The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 9, Issue 1 (April 2, 1934.)
Into Fiordland — From Manapouri to Deep Cove
The following article describes a trip taken recently from Lake Manapouri to Deep Cove, at the head of Doubtful Sound.
Down the Lake of a Hundred Isles puffed the “Manurere,” “Flying Bird,” the little steamer that runs between View House, Manapouri, and the Western arm, from which starts the eleven-mile track over Wilmot Pass down to Deep Cove, on Doubtful Sound. This track forms part of a magnificent round trip of 110 miles, opened up recently by Leslie Murrell, the well-known Fiordland guide, a trip which is said to rival the Milford Track itself for interest and beauty.
Nobody hurries in Fiordland; our trip up the lake was in the accepted tradition, and we had ample time in which to view all the beauty and calm, majestic splendour of the Cathedral Peaks, Kepler Range and Hunter Mountains, raising their impregnable walls of rock and sky-piercing peaks in the western sky. It was two o'clock when we sprang ashore, and made our way to the little hut where trampers pause for lunch before setting out on the trail.
The first few miles of the track lies through splendid forest, a track softly carpeted with the small golden-brown leaves of the giant birch trees, with tall ferns and exquisite mosses fringing our pathway. This is one of the most picturesque and beautiful forest tracks in New Zealand, its charms equalling those of the Milford track, and the woodland glory of the Franz Josef and Fox Glacier forest walks. Close on our left is the Spey River, its swift waters running over a bed of shining white pebbles, pausing sometimes in pools shading from pale jade to the tint of dark greenstone.
Three miles from the head of the lake the track turns inland, and soon we are on the mountain side, climbing ever upward through a rare and lovely Alpine garden blooming sweetly in that woodland paradise of ferns and moss and little mountain rills. Here are Alpine lilies, clusters of snow-white gentian, gold and buff and white senecio, ourisia, celmesia, and others of that rare and lovely company of the wild.
The track is well made, and quite easy going, but fairly steep in grade here and there, so that it is with a feeling of relief that we come in sight of Mid Camp, or Halfway Hut, somewhere about four o'clock in the afternoon. It is mid-summer, and very hot; boiling the billy makes a very pleasant break in the tramp, and the pause gives us opportunity to look around and take leisurely survey of this picturesque and wildly beautiful region of forest and mountain. The hut is built in a clearing on the rim of a deep ravine that stretches a thousand feet into the forest-filled valley. Right opposite is a typical Fiordland cataract, the Cleve Garth Fall, descending in three zig-zag leaps down fifteen hundred feet of almost perpendicular rock wall.
We are still a couple of miles below the Pass itself, and this portion of the walk is of unique beauty, lying through groves of flowering ribbonwood (Gaya Lyalli), lovely as a Japanese cherry grove in spring. The pass itself is a deep, narrow cleft between Mounts Wilmot and Mainwaring, and the drop on the other side to sea-level is much steeper than the ascent from the shores of the lake. We descend by a route fitly known as The Devil's Stair-case, and a rough scramble it is, over moss-grown boulders, mountain streams, slippery stepping stones and fallen tree trunks. But this portion of the track soon smoothes out to a well-worn trail, and while rather rougher than the bushland portions of the Milford track, it can be easily traversed by anyone used to forest tramps.
Through an opening in the wall of the forest, we presently glimpse the winding waterway of Deep Cove far below, golden in the sunset, shadowed by immense walls of rock, studded with little wooded islets.
It is almost dark by the time we reach journey's end at the comfortable Government hut on Lyvia River, and the moreporks are calling mournfully as we trudge onward through the gathering shadows of the long Fiordland twilight.
We spent two days at Deep Cove, launching on the Sound, exploring the magnificent waterways of Hall's Arm, Smith and Thompson Sound, and beautiful little Dea's Cove, not far from the outer ocean.
This wonderful trip is as yet comparatively unknown to New Zealand holiday-makers, and it is only the lesser half of a scenic route that will surely make Southland famous when its beauties become more widely known. The complete tour, from the North Arm of Manapouri to the Gaer Arm of Bradshaw Sound, thence by launch to Deep Cove, and back to Manapouri via Wilmot Pass, occupies a week, and carries the tramper into the very heart of Fiordland.