We were hunting up the top end of Lake Rotoroa . Simon, Claire , Ian and I had climbed to the bush line only to be met with thick cloud cover, white out conditions. There was no point in going any further. All the gut busting effort had been in vain. We couldn’t see more than five metres in front of us and once we were out of the shelter of the bush there was no way of being sure that we were on the right ridge to the hut that was only a kilometre away. We sat on our heavy packs for some time right on the place where the track emerged from the bush waiting for the cloud to lift. To be fair, we’d been climbing in cloud for some time but the track was through bush so we could not get lost. Finally the decision had to be made. Back down we went. Talk about dejected. Bummer.
We returned to the research hut on the lake edge between the mouths of the Sabine and the Durville. Ian had arranged for us to use it in return for us doing some monitoring work on a control plot for the Nelson Lakes Mainland Island program. The work did not take us long. We hunted the lower country around the top of Rotoroa for a few days, saw a few marks. Ian did a solo hunt up to the bush line and tussock from the Sabine. I was impressed that he got so far. Finally a bit of clear weather. Ian and I climbed Mount Miz, up to the bush line where we had had to turn round , and on to the hut. The day was fine so we carried on. Ian saw a chamois buck down off the main ridge but I just caught a glimpse of it. No chance for a shot. Back to the hut for the night.
The next day was a shocker with more bad weather forecast so we groped our way back through the cloud and rain to the start of the track down through the bush. It was a huge relief for me to see the place where we turned round days ago. Made it back to the hut at the top of the lake , no worries.
Ian and Simon hunted the Glenroy while I hunted the Durville. I got a hind which Simon carried back for me. I had to go back to the hut to get him. He was grizzling about his crook back, having to carry a deer. I told him I didn’t want to eat it so if he wanted to eat it, he would have to carry it. It wasn’t that far back to camp, specially for me.
Ian had to be back for work so, on the night before the day of his departure to catch the plane at Picton, we figured that there was no way he could climb over the Mount Robert Spur from Rotoroa and make it to the plane on time. The only other way we could get to the bottom end of the lake in time to get Ian to the plane was for him to take one of the sea kayaks we had with us down to the jetty at the end of the lake. We had no place to store the kayak at the jetty at the bottom of the lake. We hatched a plan. Simon's back was so crook that he couldn’t make the paddle. Claire said she would paddle the length of the lake in her kayak with Ian, then tow Ian’s one back to our hut. I thought this was a huge ask for her so I said I would walk down the east side of the lake as far as I could to meet her and paddle the other kayak back. Beauty. First thing in the morning Claire and Ian set off in the kayaks and I was away. Was a bit fit in those days so I ran most of the way over to the Sabine then down the track on the eastern side of the lake. I was getting a bit concerned that I had missed Claire as I was getting very close to the bottom end of the lake. It was with great relief that I finally spotted Claire paddling along with the other kayak in tow heading up the lake toward me.
Jumped out onto a boulder and signalled to her. She saw me. She brought the kayaks to shore and I hopped into mine. She gave me some rudimentary instructions on how to operate the kayak and we set off up the lake. It was the first time that I had been in a kayak. I got a bit of a clue as to how to balance the kayak. Made a bit of progress up the lake. Things were getting a bit better. We met a couple of blokes in an outboard heading back down the lake. Claire handled her kayak like a pro while she talked to them, I was trying hard just to stay balanced and not tip out. The blokes in the outboard were clearly impressed by this sheila handling the situation with aplomb, with me being a complete novice and Claire having to help me. There was a fair bit of chop on by this stage. We continued on up the lake. Then it started to really blow. From a nice paddle to what seemed like an eight foot surf. Claire said we were not making any headway because the wind was so bad against us on the east side of the lake so we would have to cross the lake and make our way up the lee west side. It was terrifying. My arsehole was clamped to the seat of the kayak.The waves would try to swamp me all the time. I was fully expecting to can out at any moment. Finally we got to the other side of the lake. We made our way in comparative calm up the lee side of the lake till we got to the hut. Simon was at the jetty and hugely relieved that we had made it. He said that he was looking down the lake for us to appear. He happened to glance out into the middle of the lake and couldn’t believe what he was seeing. Us in a welter of foam in the middle of the lake. What on earth were you doing in the middle of the lake? No other choice. We made it though.
Got to the hut , changed and had a brew. I was shattered. Claire cooked us a beaut feed that night. After paddling both ways down the lake. Talk about her impressive stamina.