Camp Creek Hut

4 - 5 July 2015

Six enthusiastic trampers left Avonhead at the very civil hour of 8am. Our leader had been concerned the weather might not be very kind to us but it turned out to be splendid - not a streak of cloud in the sky. The drive to Arthurs Pass was absolutely stunning with snow capping most of the mountains. Every now and then we saw a white paddock with an almost unrecognisable mound - presumably the remains of snow-men made the previous week, making our journey very pleasant and joyful.

Our drivers Dan and Derek demanded a coffee shop stop when we arrived at Arthurs Pass Village. Of course the rest of us had to comply since they were VIP’s. Dan ordered a meat pie with his coffee. I ignorantly implied that was his lunch. Wow! In mock outrage he swore that he would have me slaving around the hut for making such a comment.

We turned off to the right, just past Jacksons pub where the sign pointed to Lake Brunner. After driving about 6 km, we crossed Camp Creek Bridge and turned into the car-park. We were on the track before noon. Although the track has been recently cut by DoC, there were still some rough edges and hanging branches so our leader thought to make his contribution, snipping with his heavy duty secateurs all the way up to the hut.

Camp Creek runs quite rapidly and is deep in places. Twenty minutes from the car park we dipped into the ice-cold water, the deeper part of the water being up to my middle thigh. We leaped over a few big boulders, and pulled ourselves up the banks. Around a corner we stepped up onto some stone steps and a very delightful surprise come into sight - a very welcoming rustic looking but extremely well made letter box complete with a receptacle for a milk bottle! Made by stacking up stone and a few old logs, it indicated that our destination would soon be sighted. I have to salute the creator of this incongruous structure which added humour and light to our journey.

A very fresh, newly-painted white Lockwood building resides in the valley and when we arrived we could still glimpse the last of the setting sun. The hut has been taken over from Landcare by DoC and they’ve done a bit of refurbishing. There is a steel bath near the hut. I was quite intrigued that DoC had not just preserved the bath but even improved it by installing a running tap, chimney and a space underneath for a fire to heat up the water - with an underground chimney, no-less. The hut has 6 bunks in two rows.

It was 3:20 when we arrived at the hut and the cold and shadows were creeping in. Although it was a fine day, inside the forest, under the thick canopy it was quite damp and dark. Derek diligently went around the hut gathering more fire wood to add to the wood shed, and sawed and stacked some big logs. When it came to lighting the fire Geoff wasted no time. He had even gone to the extent of carrying a big bag of coal just for the purpose of firing up the bath. His pack weighed 22kg, and I had a go at carrying it, but could hardly straighten my back, let alone walk.

Since I was idling around, I proposed that I redo Aarn’s portrait - an unfinished art-work from a few years ago on the Garden of Eden trip. I got out my torch to supplement the fading light, and successfully finished the “masterpiece”. I tried to refrain from feeding the log burner because on previous trips I have been unjustly accused by Kevin many times of being a pyromaniac. In fact Geoff is also obsessed with fire but denies any such fixation. Dan became my next portraiture victim and had to sit dead still by candle light. I used some artistic licence to give him a Roman hero look, hoping he would say he resembled Julius Caesar, but instead he claimed to look more like Brutus the villain. Beauty is indeed in the eye of the beholder.

Our leader could hardly wait to dive into the bath as soon as the water had warmed up. He was the first and also the last to remain for hours. He also reported hearing a kiwi calling in the distance. What an amazing experience to have a bath in the open wilderness. Lying down and gazing blissfully at the universe.

The hut as it was in 2011, bath-tub chimney in foreground

Rain came in the middle of the night, pounding down on the roof. The noise resonated with my fellow trampers’ sleeping sound. It eased to showers in the morning. We had a good sleep-in and lazed around the hut for hours before setting off on the way out. The rain made the track quite slippery, and luckily the river level had not risen much, and we could still cross with ease.

We stopped at Otira Hotel for a very early afternoon tea. The place has very interesting historic pictures and artefacts. Time seems to have stood still there, it felt like we were still back in the 50s or 60s. As we walked in, there were a few people sitting around, all focussed on a big screen TV. We stood waiting for a few minutes before a woman reluctantly looked away from the box and distractedly dragged herself off the couch towards the counter. Nevertheless the big open-fire warmly welcomed us and defrosted our still frozen toes.

Thank you to our leader Geoff, for a well-organised and a fantastic trip! The magnificent six were:

Geoff Spearpoint, Aarn Tate, Dan Pryce, Derek Gane, Kevin Hughes and Yvette So. (YS)