Safari - Sunday 30th January to Wednesday 16th February 2011
This year we all met in Christchurch and after provisioning for six days, we drove to the large, well-appointed Outdoor Education Centre in Arthur’s Pass. It was cold at first with some needing their winter woollies in bed! It is a beautiful area and we had some great tramps.
A very wet morning, clearing at lunchtime, so we explored the walks around the village and were particularly impressed by the Devil’s Punchbowl Falls with wind causing spectacular spray after the heavy rain.
This looked to be the best weather day so we all set off to climb Avalanche Peak up Scotts Track. We divided into three groups, nice and easy, medium, and those who wanted to be a little more energetic. We climbed through lovely beech forest, gently zig-zagging our way up to the edge of the bush line. From then on, the going was steeper and rocky, with edelweiss, mountain daisies, gentians and other beautiful mountain flora to accompany us. We stopped 200 metres short of the summit as the wind had come up and the last part was shingle and quite sheer on both sides. Karen’s special moment was having a kea try to get a plastic bag out of her pack when we stopped for lunch, as her first encounter with keas had been just the day before. She could have touched him. The second group climbed above the bush line and the third group stayed in the bush. A thoroughly enjoyable day with great scenery.
Bealey Spur. Three groups headed off for the hut in gradually deteriorating conditions of heavy rain and strong winds. A steady gradient through beech forest, lichens, moss and snowberries led to the small hut where an American couple were surprised by 12 dripping, bedraggled trampers ready for lunch. When Howard thought he’d left his behind (actually found later buried deep in his pack) this day’s report was made his obligation. The third group had wisely returned to the shelter of the bus.
An evening celebration of Barbara and Phil’s birthdays was a pleasant occasion at the Arthurs Lodge restaurant.
Two very different valleys were explored today, both very beautiful with great mountain views. The Bealey Valley was an easy walk through forest to the main river flowing from under Mt Rolleston. We then followed the river, gently climbing and rock-hopping to open tussock and a gorge with a glacier at the end. It was great for everyone to be able to complete the tramp without any serious ‘grunting’!
Further west was the open Otira Valley. Again, everyone reached the end of the gently climbing track surrounded by a fantastic variety of alpine vegetation and tumbling streams.
We also visited the viaduct lookout, where Big Blue was investigated and attacked by several keas!
Temple Basin ski field is 450m above the road and caused a lot of puffing on the steep track up to the buildings. It was crunchy and very rocky underfoot but with good weather everyone enjoyed stopping to admire the wonderful views of Avalanche Peak and Mt Rolleston. The alpine basins were full of flowers, fungi and tussock, even edelweiss in the middle of the track. Twit of the day was Phil who had also left his lunch behind. After getting part way up the hill, the slow group had their own adventure in the bogs of the local nature walk with Grahame getting his shorts wet.
We travelled to Reefton via a great morning tea stop at Moana on Lake Brunner - no walking done but plenty of scones demolished. Very hot day so some cooled off with a dip in the Inangahua River on arrival at the motor camp.Lots of pubs and restaurants in Reefton so not a lot of cooking done.
One of our longest tramps - a 5-hr round trip at Murray Creek, 2 km out of town. We started by climbing steeply for 50 minutes through pine forest, which changed to regenerating bush as this area had been extensively gold-mined from 1870 to the 1930s. There were many relics around from the Ajax, Inglewood and Golden Fleece mines. A very interesting day and most also enjoyed the museum.
Sadly, we farewelled Trevor who opted to return to Christchurch with his bad knee. Five others chose to have a ‘lay-day’ and the rest set off in dubious weather for Klondyke Valley. Extensive bogs, rain and angry wasps persuaded five to return to the comfort of Big Blue and their books, while the remaining nine enjoyed a wet tramp up to a tussock basin and an impressive waterfall.
Kirwans Track. This is a really beautiful valley walk beside a lovely stream and through beech forest. It climbs gently for two hours and then gets steeper towards Kirwans Hut - too far for a day walk so we just retraced our steps after a most enjoyable lunch with robins and bellbirds.
We set off to tramp Lake Stream but a tricky river crossing at the beginning saw an exodus back up the road to the bus! It was decided to drive to Lake Daniells on the Lewis Pass road. This is a really lovely, easy 16-km tramp into the pretty lake and again we had lots of bellbirds calling (and lots of sandflies).
After driving to an excellent DOC campsite for gold panning by the Slab Hut Creek, we tried to find an old track to another mining area. This proved elusive so we wandered up the river and enjoyed some off-track exploring for a couple of hours. Various short walks around town followed this. We had a treat of scallops and paua fritters at happy hour courtesy of a kind camp resident.
Thirty-seven kilometres south of Reefton are the remains of the gold mining town of Waiuta. It has wonderful views of the surrounding countryside and the Southern Alps in the distance. This was probably our best day, with perfect weather, so many interesting things to see and a good walk down a steep hill to the battery and power house by the river. We were lucky to have Tim White to show us round the relics and his 100-year-old cottage. He is 90 and remembers when the area was inhabited.
On the road again for a long drive in Big Blue to Akaroa, dropping off and picking up a few in Christchurch.We were pretty laid back in this attractive town, with most happy to enjoy local walks, the shops and cafés. Dougal used to spend school summer holidays here and enjoyed catching up with his 91-year-old uncle.
Hinewai Reserve. After a steep climb by Big Blue, Hugh Wilson the reserve manager spoke to us about the trust and their work over 20 years to develop a substantial conservation project. There is a network of tracks and a good climb to the peak for magnificent views. Some walked all the way back to town from about 800m.
Big Blue climbed the hill to the start of the Banks Peninsula Walk where we all tramped over fairly flat farmland to the delightful Nikau Palm Gully reserve. These are the southernmost growing nikaus and it was a bit of a scramble to go all the way down.
Some of us had to move accommodation so the last day was spent enjoying local walks around Akaroa.
Once again we all have to thank Susan and John for their wonderful organisation in sometimes difficult circumstances, and our three drivers, Dougal, Brian and Doug, for getting us to the tramps and also for getting Big Blue safely home.
Susan Grimsdell, John Minson, Howard Johnston, Trevor Sharp, Grahame Parr, Jeanette Howie, Ann Stone, Anne Sanders, Liz Ware (compiler), Phil Ware, Dougal Campbell, Sarah Wayman, Cherie Cook, Brian Lynch, Bryan Taylor, Doug & Ruth Astley, Billie French, Ingrid Robinson, Caroline Witten-Hannah, Sue Webb, Karen Wesley, Barbara Tokley, Brenda Simpson, April Glenday.