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Less than half an hour ago I was in civilisation. Now, I am well and truly in the wild, ready for the adventures ahead. It feels like we should have hiked for days to get here. But that’s the beauty of doing the Siberia Experience - you don’t have to.
We met our pilot standing by a light plane on the side of the road in Makarora. We climb aboard, and Will treats us to a stunning 25-minute scenic flight over the vast wilderness of the Southern Alps.
He has dropped us in the stunning and remote Siberia Valley, a glacier-carved hanging valley within Mt Aspiring National Park, west of Makarora. It’s a tiny dot on the map, known as the stepping-off point for the West Coast of the South Island.
As I jump out of the 6-seater plane, the chilly morning air hits me, and I immediately wonder if I packed enough socks. Lauren sorts out the gear and briefs us on safe river crossings. Lauren’s pre-crossing briefing tips and her steadying nature soon have us safely to the other side, bouncing with newfound confidence. Things are looking good for us!
River crossing accomplished, we head to Siberia Hut where Lauren gives a pre-hike briefing to run us through the schedule for the day. I take a peek inside the hut and am impressed by its large bunk rooms, modern kitchen, wood burner and huge, well-positioned windows that afford stunning views up the valley. It’s very well maintained by the Department of Conservation (DOC). Standing beside the hut, I take in the sight before me, the river rushes alongside us and already I feel a long way from civilisation, and I couldn’t be happier about it.
Today we’ll do a hike from Siberia Valley to the Wilkin Valley, where we’ll meet the jet boat for the final leg of our journey back to Makarora. The day has warmed up, and the track is easy under foot. We cross a few small streams trickling down from the mountains high above.
The Wilkin River is blue, beautiful but too big to cross on foot. Cue jet boats. I am excited about the prospect of the jet boat, but a little saddened that it will whizz us back to civilisation. Eventually, a distant hum reveals itself to be the roar of a jet boat. The 50 km jet boat journey takes around 30 minutes and includes complimentary 360-degree spins and plenty of big smiles.
I will never tire of this, never be unimpressed by this. The day that I am no longer utterly enthralled and in awe of the pristine landscapes that New Zealand presents us is the day I hang up my boots and give up chocolate biscuits. I’m telling you now – it will never happen.