Hot Pools Bonanza

I write this tale from the very pleasant Mackenzie Biv, on a page ripped out from a DOC hut book, with the fire on its way out (no dry wood left), dinner on the cooker, in a state of mild but bearable pain after a day of the toughest walking I have done for some time.  But where are my manners, I should start at the beginning.

I have for the last several long weekends done bugger all with myself, so this Implausible Resurrection Festival (or Easter as it is more widely known) I decided to undertake an epic solo mission (because nobody else wanted to come) to Lake Sumner and surrounds where I would attempt to visit the Tope Hope, Mackenzie, Hurunui and Hurunui South Branch hot springs over four days.  Now I have a habit of not completing many of the solo missions due to being over ambitious and getting sick of the shit weather, but I was confident about this one, even though I knew the weather was forecast to be less than optimal for more than half of the time and the distance I had to cover was about 80km, with at least a day of it being untracked.  It was a bad start, leaving well after the 6am I was aiming for, partly due to a party I had thoroughly over-enjoyed the night before.

I reached Loch Katrine not long after 10am and was on my way shortly after.  The plan for the day was to walk around the top of Lake Sumner, past the Hope Kiwi, St Jacobs, and Top Hope huts and camp at the hot pools up Hot Spring Stream.  However this is a long way (~30km) and due to my late start I managed to get to the Top Hope hut about an hour after dark.  After macaroni and chocolate mousse I was in bed and out to it.

Lake Sumner Forest

Lake Sumner Forest

The rain started around 2am, and it was heavy.  ‘As long as the hot pools are still hot I don’t care’ I thought.  I got up at 5am, destroyed a packet of bacon, and got cracking at first light.  I got to the hot pools around 8am, and spent a very pleasant half hour bathing in the luke-warm pool.  For those wanting to go there, there is a rough unmarked track on the true right of the stream which will save you a bit of time.  The stream was very high already due to the rain, but it didn’t quite manage to sweep me away.

I spent much of the way to Hope Pass contemplating whether or not to continue to Mackenzie Biv, as I was concerned about time and the weather.  In the end I thought YOLO!  If only I had known the horror that lay ahead...

Hot Spring Stream

Hot Spring Stream

After getting to Hope Pass there was what can only be described as a very cunty looking bush bash of about 800m across and 500m up to the tops, and after 10minutes of being slapped around by the shrubbery, I had gone less than 100m.  It only got worse, but many expletives and several hours later I emerged covered in all sorts of plant material onto the tops.  After another hour I was on my way down the other side.  The descent started well, but after an hour of negotiating the narrow creek, I was increasingly falling over, accidently doing the splits, and stepping to pools of water that looked a foot deep but were actually up to my tits.  To make matters worse, the valley was narrowing, and I suspected the worst.  A short while later, I came to it: pretty but nonetheless undesirable, it blocked my path in a manner similar to how an earthquake blocks your access to the CBD.  However I managed to carefully negotiate around the waterfall by climbing up one very steep side stream, and across to another one back to the bottom.  The valley was widening, but this meant more water, and I was now swimming more than I was walking, and was eagerly awaiting the arrival of the Biv.  And, all of a sudden, it appeared in all of its gloriness.  This brings us to the present point (at the time of writing) in time.

I am now no longer at the Mackenzie Biv, but at home typing on the computer whilst wearing my tiger hat (rawr).  We pick up the tale at Mackenzie biv:  the water level in the creek had dropped considerably overnight, after it had stopped raining (which was fortunate, as I probably would had to have stayed put otherwise).  Even with less water, getting out to Mackenzie Stream was challenging, with wading through white water over a metre deep a regular occurrence.  The Mackenzie hot pools were still hot, and I enjoyed a very nice bath in the one pool that was deep enough for me. (Pro tip: take a shovel).

Mckenzie Hot Spring

Mackenzie Hot Spring

I then continued downstream to the Hurunui, which very nearly sent me swimming as I crossed it (Pro tip: use the bridge).  I had come across 400m west from the Hurunui springs, so I walked upstream to find them.  The Hurunui hot springs were bigger that I expected; there are many separate springs, but many feed into a thermal waterfall, and partway down the waterfall a pool has been made with a cold water pipe from a cold water stream available to adjust the temperature if desired.  Unfortunately the sand flies here are absolutely diabolical so I only had a quick swim, then it was time to head home.  I had decided that the long journey to the South Branch hot spring was just too much effort this time around.

Hurunui North Branch Springs

Hurunui North Branch Springs

All in all a great trip, even if it’s technically another DNF.  I’ll definitely be going back to visit the Hurunui South Branch hot springs at a later date.

| April 24th, 2011 | Posted in Storytime |

Leave a Reply