Sunday, 10 August 2014

Rainbow Country- Kahurangi

Jimu, one of my blog’s regular readers & frequent commenters lives not far from where we are parked up at Kaiteriteri Beach. Jimu & his wife Christine came to visit us not long after we arrived here, bringing us a gift of a lovely jar of jam & some produce they had grown, all of which was very much appreciated, & especially when you’re on the road. While having afternoon tea with us, Jimu recommended we visit Mt Arthur in the Kahurangi National Park which is not too far from us, inland and behind Motueka. So a few days later we followed up on his suggestion.

We followed the Motueka River up the West Bank for about 20kms passing many orchards & farms along the way. There has been some major flooding in the Nelson/Tasman area recently and all along the way we could see the resulting damage; a huge amount of debris littering the river banks and low lying paddocks, sections of the road & culverts washed away and many of the streams & creeks entering the river had burst their banks & taken everything in their path with them on the way to the river. New limestone boulder walls had already been formed in many places to help with the direction, especially on the sweeping corners.

We took a wrong turn towards the end and crossed the Peninsula Bridge at Ngatimoti, it spans the Motueka River (which you can see was running high & dirty) & celebrated it’s centenary last year (1913).

Beside the bridge was the Ngatimoti Bowling Club, looking a little out of place out here in farming country. It also looked a little neglected, the green was full of moss but someone must still be mowing it.

Kahurangi National Park is the second largest of the 14 national parks in New Zealand and covers a vast area over both the West Coast & Tasman regions. The area that we are heading to, the Arthur Range of which Mt Arthur is a prominent peak, is just a small area but provides the main access point to the park. We follow a winding gravel road alongside a crystal clear stream (which is a surprise after seeing the river) for 5-6kms passing quite a number of artistic & alternative lifestyle hideways along the way.  As we near the park the road rises steeply from the valley floor & the sign makes sure there’s no mistaking of what’s ahead of us. I found this about the road later when I was checking information about the flood damage.

Graham Valley South Branch Road to the Flora carpark reopened in November 2013 after being closed for the majority of the previous 16 months because of a persistent slip. More than 50,000 cubic metres of rock has been cleared from the slip which is situated on a fault line. The huge work to open the road has cost at least $750,000, split between the Tasman District Council, Department of Conservation and NZ Transport Agency. DOC estimates 23,000 people a year drive to the Flora carpark, the main access point to Kahurangi National Park.

On farmland just before the park we pass this hut situated on a grassy knoll overlooking the valley. An iconic bush hut complete with a plastic water barrel, stand-alone chimney & rickety, lichen covered fence. A good keen man’s “man cave”.

Further on when a tight corner provides an area to pull over (& where I think the persistent slip mentioned above was), we stop so I can take a photo looking back down the valley towards Tasman Bay off in the far distance. Unfortunately it was a bit hazy or quite possibly raining.

We finally arrive in the Flora carpark which is deserted. Great we have the whole place to ourselves! A decking attached to the kiosk gave us good views out over the park and mountain range & look what greeted us, a beautiful rainbow.

The DOC kiosk/shelter had numerous information boards and we see that there were quite a number of walks varying in length from 30 minutes to 10 hours. We decide we’d give the 10 hour one a miss today and settled on the 2km walk to the Flora Hut.

This board had a lot of information for the mountain bikers visiting the park. There is a trial happening in some of our national parks where mountain bikes are allowed on certain tracks in the off season and on some tracks year round. New Zealand must surely becoming known as one of the best off-road cycling countries in the world to visit with dozens of fabulous cycle trials to choose from.

We set off up the track, the shelter here looks a little like it was transported from the Swiss Alps.

Not too far along the track the bird song is very intense, flocks of birds are passing through the upper canopy; brown creepers &/or gold finches we decide as we can’t see them clear enough against the bright sky. Down in the under story we see an amazing sight, about 20-25 tiny Rifleman (titipounamu) foraging on the tree trunks and  along the ground. Rifleman usually feed in family groups within their small territories, peeping to each other constantly to keep in touch. A family group usually consists of parents & 1-2 fledglings but here were a couple of dozen birds. They must flock together in winter.

Female Rifleman - Titipounamu
Further on we had another discussion on whether we’ve chosen the right track to walk. David wanted to do the Mt Arthur hut walk but I told him we’d have to get out of bed earlier for that one, it was mid afternoon and the weather was set to turn.

We headed off downhill (never the best option- downhill means uphill on the way home) following a stream all the way to Flora Hut. While it was only 2kms and 30 minutes we mostly find that it takes us time & half to do these tracks. We’re always stopping to listen for birds & scanning the bush for them & I always seem to be trailing behind as I stop to take photos.

After about 45 minutes we arrived at a clearing beside the stream with Flora Hut taking centre stage. And look at that, a whole section of the hut taken up with firewood. It must get cold here.

Six solid based bunks at each end; 3 up, 3 down, two huge blackened fireplaces & a long drop off to the side at the end of a boggy path. I think I’d rather walk the 2kms back to the car. Although this hut is on a junction with other longer walks so people may come from a different direction to stay. Hunters would also overnight here. We were just about to have our late lunch at the picnic table when the rain started so we moved into the hut where the smokey smell of a hundred old fires tainted the air.

Luckily the rain didn’t last long & as we headed back up the track the sun came out. We were keen to find the rifleman again but other than a few pairs we didn’t see the large group again. Back at the carpark it was a surprise to see another rainbow stretched across the sky, this time on a different arch.

We headed off home making plans to return if we can, to walk the Mt Arthur Hut Track the next time, and to hopefully spend a little more time with the rifleman.

But that will depend on the condition of the road. When I looked on the DOC website later I saw that they had closed the road for 3 days in anticipation of the bad weather that was due and the unstable nature of this slip (a different one to the one mentioned above)

As you can see this one was a large slip and some of it looked like it had moved quite recently. We eased through the gap, warily looking skywards in case more came tumbling down.


  1. Glad you followed up on Mt Arthur, yes the hut is worth the short- ish uphill with lovely knarley trees to photgraph (Dracophylium) and you quickly get out onto the tops, with fab views, even if you don't go for the summit, well worth the walk. ciao

    1. Thanks Jimu, we're hoping to walk it this weekend.


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