Skip to navigation

Long-Distance Walks with Mark Moxon

Hollyford-Pyke Route: Day 7: Black Swamp

Rick trekking along the shore of Lake Alabaster
Rick trekking along the rocky shore of Lake Alabaster, knee deep in cold water

Day 7 saw an early start of 6am and more beautiful weather, with strong sunlight and a gentle breeze to take the sting out of the ultraviolet. On paper the route looked pretty easy; follow the river for about 10km before hitting the northern tip of Lake Alabaster, from where it was plain sailing if you just walked in the lake, according to the Kiwis. How could we go wrong? One word: washout.

Looking south down Lake Alabaster
Looking south down Lake Alabaster
Sunset over Lake Alabaster
Sunset over Lake Alabaster

The Black Swamp

Mark knee-deep in the oozing Black Swamp
Knee-deep in the oozing goo of the Black Swamp

One good thing about the river escapade was that it enabled us to pinpoint our position on the map; we were just north of a river that flowed across the track, and we reasoned that if we could get to the river, we could walk up and down it relatively unhindered and find the markers. We soon found the river, and Rick headed west towards the Pyke, while I headed east. I must have walked for a good half a kilometre through waist-deep, brown water, not seeing or caring what lay in the muddy creek; I was just glad that this wasn't northern Australia, or I'd have been chomped up by a crocodile in no time at all. By the time I returned, soaked to the skin and with boots full of silt, I discovered that Rick had found the track, and had been yelling my name for ages. That's another nasty aspect of the bush; it eats all sound. But we were so glad to have found the track again, I didn't really care.

Mt Madeline
Mt Madeline from Alabaster Hut

1 It's a serious point, this. I later read in the paper about a German who died on the Tasman Glacier when he fell off a moraine wall while taking a photograph; I'd spent Christmas Eve on the Tasman Glacier, and I'd climbed plenty of moraine around there. There but for the Grace of God...