Maya had just turned 1 and at the same time Seon has swapped his one person Alpacka packraft for a bigger two person one that could fit all three of us. Excited to try it out, we planed a 4 day trip along the Pelorus river, hiking in from Nelson and rafting down to the Pelorus bridge.
Day 1 was an short stroll from Hacket Creek to Browning Hut.
Easy trail, sunshine, a couple of river crossings. That section would be detinitely fun mountain biking too.
Maya loves the huts and explores every corner (especially where it’s dirty and messy, the ash bucket seems to have a special attraction).
Day 2 was a different ball game.
From Browning Hut to Roebuck Hut, the trail contoured along a steep mountain. It was slippery, at times exposed and slow going. We got hit by hail twice and temperatures dropped.
With energy levels going down, we tried different combinations of who carried what, which quickly turned into a rotation of Maya, Seon’s heavier bagpack and my lighter pack. Most of the time I carried Maya in the carrier in front, and the lighter bag, around 20kg in total. Sometimes Seon would carry Maya on his shoulders, and his bag, total 28kg. On the next rotation, he went with Maya and my bag, and I tried the heavy bag.
In our head, we kept going over our gear for this trip, thinking of which items could be dropped or replaced by lighter ones, and what needed to be added for the next trip. Unfortunately I was coming up with way more things (and weight) that needed to be added rather than dropped! Time to get stronger… Or to packraft more and hike less!
On day 3, all weight went straight into dry bags.
The morning went by in an excited blur, distributing the gear and preparing the packraft. The Pelorus was right in front of the hut, and with the sunshine back and temperatures up, we were keen to go.
It was noon by the time we were ready, and only once we were all in our life jackets and ready to go, we realised that over all the excitement, we had totally forgotten that Maya hasn’t done her usual morning sleep. We were eager to get on the river though, and decided to see how it goes.
But Maya was not happy, overtired and crying.
With lots of rapids, I had to get out and portage a lot, which wasn’t helping either. Carrying a baby in a life jacket, while wearing a life jacket myself and climbing over wet rocks was harder than expected. The hope she would fall asleep while gently floating down the river wasn’t playing out and on the next portage I called it, got rid of the lifejackets and as soon as I held her comfortable to my chest, she fell asleep. I settled down on a nice rock, while Seon tried his luck fishing.
After an hour or so, she finally woke up, her smile was back and we continued down river.
It was getting late though and progress was slow. We only made it to Middy Creek Hut that day. Great place to spend the night, with the hut in the middle of a clearing above the river. Maya happily went exploring on the soft green moss while I collected firewood and Seon went fishing.
Another hiker joined us for the night, Tracey who hikes through New Zealand on the Te Araroa trail, while fundraising money for Make A Wish. Interesting conversations developed – after all, hiking the whole length of New Zealand is quite special!
After a few hours of sleep, Maya woke us up in the middle of the night.
Being otherwise a very silent baby during the night, Murphy’s law hit full force. Just the night where we were sharing a hut and wanted her absolutely not to cry, she was. Wriggling around and protesting, she wouldn’t let me calm her down, so I finally asked Seon to set up our emergency shelter and lay down outside so that the others could get some sleep. By daylight, we saw that she had a few sandfly bites on her face and hands that must have been very itchy.
Day 4 saw us with an early start.
We had to make up for the previous day and cover quite some distance. Considering the slow progress with rapids on the river, we decided that for the first section, Seon would go in the packraft with all our gear, while I hiked with Maya.
We made it to Captain’s creek hut in just one hour, beating DOC times by half.
I still felt fresh and this seemed to be the fastest way whenever the river is more technical then the trail, so we agreed to keep going this way and meet for lunch at the picknick spot at Emerald Pools. From there on, we would again raft together, about 15kms down to Pelorus bridge where our car was parked.
With the wind against us, we took turns paddling on the slower parts.
Mid afternoon, Maya started to get tired and cranky again and we stopped so she could fall asleep. While she loves to nap when hiking, we still had to find a way on the river. Once she was asleep, we wondered if she would stay that way while we continued to float downriver on the upcoming easy stretch.
Luckily she did, great news since the hours kept passing by and we still had a few kilometres to paddle.
The Pelorus river is stunning, deep clear water, narrow gorges, waterfalls, wildlife… travelling down the river is awesome and the combination of hiking in and floating out makes packrafts such a great choice!