It was an overcast, but warm, morning as I pulled back the curtains of our bedroom window to reveal the day’s weather. It was the start of our weekend and we were excited to embark on our first over-night mission of the summer.
21 kilometers over Pyramid Saddle and Flanagan Pass led us from Twizel to the shore of Lake Ohau. The track passed through wetlands, exotic forest, and open valleys, which was a nice change from the damp, mossy tracks of Fiordland that we were used to. After making it through the many false corners of Flanagan Pass, we could finally see the glistening, turquoise waters of Lake Ohau. We enjoyed this idyllic afternoon, but after walking 5 hours with fragile heads (one too many drinks the night before) and stiff, new hiking boots, we were ready to arrive and relax at our home for the night.
The DOC worker at our local information center described Greta Lodge with one word: interesting. And that could not have been a more accurate description.
The walls are covered with standard name-and-dates (“Ben wuz here 2011”), cool drawings, and cliché inspirational quotes (“When someone tells you, ‘That’s impossible’, it's more a reflection of their limitations, not yours.”). There are wood carvings around the lodge – the door frame, the handrail, the wooden chair next to the fireplace; ‘Greta Lodge’ is carved into the top of the front entrance. Most DOC huts have a visitor’s book, but here, guests have used the hut itself to leave their mark, really giving the lodge a lot of character.
Outside, the lodge becomes even more interesting. There are two fire pits: your standard campfire out on the front yard and a large, lakeside pit using rocks for seating. A wooden plank hangs from a nearby tree branch creating a swing fit for two. As we were exploring this camping haven, I stumbled across a gem hidden amongst the bushes – an old bathtub with enough space underneath for a fire; a rustic, backcountry spa you could say.
Greta Lodge is the last remaining hut from a camp set up in the 1930s to house workers building the road during the depression. Nowadays, it serves as both a hiking shelter and a living museum. It is accessible by road or trail and going to check it out, even if just for a day trip, is definitely worth it!
Outbound Route: Flanagan Pass Trail, through Darts Bush flats, over Flanagan Pass, down Dorcy Track to Greta Lodge, 21 km, 6 hours.
Return Route: Greta Track up the western flank of Ben Ohau, left the track to stay along the ridgeline, cut back to rejoin the Flanagan Pass
Trail back to the Glen Lyon Road car park, 22 km, 6.5 hours.
Sleeps: 4 people, including a double “bed”.
Favorite Hut Feature: A little kitchenette including a sink - extremely convenient.
Hut Tip: No bathroom as far as we could tell, so be prepared for that. Bring a towel to use after your dip in the lake or spa!
Rookie Mistake: Forgot the sunscreen!