Hanmer, Oxford, Mesopotamia and Methven

Our numbers were rather depleted this year but this didn’t affect 12 keen trampers meeting in Christchurch for the drive to Hanmer Springs in Big Blue. We hadn’t been there for a while and were impressed by the small town, good eating places and big shady trees.

January 23: A fine sunny day enticed us to climb steadily through the local forest to Dog Stream waterfall. This was a beautiful 41m thin fall surrounded by bright green mossy banks. We completed a circuit of two and a half hours back to the bus for lunch, then the energetic ones walked the 4kms back to town along the lower Dog Stream.

January 24: A drive along the Lewis Pass road brought us to the Hope Valley and Windy Point. Once across a swing bridge we had a very pleasant level walk through beech forest with some good views of the Hope River. The fast group almost reached the first DOC hut before having to turn around.

January 25: Bill and Jean enjoyed a day in town while the rest of us went on a "above the bush line" tramp up Mt Isobel (1340m). The scree slopes were a bit steep and slippery in places but everyone managed very well and enjoyed an excellent tramp in perfect weather, if a bit hot. We were back in town for ice creams by 2pm.

January 26: Time to pack up and drive the 2 hours to Oxford, where some had a great lunch at the food stalls in the Sunday market and we settled into the excellent camp by the Ashley River. That evening was raining but we had a very pleasant group dinner and a few drinks at the Oxford Club.

January 27: A rather tortuous road took us to the start of the Wharfedale Track and an ascent of Mt Oxford (1365m). It is a steep 800m climb to the summit - it was fine but very cold and only John and Russell made it to the top. The rest of us got above the bush line to have great views with our lunch. There was fresh snow on the tops.

January 28: Beautiful fine weather brought a day of varied activities. John, Anne and Howard were energetic and climbed Mt Richardson. Liz and Russell enjoyed exploring the Ashley River for 4 hours and the rest did a short walk then a short river trip and swims.

January 29: Another hot sunny day and most of the group climbed Mt Thomas; steeply up through pine trees and returning via beech forest. Caroline organised a fabulous roast lamb and apple pie dinner for everyone, cooked at the camp kitchen.

January 30: We said farewell to Barbara, Russell and Bill & Jean, who were going to Christchurch, then we drove to Methven to pick up Cherie, Susan and Grahame before heading up the Rangitata valley to Mesopotamia Station. Sue Webb also joined us here. The weather was a bit cool and drizzly so we enjoyed the big cosy fire in the quarters.

January 31: Most days in this area we had heavy cloud covering the mountains in the morning which cleared to give a sunny afternoon. Today we went for a tramp up Bush Creek, part of Te Araroa. It is a level walk which crosses the fast-flowing river many times. Unusual for the Safari group, we practised linking up to do safe river crossings as the current was quite strong. We didn’t get far up the river but it was good to do something different.

February 1: Everyone walked from the quarters to climb Sugar Loaf Hill (1039m) which had great views up and down the Rangitata River. That evening Caroline treated us to another fabulous roast dinner.

February 2: We all went for a walk across the river flats to the local cemetery and the grave of Dr Sinclair, a well-known explorer of the late 18oo’s. Then we carried on up the valley to Black Birch Creek for lunch and Grahame remembered a favourite past trip into the mountains in his younger days!

February 3: After saying farewell to Sue we drove back to Methven for our final stay, meeting up again with Bill and Jean. This is a ski resort town and is quite geared towards visitors with two large pubs - the Brown and the Blue competing for business.

February 4: A drive up the Rakaia valley took us to a short tramp up Peak Hill (1239m). This is a steep 620m climb to the summit and more than half the group made it all the way on a very hot day. We all agreed it’s one of the best 360degree views in the country, looking down on the Rakaia and Wilberforce Rivers and Lake Coleridge and across to the Southern Alps.

February 5: The day dawned cold and wet - a few intrepid souls set off in Big Blue to climb Mt Alford but after a couple of hours were defeated by worsening weather and returned to cosy fires at the Lodge. This was the only wet day on the whole Safari so we couldn’t complain.

February 6: Another warm, sunny day and 11 of us drove up the Rakaia Valley again to tramp up the Dry Acheron Stream. It was an easy, flat, open walk, crossing the small bouldery stream many times.

February 7: The Rakaia Gorge Walkway is 10kms of pleasant up and down track with good views of the river and Mt Hutt. Karen, Caroline and Jo braved the chilly river for a swim. Of note were very large flowering lancewoods.

Another great Safari came to an end when most of us were dropped at Christchurch airport, leaving Jo and Dave to take Big Blue home. Thanks from all of us to John and Susan for all the organising and especially to Jo for all his great driving.

Participants: John Minson, Susan Grimsdell, Jo Lowe, Karen Wesley, Liz Ware (scribe), Phil Ware, Anne Stone, Howard Johnston, Dave Best, Caroline Witten-Hannah, Barbara Tokley, Russell Allen, Cherie Cook, Grahame Parr, Bill and Jean Price and Sue Webb.