"Waiting in the Rain"

Hidden Falls Hut, Lower Hollyford Valley

Fiordland, New Zealand

January 7-9, 2009

Dave and Jill


Heavy rain in Fiordland.  There was so much water coming off the hills that waterfalls would be flowing within 100 yards of each other.

The rain just wouldn't stop, and with nowhere else to turn, we decided to wait out the storms in a hut.  A typical traveler facing this situation would simply check into a motel and rent some movies.  Not wanting to blow our budget on lodging we decided to use our annual hut pass and stay a couple of nights in the Hidden Falls Hut only a couple of hours walk down the Lower Hollyford Valley trail.  Won't cost us anything, and if we're lucky, perhaps we'll meet other trampers who are as cool and interesting as us, we thought.

However, by the time we reached the hut I was soaked to the point where my nipples began to curl.  We now hoped the hut was empty.  But, as I peered through the doorway I saw a man who greeted us with a frown.  His back was so severely hunched the dark shadows of the hut made him look part gorilla. 

"Hi... so ... where are you from?" asked Jill.

"I hate it when people start conversations that way.  I've been on this damn trail for three days and that's all anyone asks."

Jill with her genuine interest and large dimples isn't accustomed to such curt replies.  She was taken aback by the gorilla's rudeness but handled it well.  The hut was only about 20 feet on a side and after 30 minutes the forced confinement brought out the gorilla's civil side.  He inquired about our plans and where we'd been in New Zealand - my favorite question.  As a certified map and trip planning dork I started dropping names that most Kiwi outdoors people have never heard of: Gifford's Crack, Mt Sisyphus, Lake Nerine, Olivine Ice Plateau and so on.  He was obviously impressed.  At this point he wanted to share with me his scheme to do the Milford Track without paying the customary fees.  But this broke down when he failed to locate Milford Sound on the map (New Zealand's most popular tour destination).  He had warmed up to Jill and I to such an extent, that by bedtime I wouldn't have been surprised if he'd asked to snuggle between us on the bunk.

The next morning he left, but the rain didn't.  The DOC warden (ranger) came in to deliver the forecast: heavy rain today, heavy rain tomorrow, and clearing Saturday.  He also was full of useful statistical information such as Fiordland had received nearly 20" of rain in the first week in the first week of January.  Was this typical we wondered?  No, the area is about to set the January rainfall record - in the 2nd week of January!  We were less than ecstatic to be a part of a rainfall record in a place that averages nearly 40 feet per year.  Luckily the gorilla wouldn't be the only interesting character to show up at the hut.

A family of Australians who had endured their own rainfall-induced epic pulled into the hut in late afternoon.  Once we began talking it was clear that they were very proud of their two daughters, but less sure about their 8th grade son.  Mom talked endlessly about the girls' water polo heroics and how they both finished in the top 10 in their class - very athletic and smart girls.  If the opportunity to talk had arisen I would have gone on to explain that, though Jill and I graduated #1 from our high schools, it didn't stop us from becoming the losers we are today.

Early evening brought a lone traveler who - on first appearance - looked to be someone I could relate to: a young bald tramper.  I didn't get a chance to make friends that night (the Aussie mom had me cornered) but looked forward to do so the next morning.  By 10 am in the morning everyone else in the hut had been up and about for three hours while the young bald tramper had yet to stir.  Just as I was about to check for a pulse he struggled out of his bag.  We invited him to join our card game and quickly regretted it.  When a person travels alone there are - at least sometimes - reasons.  Apparently the world was conspiring to ruin his trip to NZ.  For instance, during his trip on the Routeburn Track it rained every day and he didn't see any mountains.  Those of us around the card table tried to explain that the weather had been bad for us all, and that - contrary to his belief - the weather wasn't only rainy where he had been traveling.  The new whiny member of the card game proceeded, and so did the rain.

The next few paragraphs have been deemed immature and inappropriate by my wife and therefore cut from this final version.  They will remain offline where I will enjoy them for years to come.  Sorry.

Thanks to the gorilla, proud Aussie mother, frustrated bald tramper, and nude old lady we were able to salvage some memories during another stretch of foul weather.

- written February 2009

Hidden Falls Hut where Jill and I spent two days waiting out the rain and meeting interesting people.  Note the clothes hanging on the deck.  Even more were hanging inside.



Water and heavy scud clouds everywhere.  Above notice all the waterfalls - those are just the ones we can actually see sticking out of the forest!



On the first night the DOC warden shot a deer.  Deer are not native to New Zealand, so they are trying to exterminate them.  After he was done the warden cooked up a chunk of meat for Jill and me.


Give Grok meat and map, make Grok happy.



The point here is to show that water was EVERYWHERE.  It flowed horizontally (Hidden Falls) and vertically (can't remember name of these falls, sorry).


With all the rain a guy would expect to be relieved of the sandfly and allergy nuisance.  Not so.  Here, several hundred sandflies are dead in the corner of the windowsill.  So, with torrential rain and millions of sandflies why would anyone come to the lower Hollyford?  We never actually figured that out.


A vigorous card game ensues while the rain continues, and continues, and...


No children, Dave doesn't do drugs.  But, sitting in a cramped hut with a bunch of strange strangers can have the same effect.  Let's get out of here!


After every storm, or series of storms there will be a clearing.  This frame was captured in the more spectacular upper Hollyford on our way to Gertrude Saddle.

Take Me Home