‘Twas on a Wednesday morning that twelve of us went through
To Taumarunui early to meet Pete and his crew
Up 7km on a winding, metal, narrow road
Hearts in mouths, was there anything to hold?
We wondered if we’d have to stop
But Driver Dave got us to the top
We met Janet and Mike, lovely cups of tea (sorry, no rhyme for coffee!)
Then off we set DOWNHILL – what a start for me!
From up above the cabin objective down below was spied
It seemed so far away – had Elsie lied?
Peter led us down through ever-steepening tracks
On, on we went, some having to be held back by their packs
Once at the bottom a right turn was made
To tramp a bush-track to Matiere Road
At the railway bridge it was about turn and tramp
Back along our route – would we have to camp?
At last with empty tums the cabin we espied
An oasis lovingly built for trampers to reside
The climb back up was not to be avoided
But great, our packs into the 4WD were loaded
Once back up, in the garden again for tea
Such a lovely location and so much to see
Very many thanks to organisers Elsie and Pete
Our kind of tramp and many others to meet
OPOTOKI RD, TAUMARUNUI - Dec 11th
Wow! What an interesting fun trip! Well, once we made Taumarunui , that is!!
Opotoki Rd is a very narrow, sharply winding, metal road through beautiful bush, but not the place to drop over the side- it is a long way down. The road into the farm, a notch or three above that, reminiscent of the track up to the Tukino installations really. One spot made me a little apprehensive of our prospects of getting out, but this proved to be unfounded, though the van got a bit of a hammering.
And what hospitable people! We arrived to a laid on morning tea, lounging in chairs in front of a pond, overlooking a vista of very, very steep country right out to Mt Taranaki, Pureora, Pihanga, Ngauruhoe and Ruapehu on a cloudless, still day with no haze.
Eventually we decide, yeah, better do some tramping, we suppose. So off we go, on a very steep
descent, through farm and bush to a valley floor, with a bit of a side trip out to the railway line and then back the other way to a hut. A hut, to be seen, to be believed – more like the Hilton, so lunch in lounge chairs and our hosts brewing up large.
We were in no hurry to front up to what we could see was going to be an extreme grunt out, but made easier with our packs going up on the 2 aside. With our eventual arrival back at the house, we find our packs sitting by the van and our hosts providing afternoon tea, and this time the frogs serenading us with their muted music. So, a really cool day in a breath taking place.
And now a plug for our hosts….. At $130/night regardless of numbers, you can stay at this Hilton hut, flush toilet, shower, the lot. A genuine place to chill out, with transport provided on the 2 aside and very hospitable people. Thank you to our hosts and to our guides from the Taumarunui Tramping Club for a wonderful day.
Austin and Isobel Hutcheon, Elsie Skelton, Jill Martin, Viv Wrathall, Vanda Marshall, Dave Wilding, Toby Ani, Jean Caulton, Richmond Orr, Nicky Dodwell, Sandy Fletcher
THE HOLLYFORD AFLOAT
After six months of meticulous planning to walk two of the tramping jewels of the South Island, six of us flew to Queenstown on 30th November with great anticipation of the scenic horizons ahead little knowing that the horizons were not to be.
We spent two nights based in Te Anau fortifying ourselves with extra stocks and as much good food and caffeine we could succumb to all the while aware that there was a weather bomb of epic proportions hurtling towards us. Armed with the latest weather report from DOC which was technicolour with foreboding, it was sensibly decided to amend our plans. We’d skip our first night’s accommodation (Big Bay) instead starting our tramp at Martin’s Bay where we’d batten down the hatches for two nights while the feral weather hurled itself around our immediate coastline.
On Day 1, we were shuttled to Milford Sound airfield, sandfly capital extraordinaire, where we were flown in a vintage four-seater through the Sound in the last decent weather we’d see in a week. It was tourist brochure stuff in all respects: a pod of dolphins below cavorting in a boat’s bow, Mitre Peak saluting us as we flew past and the spectacular Stirling Falls plunging into the sea below, an as yet unknown foretaste of the many more waterfalls to come.
The Martin’s Bay hut did not live up to its proclaimed ‘serviced hut,’ status there being no water supply at all, no sign of a tank despite two sinks and a plumbing pipe protruding from beneath the hut connected to nothing but fresh air. This was an ironic case of ‘water, water everywhere but not a drop to drink.’ In true blue intrepid Great Outdoors Kiwi fashion, we braved the rain and sandfly squadrons to fill up water bottles and pots at regular intervals over this 36 hour period from the creek down the track. Of course having to boil this water due to giardia and a 1080 drop in recent weeks, applied a little pressure to our gas supplies so the fire box became a secondary source of pre boiling our water. It’s these privations that suddenly make one reconsider the merits of the guided walk options although it’s a thought that tends not to be shared too loudly lest you expose your inner wimp!
The fauna that lives on this remote coastline was a highlight and a welcome distraction from the hours of cards played. In a less torrential window, we were able to walk to the penguin and seal colony and were entranced by the antics of the Fiordland Crested penguin/ tawaki, these little creatures strutting their smartly feathered stuff in endangered numbers along these rocky remote shores. There were also NZ fur seals/ kekeno aplenty sprawled over rocks and difficult to distinguish from rocks at times so that we were all but airborne as one of these rocks suddenly reared up and roared at us.
Having enjoyed the scarce amenities of this hut to ourselves for the first night, we had a sudden change from our sprawled sleeping arrangements on two mattresses each when, at 8pm on night two, a sodden posse of eight arrived to disturb our solitude. Compared to these bedraggled folk, we’d got off lightly when they told us of their gruelling eight (instead of) five hours on the infamous Demon’s Track, their crossing of 3-wire bridges with the lower wire submerged. Oddly enough, there was no envy of their intrepid experiences and we took solace while empathising in another cup of soup or tea.
On day three, we met at the now submerged landing for a jetboat pickup at 7.45am to ferry us in the rain the 45 minutes to the Pyke River confluence. At this stage the river was three meters above normal levels, a fact made stark as we waded towards the Lake Alabaster hut for this third and final night. As this was a short walk, we spent another day immersed in an intense card marathon. Carroll taught us a smorgasbord of new games and is a player not to be messed with as her ‘snap’ reflexes have to be among the fastest draws in the West!
Our off duty doctor member, Gill, had to don her professional hat to advise on a blister on the foot of one of our Demon’s Track colleagues but otherwise we passed the day waiting, watching and hoping that we’d be able to walk the 20km out to meet our booked 2.30pm shuttle on day 4.
Thursday morning arrived and setting off shortly after 7am, heads down, packs up, we enjoyed a good track (used by the guided walkers from a nearby lodge) and relished views of a swollen river and slopes down which hurtling waterfalls were birthing at a relentless rate. Not a commercial break but the Aarn backpacks used by five of the six of us proved their waterproofing qualities impressively, their contents remaining dry while us humans were literally dissolving in the rain.
We were shuttled back into Te Anau that afternoon with snow drifting onto the ridges, our plans to walk the Kepler track 36 hours later abandoned as the deluge was set to continue and the mercury destined to plummet. That the Kepler Challenge route had been altered for only the third time in its thirty year history was warning enough of the conditions at altitude and reassured us that we’d made a decision in the interests of safety.
Although, to paraphrase Robert Burns’ much quoted, ‘the best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry,’ our shared experience of the Hollyford (in parts) will remain memorable for many good reasons: as always the camaraderie, the card and chatfest it enabled and the temporary discomforts which give perspective to our otherwise easy lives.
Sincere thanks to Jenny V again for her hours of planning, dismantling and keeping us glued together in somewhat adverse conditions! And to the good crew for the good vibes and forever memories.
Trampers: Jenny and Gary Verschaffelt, Claire Furniss, Carroll Robertson, Kay Feather, Gill Tate
(We’d planned to complete the Kepler too but had to abandon that idea due to the atrocious weather and forecast)
WHANGANUI RIVER TRIP 27-29 November
Bernie, Anna and I set off early from Taupo on a beautiful morning. After a brief stop in Raetihi for the forgotten insect repellent, we arrived in plenty of time for the start of the jet boat tour to the Bridge to Nowhere. Our guide and driver was Thomas, whose family had lived and farmed next to the river for generations. He drove us through the steep-sided gorge, stopping along the way to point out places of interest. He also performed one or two of the obligatory 360 degree turns! A shady forty-minute walk through the bush took us to the Bridge to Nowhere and lunch. Here, Thomas gave us an informative talk about the history of the area and how the bridge came to be. It is hard to imagine how anyone could clear and farm those steep hillsides. The land was meagre compensation to the men who had fought in WW1.
Back in Pipiriki, Anna and I rejoined Bernie, who had opted to relax in the shade with a book for the day. No owners were in sight when we arrived at our cabins at Matahiwi. A German couple were occupying one cabin, so we moved into the remaining three. (No locks here!) The other building, according to the Germans, was just a shed, but it transpired to be the kitchen - no electricity but housing an unplugged fridge and a small camping gas stove. It was sufficient for our needs though after we had moved the fridge onto Bernie’s deck and plugged it in for the all important cold wine and beer.
It was a tranquil spot above the river. There were few houses and the only sounds were of birds, notably peacocks, (unusual for that environment!) and the occasional car. Later, we discovered the next door garage, whose doors were adorned with old car number plates, housed a set of drums. Their owner was partial to reggae and we were treated to intermittent bursts of music over the next two evenings.
The following day we returned to Pipiriki and met Russell, Lyndsay and his wife, Karen. Apart from Russell, we were all novice canoeists, so Bernie imparted a few words of wisdom and some safety instructions before we set off. I felt safe in the knowledge Bernie was steering behind me in the canoe so there were no mishaps. One couple, who shall be nameless, were not so lucky!
We stopped at Jerusalem for a picnic lunch on the riverbank. Afterwards, Bernie led us up to the old convent and church. The former is now a hostel although the only other visitors were some local people who had just finished lunch. The house was reminiscent of its convent days with little change. In the dormitory the beds all lined up in a row. The bathroom facilities were minimal, and the toilets were downstairs and outside. Next door, the church had a strong Maori influence with beautiful cabinetry, an original organ and some impressive paintings.
After paddling back to Matahiwi, Bernie returned to Pipiriki on his electric bike to retrieve the van. The trip was a big logistical problem and Bernie and his bike were invaluable. At 6am the next morning, he loaded the bike into the back of the van and drove to Atene where he proposed ending our river trip. He then cycled back. It added extra hours and physical effort to each of his days for which we were very grateful.
On the second day, we were on a quieter part of the river. There were fewer rapids, no jet boats and few other canoes. However, the current was slow and required more vigorous paddling when we encountered some headwind.
Our first stop of the day was at the Flying Fox. We parked at the bottom of the bank. The sign said coffee! We ascended in hope. At the top the owners appeared. They were just cleaning up after an unexpected party of 12 the previous night. They had another big party coming in that day but thought they could serve us coffee and banana cake. What more could we want? Whilst we waited we investigated the property and admired the quirky accommodation. Access was by Flying Fox or canoe. One or two of us were keen to come back and stay!
With some reluctance, we returned to the canoes and continued paddling towards Atene. The sun was hot when we stopped for lunch and we appreciated some shade. By the time we reached Atene, we were all tired. We used our remaining energy to carry the canoes up from the river to the van where we loaded them onto the trailer.
Our final stop before leaving the area was at the Kanana Mill, an old flour mill, alongside which was the Miller’s Cottage. These had both been restored with much aid from the Wanganui tramping club and were worth the stop.
A big thank you to Bernie for organising this trip and the effort he put in moving vehicles and boats. His knowledge, not only of the river and canoeing but also the local history, made for a more interesting and personal visit.
Nicky Dodwell, Bernie Hammersley, Russell Watts, Anna Van der Kaay, Lyndsay and Karen Brown
STEWART ISLAND/RAKIURA ADVENTURE 25th Nov - 4th Dec
A 9 night tramp with 2 well-earned rest days and 75 km approx. walked
We enjoyed a beautiful clear day for the helicopter flight from Bluff to East Ruggedy Hut which is on the NW Circuit.
When we were having breakfast next morning a kiwi nonchalantly strolled past the hut. Then the party tramped to the lookout over Ruggedy Islands and visited the rocks at low tide to collect Paua for dinner in ankle deep water.
So with two nights food eaten but packs feeling no lighter, on the 27th Nov. we set out over beaches, mud, bush and steep hills in the constant rain to Big Hellfire hut. An 11 hr day which included a wait for the tide to recede before we could cross a rain swollen river and tackle some more mud. Luckily daylight lasts until around 10 pm on Stewart Island.
The next two days were about 6 hrs each to Little Hellfire hunters hut-an extremely welcome site was this new private hut. Then onto Mason Bay where we managed to get the tide right to get onto the beach and around the rocky outcrop. We saw two sea lions here, one of which decided to chase Jenny down the beach. Not easy to run with your pack on!
On to Doughboy Bay the next day with more beach walking to start, then up through some beautiful bush with flowering rata. Another very tough 10.5 hr day. The tops have swamps and tarns and horrible scrub so very slow to negotiate. One member of the party had to be hauled out of the swamp! Our paramedic friend Trudy had a big fall on the last steep downhill but thankfully not hurt.
On at last, reaching the beach and hut, most of us dipped in the river mouth to clean up. We all enjoyed a rest day after that with rain off and on but all cosy inside with the potbelly going.
Off to Rakeahua - another 10hr day, beautiful beach walk then up we went again. Very swampy on the tops and mud !!!
The plan was to climb Mt Rakeahua the next day but realised we would not make it to the water taxi at 2 pm on the last day if we did this, so carried on to Fred's Camp, another long day of 9hrs. The hut is perfectly sited on the edge of the beautiful Paterson Inlet.
Adele arrived first and had collected blue mussels. She cooked a yummy entree with coconut cream (powdered) and garlic (found on the beach at Doughboy). We had the whole morning and early afternoon next day to enjoy being there and doing very little.
Our Airbnb at Oban was perfect and we were the noisiest group in every restaurant as we relished ‘real’ food!
A real adventure in a wild and beautiful place but with exceptional amounts of mud even for Stewart Island!
The younger members of the party are keen to return when the tracks are a little drier but others think helicopters, water taxis and aircraft are the way to go!
We were all rightly very proud of what we had accomplished.
Christine Elmiger, Raewyn Rush, Jenny Seymour, Sandy Clark, Adele Cain, Trudy Haringa.
(Whakatane, Te Kaha )
BERNIE’S TARANAKI GARDENS TRIP Nov 1-5
Our Taranaki expat, a mine of interesting titbits, as we circumnavigate the mountain and visit various places of interest over 4 days.
Starting with lunch and a wander around Mokau, as we head for Stratford Motor Park, with a 2.5 hour diversion on a track off York Rd on the flanks of Taranaki, visiting an old quarry site that was once a major source of stone that helped build New Plymouth. A feature on this track is a sand trap, a very large concrete structure that would have been a major build in it’s day .
Over the next 3 days we visited various gardens, all with interesting features, including Pukeiti and Tupare house in New Plymouth. Here we enjoyed a coffee and something delicious with a local band oompaing away, which we were able to appreciate all the more when they downed their instruments and serenity was restored at this special place. Good for a laugh though. Pukeiti was pretty impressive, a council run outfit that surely reflected the prosperity of Taranaki. Bernie knows where all the good muffins are and we did enjoy the break here.
The glockenspiel performance in Stratford is fascinating and, of course, in New Plymouth we had to visit the Len Lye Centre, not for the rather dubiously so called art works, but the exterior of the building itself, which is spectacular. Everyone was fascinated with the Te Rewa Rewa bridge on the coastal walkway (is it a whale or a wave?), and we all enjoyed the step back in time at the Tawhiti museum at Hawera. The exquisitely detailed historical modelling at this place is reason enough to visit. It is not your usual museum featuring a couple of mere and old set of discs or something.
One morning we trekked up Mt Taranaki to the ski lodge and watched the perfect sunrise and we walked the White Cliffs walkway at Pukearuhe, along the beach and back over the top via the 600 steps.
The trip home began with the Bertrand Rd swing bridge- an old historical structure itself but featuring bollards at each end to prevent large heavy vehicles using it. Bernie’s van with mirrors folded in had no more than 30mm clearance each side. We travelled The Forgotten Highway, checking out Ohura and Whangamomona, on the way home.
All in all, a great trip, great weather, great company, great fun with a laugh a minute.
Bernie Hammersley, Nicky Dodwell, Pauline Quinn, Dave Wilding, Anna Van der Kaay
RAGLAN ADVENTURE - 17th - 19th October 2019
Ten of the Thursday Trampers set out on Thursday the 17th October bound for Raglan. We had
booked 2 nights at the Raglan Motor Camp as it was so handy to the town and we had had good
reports of the accommodation.
Two walks were planned on our way - one around Lake Ngaroto to the west of Te Awamutu. This
is a 6kms loop walk around the lake along a mix of gravelled track and board walk. Our second
walk was to the Bridal Veil Falls where the water plunges 55 metres down into a large pool. This
was good exercise as it involved 300 steps.
We were very happy with our accommodation and once settled in, people went to explore the
town. Fish & Chips from the shop in the camping ground was our meal that night.
There was much debate about Friday's activities, 4 of the fitter trampers set out for Mt Karioi from
the Te Toko Gorge end of the track. Chains and ladders are installed at various parts along this
track and it seems it was a challenge !! Although this intrepid group didn't make it to the summit
due to lack of time, they enjoyed the tramp. Quite a bit of mud came back on them !!
The rest of us had a brochure from the lnfo Centre and spent the morning walking along to the
Wharf, then followed a trail up and around the settlement ending up on the estuary walk back to
the motor camp.
A meal in town capped off the day.
Saturday morning was very windy and rain was near so we headed for the Hamilton Gardens as
most of us hadn't been there for some time. Jan Smith was a very good guide and despite the rain
we were impressed with all the different areas. After lunch at the cafe it was all aboard and home
Those who enjoyed this trip were :-
Val Wilkinson, Gill Tate, Geraldine Whitton, Jan & Peter Smith, Sarah Bloomer, Carroll Robertson,
Jan Mclennan, Shirley & Russell Rountree
SUNRISE HUT 20-22 SEPTEMBER
7 of us set off on Friday evening for Napier to lovely accommodation at Kennedy Park Resort and meal at Cafe Anatolia. We woke to a beautiful Saturday morning and set off early to get to the start of the track as early as possible, as we were aware this was the last weekend before the booking system started for the season, and we really wanted a bed! The track starts inland from Waipawa and is labelled by DOC as being an easy 2-3 hour walk. There were several cars in the carpark and another group starting to walk, so we set off with trepidation. It was a beautiful hike through mature bush but is quite steep in parts and quite a slog. Just over 3 hours later we popped out above the bush line with the hut just in front of us but the clouds had rolled in so the views limited. Fortunately, we all secured a bed. The hut was full that night and some camped outside (including on the helipad). We walked up to Armstrong Saddle where there were patches of snow, but the cloud didn't clear. The limited views were spectacular, all the same. The Ruahines are very steep with lots of slips,
Next morning Jan had us up for the early sunrise which some of us could see from our bunks! It was magnificent. We were looking over low cloud below and the orange glow on the hut, plants and mountain tops was beautiful. We went back to Armstrong Saddle and had amazing views this time- in all directions, including great views of Tongariro National Park.
The bush walk back to the car park was a bit quicker, so we had plenty of time to stop in Waipawa for lunch at a very quaint old cafe and then home. This is a great walk and destination and one I would thoroughly recommend doing if you get the opportunity. Thank you Jenny for a wonderful weekend!
Jenny and Gary Verschaffelt, Claire Furniss, Jill Martin, Jan Harding, Nicky Dodwell, Gill Tate
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