Crosbie’s Hut weekend 7-9 June
On a grey wintery afternoon, ‘camp mother’ Jenny and her flock of eight trampers set off for the Coromandel in the trusty club van. Our destination was the relative comfort of a tourist park in Thames, relative being the operational word for some of us! After unloading our baggage, we set off for a shared meal at a Thames restaurant, essential pre tramp calorie-loading strategy. Food and company received big ticks of approval but conversation, had it been possible, was lacking due to excessive decibels generated by the one man band crammed into the same room as us.
On Saturday morning, we began our ascent onslaught, a solid five and a half hour haul up through dense protective bush effectively shielding us from sporadic showers. We reached Crosbie’s Hut mid-afternoon, grateful for the double-glazing, a decent dual coal/woodburner and a mattress apiece. A smorgasbord of meals was whipped up by halogen headlamp illumination with a candle adding that little extra lowlighting magic at altitude, all of 700 steep meters.
Billboards outside the comfortable hut built in 2010, summarise the story of European settlers, Thomas and Agnes Crosbie. In 1880, these intrepid migrants started clearing the lot they had acquired for farming and a homestead later known as Crosbie’s Settlement. Farming here was a challenge and the settlement was abandoned in 1926, the cleared land eventually reclaimed by native bush. Crosbie’s settlement was included in Coromandel Forest Park in 1970, its original woolshed converted into a trampers’ hut until this blew down in the 1980’s.
After a night punctuated by some symphonic snoring and a slowly dying gale, Sunday morning served up welcome dry sunny weather. A sincerely challenging descent was accompanied by mumbled mutterings as we negotiated a precipitous and muddy track. Our passage was pleasantly distracted by Mother Nature’s home-grown treasures: superb native bush, a stand of magnificent Kauri and a smorgasbord of psychedelic fungi shamelessly flashing their wares.
We enjoyed a late but luscious lunch at super quirky The Refinery in Paeroa, its culinary delights topping up our depleted tanks on our homeward drive. Once again, magical memories were made as we shared common ground and a single track. Grateful thanks both to Jenny for shepherding us safely and to our invaluable van moving duo who relinquished their cosy Hobbiton to make this weekend possible. Onwards and forwards, troops!
Trampers: Jenny and Gary Verschaffelt, Claire Furniss, Jan Harding, Raewyn Rush, Jill Martin, Sandy Fletcher, Nicky Dodwell, Gill Tate, Isobel and Austin Hutcheon
Round the Mountain Cycle Trail 14-18 May 2019
Day One: Queenstown to Mt Nicholas Station. 14 km cycling. After collecting our hire cycles we headed to the wharf at Queenstown to board the century-old TSS Earnslaw for the trip across Lake Wakatipu to Walter Peak Station. Cycles were stored in the bow of the boat in a cabin complete with portholes and museum-like photographs of the old sailing days hung around the walls. There is a walkway across the engine room where the engines can be viewed – the Earnslaw is the only working coal-fired steamship on the Lloyd’s Register. After an hour we landed at Walter Peak Station – where there were crowds of tourists waiting to board for the trip back to Queenstown.
But for us it was off to Mt Nicholas Station, an easy gravel road lined with autumn-hued trees which eventually gave way to grassy paddocks or tussock-covered hills. The weather was somewhat grey but then the rain came – heavy, with thunder and lightning. Heads down until we came to the muddy road leading down to our accommodation in the shearers’ quarters for the night.
The accommodation was spartan and cold, with no heating in the bedrooms – despite being told at length about the station’s very own power plant. However, there was a wood stove in the communal dining room, even if we had to chop our own wood as that supplied was too large for the firebox! We dried off, got the wet stuff hung up, and the owners then arrived in a 4WD with our dinner and pretty good it was – excellent two-courses and plenty of it. We amused ourselves after dinner with games of dice and then decamped to our somewhat chilly cells, one of the party being delighted to find some mouse poo in her duvet. This place won’t be getting 10/10 on Trip Advisor.
Day Two: Mt Nicholas Station to Mossburn. 30 km cycling. With heavy rain and strong winds during the night we weren’t feeling confident about today’s ride and we really didn’t have a Plan B. Contacted our shuttle driver and were able to arrange an earlier pickup along the Von Road. After a substantial breakfast and with our packed lunch we headed off into the murk along a gravel road through the station. Weather and visibility improved, giving us a panorama of tussock-covered hills and the mountain tops with a sprinkling of snow.
We had a look at a charming stone building, dating from the 1860s, and which was originally the kitchen for the early homestead. The road was easy riding and the only real hill was Von hill, a climb of about 340 metres. As we were all on e-bikes this presented no problem and before long we were on top, from which we enjoyed views of the Von river and gorge. Then down the other side, revelling in the easy cycling and enjoying the sight of the expansive valley unfolding as we went along. Some fords to cross – a bit tricky after the rain and wet feet for those too chicken to ride through. One was unlucky to fall in and got a good dunking – fortunately not long before we met up with our shuttle at around the 30 km mark. Simon, our driver, loaded us up and then took us to Mavora Lakes (which was our original pick-up point) for a look-see. Weather was clagging in again and it was off to Mossburn to the very welcoming and warm Railway Hotel.
Day Three: Centre Hill to Lumsden. 43 km cycling. Bad weather again. Back on our shuttle (Simon had hosed our bikes down to remove grit clinging to the chains) and away we went back to Centre Hill to pick up the trail along the Oreti river. Didn’t see much and we felt a little deprived about this as it looked very scenic through the misty rain. 25 km to Mossburn where we warmed up with hot food and then off again in the rain to Lumsden, another 18 km. Rain and gusty winds nearly blew one of us off her cycle. The trail from Mossburn runs mostly beside the highway so we also had to contend with heavy trucks spraying us with wet, plus power poles planted in the middle of the trail – put your head down and there might be a nasty accident!
Lumsden Hotel clean and comfortable but plagued with electrical problems – plugging in appliances such as jugs and hairdriers and heaters resulted in frequent fuse blow-outs. However, there was a roaring fire in the lounge which dried our shoes nicely, the food was good and there was a pool table.
Day Four: Lumsden to Garston. 48 km cycling. Fine and clear at last. Breakfast in a local café and then away on an excellent, well-formed lightly gravelled trail. Easy cycling on the old railway line, farming in the foreground, the snow-covered Eyre mountains as a backdrop. A stop at the Five Rivers Café for a coffee and look at the art gallery and then a long lunch at Athol – we did do some cycling in between all this eating. We split up this night for our various accommodations, some with friends, others at a bed and breakfast and one at the Garston pub – the sole guest, and when she asked about a shed to store the cycle was told “you’re the only guest, you can put it in the dining room if you like”!
Day Five: Garston to Kingston. 17 km. We all met up again next morning and were on our way to Kingston. Some cloud and a little wind today but still pleasant cycling through farms with a background of hills and behind them the snowy Eyre mountains. Photo stop at Fairlight Station, known for its part in the Lotto ad on TV1). The trail crosses the Mataura river via two suspension bridges, 67 and 92 metres in length. And suddenly our ride was over with the trail swooping down into Kingston, where we finished with a group photo on the Kingston wharf. Farewells were said as some returned to campervans at Kingston, others getting the shuttle back to Queenstown, some 50 km away. The next day we were all off for another adventure – a 7-day cruise in the southern fiords of the Fiordland National Park; more on that next newsletter. Cyclists: Club members Kay and Roger Feather, Ngaire and Gerald Kissick, Barbara Morris, and friends Pat Ilsley, Jo Ward, Jo Lucas.
Stewart Island: Christmas Village to Freshwater Hut. Nine days. December 2018.
December 5th saw Jenny Verschaffelt, Gill Tate, Dave Wilding, Christine Elmiger and Kay Feather board a small plane for a rather bumpy flight from Invercargill to Stewart Island with 17 kg gear each, ready to complete nine days of the NW circuit anti-clockwise. On arrival, we visited the DOC office to get track information, then took a water taxi to Ulva Island where we saw a stunning array of birds and had the added excitement of being chased by a 400 kg-plus sea lion who took exception to us being on his patch of beach!
Day One to Yankee River 12 km, 8 hrs: Water taxi to Christmas Village. Due to a large swell running we had to take an inflatable and land further south at a hunters hut .We weren’t given very clear instructions on meeting the main track and had a couple of frustrating climbs up and down till we finally found the track. This added an extra couple of hours to our day – a long day finally reaching the hut at 7.30 pm after eight hours’ walking. We were thankful for Southland's long daylight hours. No one in the group was enthusiastic about climbing Mt Anglem due to the very low cloud shrouding it. The bush was predominately beech with fern under storey and lots of mid-size rimu. There was plenty of mud, steep ups and downs around the headlands with deep guts (tricky) with huge step-ups. Loud kiwi call right beside the hut (seen by those who dragged themselves out of bed) and plenty of deer sign close to the hut.
Day Two to Long Harry Hut 8.5 km, 6.5 hrs: Over a three-wire bridge and then steep up with the usual scramble down, followed by a truly agonising drag up a sand dune. Over beautiful dunes and glorious views and two km along Smoky Beach. We got the tide right for easy beach walking and crossing the river, at the end, for a lovely lunch spot. Huge rocks carved into interesting shapes by wind and sea. The mosquito population was extreme and they just loved Jenny! Bit of a loop around to the hut as we passed a very rough sea (fishing plans thwarted). Al (our German friend from Yankee) had already arrived. We were closely followed in by eight guys travelling in the opposite direction to us. All had HUGE packs with plentiful supplies of whisky, steak and slow-cooked lamb! Howling winds rocked the hut and we faced rain next morning.
Day Three to East Ruggedy Hut 9.5 km, 6 hrs: Left in rain and wind .Three more STEEP guts, then track eased, as did the wind and rain. Saw two kiwis that just wandered out onto the track and weren’t too perturbed by us. Very exciting just watching them scratch around. Down onto boulder beach … huge boulders along a very long beach which took a fair bit of concentration to traverse. Tide too high so some rock climbing was required. Spectacular views of offshore islands when coming down to East Ruggedy beach. A definite highlight. A white-tailed deer leapt out of the flax on our way down, with his huge bright white fluffed-up tail, as he sprang into deeper cover. Stimulating stuff seeing kiwi, white tailed deer, the amazing offshore islands and then five km of beautiful white-sand beach with gentle waves and only oyster catchers and dotterels to share our company. Stunning. Bit of a slog over sand dunes and up to the hut which sits just inside the bush.
Day Four: A welcome rest day at the beautiful East Ruggedy beach and the sun was shining. Such an amazing spot with the river flowing out to sea. Dave, Christine and Gill threw out their handlines from rocks and got wrasse and cod. The rocks themselves were stunning, covered with different coloured seaweed .We gathered driftwood and made a fire on the beach. The fish were cooked on the embers with a layer of bull kelp under and over, and we enjoyed a banquet of fresh fish eaten off the bone, couscous, salad and apples and rice to follow. Who said the NW circuit was difficult? We lay back soaking up the warm rays and watching the oyster catchers busily hunting food. I don’t think you could wish for a more perfect environment. We were very tidy kiwis and after a lovely long stroll along the beach where we spotted penguin tracks (pretty certain they were either yellow-eyed or Fiordland crested penguin tracks) but couldn’t find the culprit. We buried all evidence of our cooking. Three companions in the hut tonight
Day Five to Big Hellfire Hut 14 km 9 hrs: One hour to amazing views inland to West Ruggedy. Great big dunes, pinnacles, rocky outcrops. All around were kiwi footprints. 1.5 km along the beach, then a STEEP climb … LOTS of mud. Waituna Bay small and bouldery, then the usual steep uphill .Arrived at hut, tired but happy. Hut up high with views of glowing sunsets from dunes behind, hence the name ‘Hellfire’. Views inland to huge wetlands and tarns.
Day Six to Little Hellfire Beach 4 hrs: The intention today was to leave very early and go all the way through to Mason Bay (15 km) but with one of the party sporting an injury we used the hunters hut at Little Hellfire. No views en route today due to low cloud. Higher elevation so different vegetation but still plenty of mud and tree roots. Felt a tad guilty staying at the hut as it operates on a booking system so we weren’t sure if we were going to have to accommodate hunters. It’s brand new and just divine in a very simple way, well sited, just back from the beach with lovely basic facilities - a 5-star hotel after what we had endured We gathered driftwood and had a lovely fire going and every vessel was used to heat water and we all enjoyed a ‘bucket’ bath and washing our hair. Luxury. After we were all clean and fed we made a “card” table using the cat trap and settled in for a competitive evening of cards. One of our group was a chronic card cheat, no names mentioned! The hut is administered by the Rakiura Hunters Trust. Kay contacted them on return and discussed payment. We were informed we were the very first guests! We left that hut immaculate and filled up all the firewood bins. It was very good for everyone’s soul and especially beneficial to the injured party.
Day Seven Little Hellfire to Mason Bay 4 hrs: We were amazed to see our German friend Al appear at the hut door in the morning – unbeknown to us he had set up camp for the night just along from the hut. A wonder he didn’t hear the shouting evolving from the cards! Started off along the beach and then the typical Stewart Island STEEP up and down .Very important to have low tide, not only to get on to the beach at Masons Bay but also to get around the large rock outcrop. The alternative is a two-hour steep climb up and over. We found getting tide information frustrating. We got our info from the air charter people and were spot-on. Five km along the beach we encountered a very pregnant sea lion just resting as pregnant females do. We also passed a decomposing pilot whale from the recent stranding. The largest pod was at the southern end of Mason Bay. Mason Bay hut huge but neglected and very grubby. Three of us ventured off to climb the big “sandhill rock”. Interesting terrain, rocky and sandy over a vast area with stunning views. After dinner we found a lovely spot, sitting on the beach to watch the sunset at 10.42 pm. We then waited around with our head torches hoping to see some penguins coming home but to no avail. From that stunning experience we walked back beyond the hut for some kiwi spotting. South Island brown kiwi here in large numbers and one would be unlucky not to see them. One pretty much sat on Dave’s boot … another amazing experience.
Day Eight Mason Bay to Freshwater Hut 15.5 km 3 hrs: We spent a bit of time checking out the historic homestead used now to house DOC employees. Good information boards around. Woolshed in pretty good order with shearing tallies still written on wall and complete with the old-style sheep dip. All this area was farmed as recently as 1987. Difficult farming as it is just a huge wetland area. We walked through beautiful flowering flax. Easy flat terrain today. Saw a fern bird up very close when we stopped for a snack. Also kiwis, tuis, bellbirds and kakariki. Freshwater Hut is a nice old-style hut with the water taxi landing just across the river over the swing bridge. Lovely lush bush on Rocky Mountain. Some of us wandered up for a couple of hours but didn’t quite make the summit – save that for next time
Day Nine Water Taxi Freshwater Hut to Golden Bay: All packed up early to catch our water taxi back to civilisation. An interesting 40-minute journey down the beech-stained Freshwater river into Patterson inlet. Abundance of flax, manuka and swamp plants. Skipper showed us an old whaling station used solely for repairing ships that hunted whales towards Antarctica. Old bent props and the remains of a slipway are still evident. Finally we saw a blue penguin. Back ashore and straight to the South Sea Hotel for a much anticipated cooked breakfast and a REAL coffee.
Managed to fit in a scenic flight with the very passionate owner of Stewart Island flights. He gave us a wonderful flight over the track, across to Masons Bay to see the whale stranding, The Gutter, Ernest Islands and the highlight of landing at Doughboy Bay. We were all out of that plane and ran up to the hut for a photo – the tide was coming in so time was of the essence. Took off over the south end of island over salmon farms, a loop around Oban and landed .We finished off the day with fish and chips from Kai Kart, got in some shopping and a general look around. We all agreed we had just completed an amazing wilderness experience enhanced by fine weather and a great bunch of companions. A true lifetime experience. – Kay Feather
Skills Training Day (4 November 2018)
Very bright and early one Sunday morning, 11 club members headed over to the Katikati area a Skills Training Day with Anja Morris. Anja is an Outdoor First Aid & Bush Skills Instructor.
The day consisted firstly of a warm welcome and a cuppa. Anja had made muffins for our smoko and Pauline had also made a cake. Great effort ladies Then the day began with Trip Planning/ Risk Management. I found this very valuable in terms of being prepared to lead a trip and what needs to be done even before we set out on the day. One of the interesting topics was knowing the medical issues (if any) of those tramping. Fitness level of the person booking in etc. Then on to Leadership and managing a group especially in the event of an emergency.
On the list for the day was Basic First Aid. We had so much fun with this segment. Anja would take three or more away from the group and set up a scene with the victims oozing blood and gore. We were put into teams and then had to go in and assess our injured folk and manage the situation. After each session we would have a debrief on how and what we did to resolve the situation at hand. We had one really wild hillbilly (Isabel) who was loose with a gun (pretend of course) who delighted us all with her acting abilities. This hands-on approach in an amazing setting in bush and beside a stream was so real.
Finally we had an Intro into Navigation. – again Anja’s ability to teach and then hands-on with a map, looking at and knowing where you are on the said map, has me wanting to learn more and I hope also has stirred more interest in others to realize that a map and compass can be our friend and is not so scary. It can make our day out in the wilderness more interesting.
My description of our day is only a small part of what was very interesting and I don’t think anyone was looking at their watch wondering when we would finish. Our ever ready driver Dave assisted to make this a great day.
Participants: Dick Fraser, Jill Martin, Bernie Hammersley, Dave Wilding, Lynne King, Isabel and Austin Hutcheon, Jean Colton, Gill Tate, Pauline Quinn and Jenny Verschaffelt. – Jenny V
Cycling Around Samoa: The Bye-Bye Trip
We had thought of going to one of the Pacific Islands this year and when Air New Zealand had a special deal on, we decided to fly to Samoa and tackle the Savai’i Escape cycle tour (about 200km) as advertised in the FMC magazine. We landed in Apia at 8.00pm where we were met and transported to our home-stay in Mulifanua run by Fa Sua and Fale Sua – they were a mine of local information; although now retired they had lived in New Zealand for 30 years. The next day we were picked up (all ready in cycle gear) and taken to the Outdoor Samoa base where we met our four fellow cyclists (a couple from Tauranga in their 50’s and a couple from Upper Hutt in their 60’s), given a briefing, got fitted to our bikes (more of this anon!) and rode 3km to the ferry while our gear was transferred. The crossing was smooth in a large car ferry taking just over one hour.
We were met at Salelologa (the only town on the “big” island of Savai’i) by Uilau our driver who was excellent. He transported our bags and followed us each day, stopping every 5km to check on us and replenishing our water-bottles (it is not advisable to drink the local water). That day’s ride was only 20km but we did not start until 1.30pm and consequently rode in the heat of the day – I really wondered if I could cope with another seven days! On the way we stopped at the John Williams’ memorial – he was the first Christian missionary to come to Samoa, certainly reflected by the number of huge churches everywhere. Samoans are deeply religious; ladies should wear a short skirt or shorts over lycra shorts (awful in the heat!) We stayed at Lauiula Beach Fales (traditional small thatched roof beach huts that have matting sides which can be pulled up to allow the breeze through or to keep out the rain). The fales have mosquito nets, mattresses, pillows and sheets. We were given a lockable bag by OS to put things in when we left the fale – it could be secured to one of the poles. This resort was well managed by a lovely Czech couple. We slept on mattresses on the floor and everywhere the cold showers (after a swim in the warm sea) was virtually a stand-pipe on the beach. However dinner and breakfast there were the best we had on the trip – included rice porridge with coconut, pancakes, etc.
The next day was Sunday when nothing gets done in Samoa but we rode to Manase along the lagoon then headed inland through forest. We stopped at Mauga, a village built round a crater and at the LMS church at Saleaua with a metre of lava across the floor and walked to the Virgin’s Cave (no idea who she was!). Our accommodation there had seen better days and they had no cold beer. However we did have beds in the fales and swimming had a great beach (the other four swam with turtles). As Manase is the main resort on Savai’i, we had another night there. We all enjoyed doing nothing but swim and we walked up to a posher resort named Stevensons (after Robert Louis Stevenson who lived in Samoa) for lunch and a cold beer. On the way we met a lady from Cambridge who was staying there with her husband in a chalet with full AC. She was walking down to check that people like us actually stayed in these thatched huts – we assured her that we were!
Our third day was to be a hard one as we were to ride 40km+400m climb to Vaisala and we were going inland away from the cool breeze. We stopped at lava tubes and went into a small cave (complete with head-torches) where swiftlets echo-locate. We both admit that we loaded our bikes on to the van for a few km of uphill that day. That night was spent at an upmarket resort called Va-i-Moana where we even had rooms with locked doors and towels supplied. The next day again involved some hills as we cycled 23km towards Falealupo which is off the main highway and partly on unsealed roads which resulted in one of our group getting two punctures. We visited a church ruined by the 1990 cyclone; our accommodation was again in very basic fales, sleeping on the floor again but the food was good and the owners very friendly (again educated in New Zealand). We had to buy beer on the way as we had been warned there was none. The three men spent the afternoon trying to repair the punctures with very basic facilities (putting the tubes in a saucepan to identify leaks) but luckily we had been given repair kits.
Next day we continued on unsealed road through a coconut grove beside the sea before tackling more hills (in the van again!) and reaching the main highway. Our accommodation that night in Satiuatua was more upmarket in huge fales with beds and surrounded by huge banyan trees. The beach was not quite as good as we had to be careful to wear reef shoes because of the coral. It was good to see part of the beach off-limits to protect the coral. We spent two nights there and one couple left us as they were to spend a second week relaxing on the other side of the island. Four of us cycled to a neighbouring village to watch Makulata demonstrating making siapo (tapa cloth) – very interesting but it took 2.5 hours and was rather like watching paint dry. We got drenched on the ride back but this was the only time we had rain.
Our last big cycle day was hard with 48km and many undulations; we stopped at the Taga blow-holes where Uilau threw in coconut shells to demonstrate their force. Our accommodation was at Florence’s Place run by Kelvin (a Kiwi) and Ruth (a Samoan) who are re-building her old family plantation and bungalow. They had great stories to tell and the two men went off with Kelvin to see the plantation which Kelvin is developing. Austin has sent off some soil-testing kit to help him in his efforts. Coconuts are everywhere and Kelvin had even made shower-heads from coconuts - the best we had as plumbing elsewhere is certainly not a Samoan skill!
Our final day saw us riding 10km back to the ferry at Salelologa, then 3km back to Outdoor Samoa headquarters where we had to return our bikes, etc. After farewelling Mike and Christine from Upper Hutt (they were staying two more nights to explore Apia) we were taken to the airport for our flight back to Auckland. Mosquito nets were provided everywhere, there are no roadside toilets (trees if necessary but there were usually people around); in any case toilet stops were not really necessary as we were usually de-hydrated. In hindsight we should probably have booked e-bikes but we coped. A word of warning – when bikes are collected, check the saddle; it is difficult to do this on a 5-minute ride but my saddle was much wider than everyone else’s and I was the only one who suffered from chafing – despite a huge pot of Vaseline! Also dogs do tend to rush out and unfortunately Christine got bitten by one. Finally why the bye-bye trip? As we cycled along kids continually shouted “Bye bye” and we got hoarse replying. The people on Savai’i are so friendly. We can thoroughly recommend this cycle trip which was very well organised by Ross and Frances Bidmead who live half the year in Samoa and half in Wellington. – Austin and Isabel