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1





You always deal with surprises during hiking. Because you are isolated from modern life worries, because you keep walking in the wonders of a wild nature or even bareness. Hiking is usually a great experience. “Walking is provoking. It’s going ahead things, harvesting freely along a fanciful furrow, living in a perpetually renewed wonder. Brisk walking!” Alexandre Poussin. Loyal to his call, we walk.

After a walking day in Caples Valley, in Mid-Caples Hut, our first surprise occurred. A young German traveller told us about his previous tramp through the Mount Aspiring National Park. He loved particularly this hike. We seized the opportunity to finish well our discovery of the Fiordland Region.

The hike is called Cascade Saddle.

2





We reach the begining of the track by hichhiking. An old moustached Scottish man leads us to the entrance of the Rees Valley. There, we fully understand how lucky we are to be here. Mountains are so beautiful! We progress almost reverently in the marshes of the long valley. We feel tiny between these high mountains, capped with their pristine glaciers.
They are the Misty Mountains. We recognise the same silhouette than in our memories of the Lord of the Rings.

3





This hike is more difficult than the others we dealt with. You shouldn’t be afraid of wetting your feet. Actually, you don’t have the choice. Are you able to jump a three-meter-wide river with twenty kilos of equipments on your back? We aren’t. First, we hesitate. We remove the shoes and carefully hold it while crossing. But it’s written. We’ll once unintentionally put a brave step into the swamp. Then we let it go. We continue with the two feet happily swimming in the water. After all, if we should have wet feet, let's move fast! And the shoes keep the rhythm: Cop-plop.

4





After the meadow, we penetrate into the wood. We reach there the boundary of Mount Aspiring National Park. Immediately, we see the difference: the trail is fitted. We walk on swing bridges, gateways… It’s much more comfortable. And to balance the comfort, some showers take us by surprise, as we are precisely leaving the forest. Hopefully, the hut is close.

5





We however arrive soaked. The rain didn’t miss us! We take refuge in the warm atmosphere of the Shelter Rock Hut. Our Scottish driver is already resting here. We vainly try to dry our clothes, but with this continuous rain, it’s a waste of time.

6





The second day hiking we were gifted with a clear sky, a morning break. We can peacefully progress on the high valley, along the Forbes range. It is a black rocky, huge, steep and impassable chain: the famous Mordor.

7





To get through, we must reach the bottom and cross the Rees Saddle. The pass opens into a small valley sheltering a clogged river. Riding down south, we arrive in the Dart valley. The Dart Hut is at the crossing.

This new valley looks like the previous one, but is still dominated by these grandiose heights. The Dart valley leads to Isengard (or actually its filming location). And if you go up the valley, you reach a huge glacier and the famous pass, "Cascade Saddle".

8





Obviously, once we arrive in the Dart Hut, we only think about eating (basic instinct) and resting. Then it starts to rain. We let ourselves be gently charmed by the comfort of this warm and dry shelter.
Suddenly a tramper enters. She seems forty years old and fearless. We easily could imagine her driving a thirty-three tons truck.
”You want to go through Cascade Saddle? Well you ought to go right now. Otherwise, you’ll have to walk for ten hours tomorrow. Don't tell me that this little shower is scaring you? Are you chicks or trampers?”
That sums up pretty much the situation. Actually, that is the boost we needed, a little damage to our pride. The rain precisely just stopped. Let's go!

9





We are disoriented. The vegetation has disappeared. It is a mineral landscape, a desert plain marked by the passage of the glacier and the capricious river. The latter is dirty, blurred. It comes directly from the glacier, a few kilometres above. The virgin land where we progress is made of black sand and angular stones. Yet this dark landscape is tinged with colours: shades of gray of rocks, turquoise of blue lakes, colours of lichens and mosses, yellow grasses that grow up there. We are floored by the fatigue of our body and the emerging shower. We find a good platform to camp, at a hundred meters from the glacier, at the foot of the pass.

10



The Kea Affair

Pierre is cooking the diner. We are caulked in the tent.
Suddenly, wham! I gave a kick on the pot containing the noodles. My blunder sentences me to clean everything. I rinse the dishcloths in the stream and make them dry, a futile task given the rain.
Lied in our sleeping bags, we are enjoying a quiet evening, reading. Suddenly, Pierre says: “Benoit, there is a hawk in the tent!”
What the… Indeed, there is a large bird with a hooked beak staring at us, between the canvas and the net. Cuckoo!
“It's a kea, I answer, they are very curious.”
And it's true. This is the first time I see one. They are very intelligent also. This one has a thick brown plumage, with red and green hues under the wings. This is a more a parrot than a raptor.
The animal flees.
Soon after, we hear its squawk: keeee-aah. Hence its name. Pierre, out of curiosity, opens the tent.
"Why did you put the dishcloths to dry up the rocks?
- Well, no, they are in front of the tent ... "
We look at and recognise...the sacred kea! He stole the dishcloths. I’m laughing out loud while Pierre gets them back. What nerve!
And throughout the night, we hear him snooping, sometimes screaming, shaking the tent. We could open the tent to its attention, swear, he does flee but always comes back.

About six in the morning, I woke up because of metal noises. Is there a passing hiker?
I open the tent. My stuff is spread out in the rain. My e-reader, the pot, the coffee ...
Then I see the bird. I think he has never heard that much insults addressed to him. He fleed only when I threw him stones.
And for his theft, he simply pierced the canvas. He dug first a hole at our feet, but our shoes were not good enough food to his liking. Then he pierced another net hole, like a pet door ... one foot from my head! And I didn’t even wake up. Clever! How to be a knockout in two rounds by a sparrow...

11





After this story, we remain awake. We must continue, even if the rain keeps falling continuously. We attack the pass, go up on the slippery slope. Keas are flying around, looking despicably after us.
Turning around, we can see the Dart Glacier between two clouds. This immense tongue passes on slowly. While we are climbing, we hear twice its low growl, the sound of the ice cracking, like a thunderclap.
Under the rain, we usually have to choose between protecting our bag or protecting ourselves. This time, we anyway are completely soaked reaching the pass.

12





Cascade Saddle has a particularity. From where we come, it remains accessible. However from the other side, it is a large cliff. The trail goes along it and leads to a high valley in which flows a broad river.

13





We take a break at the edge of the river. We are exhausted. We really would like to stand here longer, but it's too cold, too humid. This spectacular place remains inhospitable.
We keep walking, we keep going to the end of ourselves. One step after another, one stack after another. We remain silent. Landscapes swallow us. Our thoughts belong to this place. Deeply inside, we are reduced to a little being in front of those blocks, these high immortal elements.
But we know. This place, beside its immutable appearances, is fragile. Species are threatened, glaciers retreat. By the way here, we even let a trace. The essential point is to let the least or a positive one.

14





The trail doesn't go up the valley. We storm the other side, climbing the "Pylon". But it is to come down again better.
The main reason this tramp is rated difficult is the following part. It is so steep that it's actually really hazardous. We lose a thirteen hundred meters altitude in two kilometers. The first hundred meter is nearly rock climbing. Then we go down this slope I would consider impassable. Yet it is the only way that allows to cross Cascade Saddle. A challenge.
One false step, and this is the plunge, death. We stay focused. The stones, the roots are slippery. Two hours down. Painful. The trial exhausts us. But finally we did it! Looking back: Whoa!
We can then enjoy the shelter of the Aspiring Hut, to rest inside its protecting walls, sit on its comfortable benchs and sew the tent.

15





Thus ended the most beautiful, the most adventurous trek in New Zealand we have accomplished. A challenge I would advise all hikers, adventurers going to visit this beautiful country (check for good weather forecast before). The experience is well worth the discomfort and the efforts we invested!

16





Our camera passed away during this tramp. So we have very few pictures. The pictures of this article came from internet.
To see more pictures, I chose for you three links of blogs about Cascade Saddle. This will show you why we really loved this hike.

https://cpzealand.wordpress.com/2014/03/05/cascade-saddle-route-and-reese-dart-track/

http://tomassobekphotography.co.nz/gallery3/index.php/Tramping/Cascade-Saddle-Feb-2012?page=1

http://www.byclearlake.co.nz/?p=199

1





You always deal with surprises during hiking. Because you are isolated from modern life worries, because you keep walking in the wonders of a wild nature or even bareness. Hiking is usually a great experience. “Walking is provoking. It’s going ahead things, harvesting freely along a fanciful furrow, living in a perpetually renewed wonder. Brisk walking!” Alexandre Poussin. Loyal to his call, we walk.

After a walking day in Caples Valley, in Mid-Caples Hut, our first surprise occurred. A young German traveller told us about his previous tramp through the Mount Aspiring National Park. He loved particularly this hike. We seized the opportunity to finish well our discovery of the Fiordland Region.

The hike is called Cascade Saddle.





We reach the begining of the track by hichhiking. An old moustached Scottish man leads us to the entrance of the Rees Valley. There, we fully understand how lucky we are to be here. Mountains are so beautiful! We progress almost reverently in the marshes of the long valley. We feel tiny between these high mountains, capped with their pristine glaciers.
They are the Misty Mountains. We recognise the same silhouette than in our memories of the Lord of the Rings.





This hike is more difficult than the others we dealt with. You shouldn’t be afraid of wetting your feet. Actually, you don’t have the choice. Are you able to jump a three-meter-wide river with twenty kilos of equipments on your back? We aren’t. First, we hesitate. We remove the shoes and carefully hold it while crossing. But it’s written. We’ll once unintentionally put a brave step into the swamp. Then we let it go. We continue with the two feet happily swimming in the water. After all, if we should have wet feet, let's move fast! And the shoes keep the rhythm: Cop-plop.





After the meadow, we penetrate into the wood. We reach there the boundary of Mount Aspiring National Park. Immediately, we see the difference: the trail is fitted. We walk on swing bridges, gateways… It’s much more comfortable. And to balance the comfort, some showers take us by surprise, as we are precisely leaving the forest. Hopefully, the hut is close.





We however arrive soaked. The rain didn’t miss us! We take refuge in the warm atmosphere of the Shelter Rock Hut. Our Scottish driver is already resting here. We vainly try to dry our clothes, but with this continuous rain, it’s a waste of time.





The second day hiking we were gifted with a clear sky, a morning break. We can peacefully progress on the high valley, along the Forbes range. It is a black rocky, huge, steep and impassable chain: the famous Mordor.





To get through, we must reach the bottom and cross the Rees Saddle. The pass opens into a small valley sheltering a clogged river. Riding down south, we arrive in the Dart valley. The Dart Hut is at the crossing.

This new valley looks like the previous one, but is still dominated by these grandiose heights. The Dart valley leads to Isengard (or actually its filming location). And if you go up the valley, you reach a huge glacier and the famous pass, "Cascade Saddle".





Obviously, once we arrive in the Dart Hut, we only think about eating (basic instinct) and resting. Then it starts to rain. We let ourselves be gently charmed by the comfort of this warm and dry shelter.
Suddenly a tramper enters. She seems forty years old and fearless. We easily could imagine her driving a thirty-three tons truck.
”You want to go through Cascade Saddle? Well you ought to go right now. Otherwise, you’ll have to walk for ten hours tomorrow. Don't tell me that this little shower is scaring you? Are you chicks or trampers?”
That sums up pretty much the situation. Actually, that is the boost we needed, a little damage to our pride. The rain precisely just stopped. Let's go!





We are disoriented. The vegetation has disappeared. It is a mineral landscape, a desert plain marked by the passage of the glacier and the capricious river. The latter is dirty, blurred. It comes directly from the glacier, a few kilometres above. The virgin land where we progress is made of black sand and angular stones. Yet this dark landscape is tinged with colours: shades of gray of rocks, turquoise of blue lakes, colours of lichens and mosses, yellow grasses that grow up there. We are floored by the fatigue of our body and the emerging shower. We find a good platform to camp, at a hundred meters from the glacier, at the foot of the pass.



The Kea Affair

Pierre is cooking the diner. We are caulked in the tent.
Suddenly, wham! I gave a kick on the pot containing the noodles. My blunder sentences me to clean everything. I rinse the dishcloths in the stream and make them dry, a futile task given the rain.
Lied in our sleeping bags, we are enjoying a quiet evening, reading. Suddenly, Pierre says: “Benoit, there is a hawk in the tent!”
What the… Indeed, there is a large bird with a hooked beak staring at us, between the canvas and the net. Cuckoo!
“It's a kea, I answer, they are very curious.”
And it's true. This is the first time I see one. They are very intelligent also. This one has a thick brown plumage, with red and green hues under the wings. This is a more a parrot than a raptor.
The animal flees.
Soon after, we hear its squawk: keeee-aah. Hence its name. Pierre, out of curiosity, opens the tent.
"Why did you put the dishcloths to dry up the rocks?
- Well, no, they are in front of the tent ... "
We look at and recognise...the sacred kea! He stole the dishcloths. I’m laughing out loud while Pierre gets them back. What nerve!
And throughout the night, we hear him snooping, sometimes screaming, shaking the tent. We could open the tent to its attention, swear, he does flee but always comes back.

About six in the morning, I woke up because of metal noises. Is there a passing hiker?
I open the tent. My stuff is spread out in the rain. My e-reader, the pot, the coffee ...
Then I see the bird. I think he has never heard that much insults addressed to him. He fleed only when I threw him stones.
And for his theft, he simply pierced the canvas. He dug first a hole at our feet, but our shoes were not good enough food to his liking. Then he pierced another net hole, like a pet door ... one foot from my head! And I didn’t even wake up. Clever! How to be a knockout in two rounds by a sparrow...





After this story, we remain awake. We must continue, even if the rain keeps falling continuously. We attack the pass, go up on the slippery slope. Keas are flying around, looking despicably after us.
Turning around, we can see the Dart Glacier between two clouds. This immense tongue passes on slowly. While we are climbing, we hear twice its low growl, the sound of the ice cracking, like a thunderclap.
Under the rain, we usually have to choose between protecting our bag or protecting ourselves. This time, we anyway are completely soaked reaching the pass.





Cascade Saddle has a particularity. From where we come, it remains accessible. However from the other side, it is a large cliff. The trail goes along it and leads to a high valley in which flows a broad river.





We take a break at the edge of the river. We are exhausted. We really would like to stand here longer, but it's too cold, too humid. This spectacular place remains inhospitable.
We keep walking, we keep going to the end of ourselves. One step after another, one stack after another. We remain silent. Landscapes swallow us. Our thoughts belong to this place. Deeply inside, we are reduced to a little being in front of those blocks, these high immortal elements.
But we know. This place, beside its immutable appearances, is fragile. Species are threatened, glaciers retreat. By the way here, we even let a trace. The essential point is to let the least or a positive one.





The trail doesn't go up the valley. We storm the other side, climbing the "Pylon". But it is to come down again better.
The main reason this tramp is rated difficult is the following part. It is so steep that it's actually really hazardous. We lose a thirteen hundred meters altitude in two kilometers. The first hundred meter is nearly rock climbing. Then we go down this slope I would consider impassable. Yet it is the only way that allows to cross Cascade Saddle. A challenge.
One false step, and this is the plunge, death. We stay focused. The stones, the roots are slippery. Two hours down. Painful. The trial exhausts us. But finally we did it! Looking back: Whoa!
We can then enjoy the shelter of the Aspiring Hut, to rest inside its protecting walls, sit on its comfortable benchs and sew the tent.





Thus ended the most beautiful, the most adventurous trek in New Zealand we have accomplished. A challenge I would advise all hikers, adventurers going to visit this beautiful country (check for good weather forecast before). The experience is well worth the discomfort and the efforts we invested!





Our camera passed away during this tramp. So we have very few pictures. The pictures of this article came from internet.
To see more pictures, I chose for you three links of blogs about Cascade Saddle. This will show you why we really loved this hike.

https://cpzealand.wordpress.com/2014/03/05/cascade-saddle-route-and-reese-dart-track/

http://tomassobekphotography.co.nz/gallery3/index.php/Tramping/Cascade-Saddle-Feb-2012?page=1

http://www.byclearlake.co.nz/?p=199

.