Thursday, 12 February 2015

Up The River Without a Paddle

We're back at the summit again! We've just walked Blowhard Bush which is only up the road a short distance so it was opportune to post another blog! 

We decided to explore up river one sunny afternoon, David taking his spinning rod as we weren’t too sure how rough the going was once we got to the river, he didn’t want to risk breaking his fly rod if we had to pass through any undergrowth. I took my camera (no kidding) hoping to see some birdlife and to check out the butterflies & insects along the river bank.

There is a route to Cameron Hut along the river bed which takes 4-5 hours and involves 30 river crossings (I now know it would take us at least 7-8 hours with all the fluffing about we both do, checking for trout-him & photo shooting-me). If the river is in flood or if you don’t fancy clambering over river boulders and slipping & sliding over the rocks each time you cross the river, the longer route up and over Mt Kuripapango takes 5-6 hours. We weren’t going to Cameron Hut but I wanted to at least walk around the small oxbow I had seen from up on Mt Kuripapango.
We walked the kilometre or so from the campsite to the Cameron Carpark and then down the track alongside the river that I’d walked a few days before. This time I stopped to shoot the small concrete structure beside the flying fox over the river.

And once at the end of the track I took a photo looking down the river. I still don’t know what the flying fox is for but I did see a flood measurement pole on the edge of the river, maybe there’s a sensor here that reads the river level and going by the height (above my head) of the debris I saw caught in the trees nearby I think a flood would be an impressive sight roaring through here.

At the end of track there was a nice gravel beach and beautiful crystal clear, deep, emerald green pools- just perfect for swimming in. Until David spotted a couple of trout circling. This was where I’d seen the fisherman the other day. David decided we’d walk as far as we were going to go and then he’d fish on the way home.

We crossed over to the other side, this was the easiest crossing by far although it was still quite swift in the middle. We followed the edge of the river up stream, carefully stepping & picking our way over the rocks and boulders the whole way. David was also checking all the time for likely trout pools and feeding positions.

I could hear a few birds in the bush and up high on the cliffs on the other side of the river but there weren’t any to be seen close by. But the insect & bug life more than made up for it. The rocks ahead of me came alive with movement as we approached, grasshoppers of all colours, shapes and sizes sprung from rock to rock or disappeared down the gaps to escape my approach.

It wasn’t until I got down low for a closer inspection and a better shot that I realised these tiny hoppers were locked in a romantic embrace. No wonder they hadn’t sprung into action as I moved closer, they were fully involved in their own bit of action. But I pushed my luck by getting in their face with my lens, just as I moved my eye to the viewfinder the female sprung off carrying her amorous passenger with her.

It’s amazing how much life there was in and around the rocks; I need to research some of these, they aren’t in my bug book. Along with the grasshoppers of different colour variations, there were Boulder Copper butterflies, a red wasp type insect, maybe a ichnemonid of some sort(?) and a green flathead, actually a green flatbody too; maybe a  praying mantis or perhaps a katydid. I missed the focus on his eyes which was a pity.

More insects; the ever present & noisy cicada, an unidentified beetle, a female Boulder Copper, that red wasp again and a male Boulder Copper with his lovely purple inserts.

We cross the river again just up past the rapids and work our way around the inside edge of the oxbow, the boulders are getting bigger and our way is blocked often by water. The rocks are very slippery and while David has a walking pole I haven’t, so he finds me a suitable manuka stick with a good grip at the top and a fork on the bottom so it can locate as I check for depth and rock movement before stepping forward. I make sure my camera strap is around my neck just in case I take a tumble into the water.

Famous last words as I get my foot caught between rocks underwater and fall forward whacking my kneecap on another rock, with one arm disappearing beneath the water up to my shoulder and the other one stretching high holding my camera clear. Close call but no harm done- and all David could say was ‘How’s the camera?’

There are lots of beautiful Bush Giant dragonflies flying around looking & sounding like mini helicopters and one lands on a rock just in front of us. He must be tired as he doesn’t move when David puts his hand near so I can get a size comparison shot. I failed to notice he had a few legs missing until I uploaded the photos. No wonder he was tired.

One more crossing ahead of us and this one through thigh deep, swift flowing water over lots of slippery boulders. We umm & ahh about the route to take through them and I lead the way a little up stream of where we initially think we’ll cross. We’re now moving up the other side of the oxbow with Mt Kurikapango and the ridge I walked along ahead of us.

Off in the distance we see four tiny figures approaching from the other side of the river (top right). We call out greetings as they pass and I ask where they’ve been. They’ve done the circuit to Cameron Hut, up and over the top, staying at the hut overnight and then making their way down river today. I think one of them thought we were trying to get to the hut also as he was very keen to point out that there were over 30 river crossings and sections of unmarked track along the way. I reassured him we weren’t going anywhere near that far and in fact would just be going to the point ahead of us.

Shortly after, they disappeared into the bush beneath rocky cliffs of the finger of land that the oxbow formed around. It was then that I realised a track cut off the corner, we’d have to look for that on the way back so we didn’t have to fight our way over the boulders and along side the rapids again.

In the sandy soil along the river margin the prolific flowering Ragwort, a major pest, grows in abundance and while it might be a pest spreading it’s seeds far & wide it obviously provides a lot of food for the locals- a female Common Copper butterfly, a beady eyed fly of some sort, a Kowhai Moth caterpillar, a bumbling bumble bee and a first for me, a Magpie Moth. Yes a day flying moth.

We get to the point and where the river takes a sharp turn out of the oxbow and heads upstream for quite a distance in a near straight line. It’s taken us over 2 hours & three crossings to get this far and if David wants to fish on the way back it’ll be another 2-3 hours before we get home- I can’t imagine doing 30 crossings! This is the oxbow from high up Mt Kuripapango, we walked a little further off to the right. That hill in the centre looks pretty small but is in fact rather high with steep rocky cliffs nearly all the way around it.

We find a large boulder each to sit on while we have some lunch and then David heads off to have a fish while I take a swim. There are plenty of deep clear pools (away from the fisherman) and the water is quite warm considering we’re up in the mountains.The only problem with this idyllic setting are the persistent sandflies; thousands of the little buggers swarming around my face and legs and especially around my ankles and exposed areas on my feet.

I know I’m going to pay the price for the next few days no matter how much bug spray I squirt over me. I knew I needed the stronger stuff- it’s sitting in the shoe box back at base. Here, the only option is to keep on the move- they’re slow fliers, or find a breeze- they don’t like wind- but it’s a still & calm afternoon. Next best thing is to immerse yourself in water. Right up to your nostrils- and they still flit about around your eyes. I’ve become very adept at the ‘Aussie Wave’.

David has no luck and I’ve had enough of swimming & rock hopping trying to dodge the pesky sandflies so we decide to head for home. We cross back over and find the beginning of the track where the guys disappeared into the bush. There’s no markings indicating the start other than an overgrown dirt track underfoot. We saw muddy deer prints at the waters edge further on and it’s possible they use this track too. The track weaves it way through the thick bush and luckily we can see where the guys have moved through earlier on as there are broken twigs and flattened grasses. In places the undergrowth thins out and the track is easier to follow. It’s here that I have my very first sighting of a very elusive bird, but you’ll have to wait for another post to hear about that!

The track finally breaks out on the other side of the inside curve, we’ve cut off rock hopping and wading right around the inside edge. We missed the entrance on the way up because we were exploring along the water’s edge but I can now see there’s a rock cairn and a tiny pink ribbon tied to a branch marking the track entrance (marking unmarked tracks if that makes sense). Perfect and we’re now near another spot David had picked out to fish; a deep narrow swift section of river that exits the curve along a rock face. Hmm...he looks rather wet don’t you think? My lips are sealed!  Winking smile

Thankfully I didn’t find this guys alive mate while I was exploring, this is (or was) a huge spider, it’s legs were as long as my little finger and I think they used to belong to a nursery web spider.

We made our way slowly back along the remainder of the river; David finally hooking some fish- two getting off and landing one which was returned to fight another day. Unfortunately I only heard David’s yells, I was busy looking for bugs and finding another track that cut off the next corner. It came out right beside the last(first) crossing. I made my way back around the corner to see what all the yelling was about missing the release.

Here’s the map of the area again and this time I’ve put a cross at the end of the oxbow, this was as far as we walked. The ‘You Are Here’ sign is at the Cameron Carpark, we walked from camp to the carpark and then along the little black line until reaching the river then following that upstream. You can see the Cameron Hut quite a bit further up stream tucked into the river valley. The guys we’d seen had tramped over the top following the yellow broken line along the ridges then dropping down to the hut and home back along the river.

We had a fabulous afternoon in the great outdoors and even though the camp was over run with people we only saw the four guys all day. We finally got back home around 6pm worn out and very tired with aching feet from all the rock hopping & boulder climbing. And with itchy ankles from those pesky sandflies- I’ve been paying the price ever since- ‘do not itch, do not itch’ has been ringing in my ears day & night.


  1. An interesting story, again. The pictures of insects were lovely - I find it quite confusing trying to sort out whats what. But they're all beautifully made, aren't they? I wonder a lot about the lack of birds out in the wild places. I suppose its because of the 'pests' but despite the eradication efforts and successes we don't seem to see flocks of birds in the open wilderness that I think used to be there. Maybe its a false memory! Anyway, congratulations on your tracking skills - a great effort!

    1. Thanks Olwen, yes I always think there's going to be a whole heap of birds when we get to the bush or an area that's had pest eradication but mostly they are still singular or in small groups and even then you have to spend a fair bit of time sitting, watching & waiting before they show themselves. Maybe that's just the way they are.

  2. I was very surprised that this was your first sighting of a Magpie Moth, in my mind they are as common as White Cabbage Butterflies.

    1. Perhaps they are as common, I haven't really taken much note before- chasing birds instead, but now I will look out for them.

  3. I think your unidentified beetle is a tiger beetle, Neocicindela tuberculata.

    1. Thanks Marshall! It certainly looks like it, much appreciated. I usually google to see if I can find anything I don't recognize but with no reception at the DOC camp I was unable to do any research.

  4. We've got very similar tiger beetles here in the UK. I've photographed them, and also your NZ one(s), many years ago.
    Glad it helped.


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