like the elephant in the corner than actual trampers.

Cliff on the track in the beech forest.

Cliff overcomes an obstacle.

Leonie had already come through the gap between fallen trees. We had to hug the bottom tree and swing our packs under the top tree to get through.

Typical mossy stones and beech leaf covered track.

This reminds me of the Catoctin Mountains in Western Maryland where my father took us to get out into nature. The Catoctins have hardwood forests, lots of boulders and wild rivers.

A waterfall above a creek crossed by a footbridge.

Our group at the John Tait hut.

Barbara, an interesting Canadian woman, took this photo. From left: Muriel, Micaela, Leonie, Cliff, Clare, Helen, Eileen and Trish. Barbara is on her fifth trip to New Zealand where she loves solo  tramping, staying in huts and generally enjoying the country.

The view from John Tait hut.

We stayed at John Tait hut for two nights. On the “rest” day we enjoyed going on various walks without our packs. Most of us walked up to Travers Falls.

The 20 metre high Travers Falls.

Remnants of the 2008 avalanche behind the Travers Valley Track sign.

An avalanche in August 2008 spared John Tait hut. It split into two parts, one part went to one side of the hut and one to the other. As far as we know, no-one was in the hut at the time.

Cliff, surrounded by debris, at the beginning of the track to Travers Falls.

The avalanche left plenty of firewood but this tree was on the big side for splitting.

John Tait hut nestled under mountains.

This tranquil scene can become sinister at night when a possum jumps across your path.

A possum with his devil eyes glowering out of a tree.

We were lucky to have a sunny day in the middle of some rainy ones.

Warning sign at the beginning of the other avalanche area.

The other avalanche area was on the way to Travers Falls. It was completely different to the tree and rock one near the hut.

Clare starts across the slip.

Cliff went on ahead with the camera. This was on the way back, we’d already crossed once. It was pretty easy as long as you kept your feet on the small area that had been formed by other trampers.

Waiting for another photo to be taken.

Almost through. This stoney area felt a lot more stable than the sandy part.

Leonie crosses a river on a swing bridge.

The next day we went back to spend another night at Lakehead hut. The swing bridge was on that leg.

A sign on the approach to the swing bridge.

Cliff takes his turn.

The only tricky part was at the end where the bridge stops at a rock face. Leonie is up above the bridge.

Back at Lakehead hut. There’s a track marker just in case you don’t notice the hut.

The resident kea was hoping for a handout.

The Kea is the world’s only alpine parrot. They are 48 centimetres (19 inches) long, mostly olive green with bright orange under their wings. They are omnivores and love picking at rubber anywhere they can but especially out of car windscreens. This bird was hoping we would leave our boots outside so he could pick at the laces and soles.

The kea happily posed for photos for quite a long time.

Saturday, our last day, started out drizzly after heavy rain in the night. A storm had been forecast and we wanted to get back before it hit. The rain overnight caused creeks and rivers to rise.  Only one was potentially dangerous when we crossed.

Crossing a creek on Saturday.

We rock-hopped over this creek a few days before. Muriel (in the blue pack) made sure we were secure by grabbing our packs until we were able to get onto the shingle bank. Cliff (with the yellow pack cover) steadied each person until Muriel had hold of them. By this time we were all pretty wet and had two hours left. The good thing about getting your feet wet is that you no longer care if you walk through puddles.

Back at the beginning, or for us, the end.

We were glad to get back to the shelter where we could change into the dry clothes we left in the car.


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8 Responses to Lake Rotoiti, Travers Valley, Nelson Lakes National Park

  1. Matt Bracken says:

    Wow! It’s easy to see why they filmed TLOTR on South Island. Very challenging tramps, across rivers and avalanche slip zones. Did anybody twist an ankle to the point they needed help?

    • Clare says:

      Lots of the South Island looks like Lord of the Rings territory. Everyone was well prepared and some have been tramping for over 40 years so no problems. We were the new kids this time.

  2. Tricia says:

    Jeff, David and I did a day hike on the AT near Lynchburg this weekend. I only had to carry myself and my walking sticks. Even then, there may have been a bit of whining on my part. In my defense, the hike was 5 miles up with a 2,700 ft elevation change. You guys are in such great shape.


  3. Clare says:

    Five miles up a mountain sounds challenging to me even without a pack, just think of all the extra chocolate you can eat after a hike like that. It must have been pretty with autumn leaf colors.

  4. Daniel Fromme says:

    Years ago, Clare, I was on a flight from Hong Kong to Kathmandu with about 30 New Zealand mountain climbers who were on their way to the Himalayas. They seemed to me like visitors from another galaxy. Perhaps you and Cliff will “tramp” across the roof of the world one day, too; you’re certainly in training! Wonderful recap of your trip. It sounded — and looked — like a blast.

  5. Clare says:

    Hi Danny,
    They would seem to me like visitors from another galaxy too. There are so many places to tramp in New Zealand I think I’ll leave my boots home on any trip overseas, but people like that are certainly inspirational.

  6. Sam says:

    I would have had to turn back at the swing bridge.

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