Auckland Baptist Tramping Club

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7 enthusiastic trampers headed up and over Golden Bay Road to the Golden Bay wharf in time to connect with our water taxi that would take us up Patterson Inlet to Freshwater Landing, and the start of the Mason Bay track. This was timed to make sure that we arrived at the entrance to Freshwater River at the right side of high tide. The 20 minute trip up the river was high-action and adrenalin pumping, with passengers strategically seated throughout the boat to make sure the weight load was spread evenly. Think Shotover River jet-boating without the donut spins! Our very young but experienced driver expertly guided us up the river, slickly negotiating the many twists and turns. The boat flew quite fast in order to create a smaller wash and reduce the impact on the river banks. Disembarkation involved heaving ourselves up a metal ladder anchored to the side of the jetty at Freshwater Landing, while weary walkers waited to begin their return journey.

At about 1:45pm we set off up the Mason Bay track towards the hut that we could imagine somewhere near the distant towering sand dunes. The heat of the afternoon made for challenging walking. Moments of shade provided by Manuka trees were very welcome. The narrow 550 metre rickety boardwalk across the Chocolate Swamp was an interesting experience, especially when we encountered a fellow walker coming in the opposite direction! Nifty footwork helped us to safely pass each other. The track was generally in a good condition, with occasional mud patches safely negotiated thanks to handy Manuka branches to grab onto.

Mason Bay hut eventually appeared, after 4 hours of walking in sweltering heat. A very popular spot, Mason Bay was extremely busy with a mixture of walkers coming in from Freshwater Landing as we did, staying overnight and returning the same way. Other trampers arrived at Mason Bay via Little Hellfire on the Northern Circuit, and a popular way to reach the hut was via a little plane from Invercargill or Oban and landing on the sands of 15km long beautiful Mason Bay.