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Long-Distance Walks with Mark Moxon

Hollyford-Pyke Route: Day 2: Demon Trail

Lake Alabaster
Perfect reflections in the southern end of tranquil Lake Alabaster

One of the stories the Tararuas told was of the Pyke Loop. The Hollyford is a one-way track, but there is a continuation of the track up the coast and back down the Pyke river, coming out at the Alabaster Hut again; if you imagine the whole loop as a Y-shape, then the Hollyford Track goes from the bottom of the Y to the top of the left fork, and the Pyke Loop crosses the top of the Y and heads back down the left-hand side, back to the stem. Although this loop track sounds ideal, reducing the only repeated section of the walk to the last day from Alabaster to the road end, it's not really a sensible option; it's classed as a route rather than a track, which means it's hardly marked, it's not maintained, and if it rains you're in serious trouble, with flooding rivers, big swamps and only two huts on the entire 60km stretch. When I'd first looked at the walk details for the Hollyford I'd briefly entertained the idea of doing the Pyke Loop, only to read that the walk was only suitable for experienced, well-equipped parties, so I'd stuck to the Hollyford. Half of the Tararua group had just returned from the Pyke Loop, and with mud up to your waist, fast-flowing rivers and seriously thick scrub lacerating your legs, it sounded like the Hollyford was the better bet. Still, the Pyke would have been an interesting option if I'd been with a group.

The Hollyford River south of Lake McKerrow
Wild scenery along the Hollyford River, just south of Lake McKerrow