The Tin Range
14 December 2020 - David Cary
On Saturday the 5th of December I headed off to Stewart Island with 4 friends.
The original plan was to spend a few days in Port Pegasus with packrafts, climb Gog and Magog, traverse the Tin Range, and packraft our way from Rakeahua Hut through Patterson Inlet almost all the way back to Oban. The weather forecast turned out to be foul, but since transport to Port Pegasus is hard to arrange we went anyway, without the rafts. We needed to use the first 2 days good weather for the exposed Tin Range, and walked in to Halfmoon Bay on the Southern Circuit.
We caught a ride on a boat chartered by another group who took a mountain of gear, kayaks and a zodiac, it took forever to load the boat in Bluff and finally we were off making good time in heavy seas. I emptied my stomach several times over the side of the boat and was grateful for the liquorish I ate for breakfast as it came back up. 2 of the 5 of us disembarked completely spent. We set off after a quick and functionally deprecated lunch stop up easy forested slopes that become a benched tram line, wooden tracks still visible in places, through grevious Stewart Island scrub. Our goal was to sleep at the Mt Allan tarn and we did but not without some minor drama in the scrub. Route finding to Mt Allan does require some skill in several places. It pays to patiently search out the easy way, as soon as you find yourself fighting scrub, stop, reconsider, find an easier way. You can’t brute force your way through it. The Tin Range is not high but it is extremely committing, once you are on the range the only way out is forward.
After Mt Allan the route finding is a lot easier except in a few crucial places and on the final descent into the Rakeahua Valley. There are extensive trapping and bait stations all the way to the valley floor. We saw a few deer and some curious southern New Zealand Dotterel. The scenery is wet, barren, windswept and perhaps reminiscent of Scotland at times.
We slept our second night in Rakeahua Hut, and continued up the valley next day and over the tops to Doughboy Bay. Several Kiwi were sighted in broad daylight. The Southern Circuit is stunning when the track is in forest, however the barren manuka tops are severely degraded from use and the track can be quite muddy. We spent 2 nights in Doughboy Bay, a most charming place, though the beach and dunes are severely polluted by plastic.
The walk to Masons bay was more of the same, coastal forest, muddy manuka tops, capped off by magnificent flowering rata in the dunes and a fast drag race up the hard packed beach into a fierce head wind to the 20 bunk Masons Bay Hut.
After Masons Bay we had an easy time into Freshwater Hut, North Arm Campsite and back to Oban where we stayed the night in the backpackers to catch our boat home early Sunday afternoon.
Thanks to Stanley, Belinda, Gavin and Sally for a very relaxing trip.