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Inland Pack Track

Monday February 4th

Descending from Fox caves to the river

Dilemma Creek [aev]
We drove up to the Punakaiki DOC centre, where we left an "intention notice" in the office and the car in the carpark. We then had pancakes for breakfast before walking back towards the pub while trying to hitch (we needed to go 12km north to the Fox river crossing). Joe was picked up fairly quickly, while Adrienne and I were eventually picked up by a laundry truck doing its twice-weekly round up the coast.

We followed the track up the northern bank of the river to Fox Caves, where we had lunch. Joe and I went into the caves, which are described as "safe" and an easy walk in, but which seemed pretty hairy to us, clambering along narrow slippery ledges above deeply cut cracks. (It didn't help that my torch batteries were almost flat, something I didn't realise till much later.) We turned back after going maybe 20m in. Joe thought he'd been there before, but it wasn't as he remembered at all, so we don't know what was going on there.

I changed out of boots and into sandshoes at this point. Instead of going back downriver to cross to the other side we scrambled down a steep bank to the river, waded across, and climbed up a small rockslide to the track on the other side. We stopped there for a while, only to find when we set off that the signs on either side of us said "danger, falling rocks". When we reached the junction of the Fox and Dilemma rivers, Adrienne waited while Joe and I waded up the Fox to the Ballroom, a huge overhang that would fit hundreds. Then we went on up the Dilemma, wading calf-deep up wide flat riverbeds running through lush rainforest. (The walk follows an old cart route, used before the coastal road was built.)

Our campsite [aev]
We camped at a nice spot right at the junction of the Dilemma and Fossil creek. There were annoying numbers of sandflies and an intermittent drizzle, but we lit a fire (using the first twenty pages of my crappy copy of The Last of the Wine) and had a solid meal. My boots were useful for keeping the sandflies off my feet. There was a bit of rain overnight.

Tuesday February 5th

The Inland Pack Track is about 25km and can be done in anywhere from one to three days. We'd originally planned to do it in three, but given the weather and the not so attractive next campsite (near Bullock Creek farm), we had pretty much decided to walk out when we set off on the second day. It's probably worth taking three days over it and using the extra time to do some exploration further up the Dilemma or the Fossil.

Keeping an eye out for grikes [aev]
We started with what was perhaps the nicest bit of the route, wading up Fossil creek. Leaving the creek, the track then goes through beautiful forest, in limestone/karst country cut by gullies - and with signs warning of the dangers of "grikes" if one strayed off the track. (A grike is "a deep, narrow, vertical or steeply inclined, rectilinear slot with almost parallel sides", but it sounded like a kind of monster to me!) There was also bit of mud, but nothing very difficult (and no leeches).

Pororari River gorge [aev]
At the Bullock Creek farm we stopped for a fairly miserable lunch, with the rain getting strong enough for us to bring out our rainjackets (the only time I used mine on the trip) and the sandflies a right nuisance. There was, however, a view of the mountains (Euclid and Warning?) to the east, and a temptingly signposted Mt Bovis track... When we reached the Pororari we separated, with Joe continuing on to the Punakaiki river, while Adrienne and I went down the Pororari. That brought us out right at the pub, where I had a quick drink before walking up to the DOC centre to meet Joe and get the car.

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