Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Much in Murchison

We stayed at the NZMCA Park in Murchison for six nights in the end, relaxing, catching up on computer work & enjoying the small country township which was always busy with passing travellers; alot who stop to refuel both vehicles and themselves.

I mentioned in a previous post how hot it was, in fact it was extremely hot every afternoon that we were there. Low cloud and fog settled in the valley overnight so the mornings were always cloudy and overcast but by lunchtime it had lifted or burnt off and with not a breath of air, the sun was a scorcher! Our outside temperature gauge ranged from 32-36 degrees some afternoons. Inside wasn’t much better at 30+.

I got so distressed with the heat the first afternoon, that I went to the shop next door to ask the guy where the local swimming hole was. He directed me back up the road, past the cemetery, through the domain campground to ‘eel pool’, a deep hole on the edge of the Buller River. Not even the pool’s name was going to stop me from jumping in. And it was heaven! Another couple (workers from the pub) were also there, they were jumping off from the rocks, I was happy enough with my pool.

That evening, and for the next two, a massive thunder & lightening storm formed & then raged over the mountains to the north of us, luckily the rain didn’t reach down into the valley. Light from the sunset cast an eerily glow over the park.

We don’t eat out that much while on the road, we’re usually out in the wops or passing through towns but with Murchison having so many eateries (5 or so cafes, 2 pubs & one small restaurant- and this is a very small township) and with us parked just a few metres from them all what could we do? Let’s just say it was our contribution to the local economy. We had dinner at the pub (nothing to write home about), went to dinner (with some lovely people) at the Cowshed Restaurant, a tiny quaint 16 seat room on the side of a garage (great food).   And had breakfast at The Rivers Cafe (a very popular cafe) set up in an old service station, the outside seating was across the old forecourt. We also had morning tea at another couple of cafes and all served good & tasty food and all were very busy.

And who were those lovely people we went to dinner with? Jackie & Bob, David’s sister and husband! It was a lovely surprise to see them, our paths crossing just for the night. They were on their way back home to the Bay of Plenty (via Golden Bay) after catching up with their family in Southland over Christmas.

Whenever we’re on a remote walk beside a tumbling mountain river we’re always on the lookout for NZ’s rare & endangered endemic duck, the Blue Duck or Whio. So far we’ve not spotted any. So when we found out the the Fyfe River near Murchison has around twenty pairs of ducks along it’s reaches, it was an ideal opportunity to see if we could tick another native bird off our list.

The Fyfe River is located in a remote valley beside Mt Owen in the Kahurangi National Park. We drove up the winding gravel Owen Valley East Road for about 15kms before coming to a private farm which we had to cross to get to a track that skirted around the edge of a gorge that Fyfe River flows through. We knew we were in the right area, the familiar 1080 drop warning board had a Blue Duck photo this time, at the Lake it was a Kaka photo.

After driving over a rough farm track, opening and closing a few farm gates and startling the cattle & sheep in the paddocks as we drove through, we parked beside Frying Pan Creek. The track started just across the creek near a broken concrete ramp that saved us getting our feet wet- little did we know that we had dozens of water crossings ahead of us.

It’s the first time we’ve seen a dydimo ‘clean your gear’ station at the beginning of a track, although it would have helped if the detergent bottles had something in them. I think it’s a lost cause though, because this was a stream we crossed just a few hundred metres up the track- coated in filthy ‘rock snot’.

We followed the track through farmland for about 2kms, chasing a flock of sheep ahead of us all the way. Why they didn’t just run off the side I don’t know. We stopped occasionally to help ourselves to a few ripe blackberries although we were just a couple weeks too early to pick ourselves enough for a blackberry & apple pie, but the ones we did find were tasty & sweet. David started out in his track pants- it was overcast & cool when we left camp but by the time we started the walk the sun had broken free and was beating down on us yet again, he had to roll his pants up to try & keep cool. By the time we got home his trackies were covered with spikey biddy-bid seeds- both on the in & the outside! He then had to spend the next couple of hours picking them all off!

Eventually we entered the bush and started to climb & climb some more. The track narrowed and became more overgrown as we went on. We crossed the creek dozens of times, clambered over fallen trees and along slippery rocky walls. These photos are from the beginning when it was an easy climb. It was a beautiful walk, brilliant green mosses and ferns smothered the ground and trees and the bird life was amazing.

In the end I had to put my camera away in my backpack(a first!)- hence no photos of the tough terrain, that and the fact that it was very dark in the bush and we really had to watch our every step. After an hour or so of tramping and hauling ourselves through the undergrowth, and after checking David’s topo map app, we realised that we’d not make it to the river with enough time to return to the car. Looking at the map we’d only probably got about two thirds of the way to the river and still had to climb upwards before dropping down into the river valley. Once there we’d have to follow the river upstream for a bit to locate the ducks. We reluctantly decided to turn around and leave the ducks for another day.

Before heading back down we found a large rotten log to sit on to have a snack. Unfortunately the rotten log was really, really rotten and when we both sat down, it collapsed and started to roll down the bank. We jumped clear as it broke in three and came to rest against a tree. Immediately three bush robins came flying in to see what we’d exposed. They are so nosy & friendly hopping around us and grabbing anything that moved. We also spotted a bellbird having a poke around in the rotten fibre.

It was late afternoon by the time we got back to the car, we knew we’d made the right decision. Next time we’re just going to have to get out of bed a bit earlier! Because it was overcast we initially didn’t think we’d do the walk, we were just going to drive in there & check the location.

Right next door to the NZMCA Park is the Dust & Rust Vintage Store, a very cool building filled with memories from the past. The building is a Historic Places Category building, it used to be Commercial Stables where wagons and coaches pulled in for the night. They drove in through the front archway, the horses were put in stalls on the left inside and the coach drivers had a room on the right hand side.

Some historic buildings and abandoned farm houses from around Murchison. The theatre building sits right in the middle of the NZMCA Park (which has recently been extended to the other side of the building), you can see our van through the shrubs, backed up to the side.

Of course I couldn’t not take a photo of Murchison’s Anglican Church of St Pauls could I?

Hodgsons General Store brought back memories, it reminded me of the general store that used to be in Nuhaka in Northern Hawkes Bay. We’d visit it as kids when we were holidaying at Mahia- usually to get a huge icecream on a hot summers day while Mum bought groceries or on our way back to the bach from the Morere hot pools.

The shelving was typical of a general store when it was packed to the gunwales and was supported by locals from far & wide. Unfortunately nowadays with supermarkets and convenience stores in the same town the general store has lost a lot of it’s impact. Photos, old tins, containers, bottles and goods from the past lined the top few shelves. Everyday items were sparsely placed on the other shelves. I love the Aulsebrooks banner along the counter front.

We visited the longest swingbridge in New Zealand, which spans the Buller River 16kms south of Murchison in the Upper Buller Gorge.  The bridge is 110 metres long and is suspended 17 metres above the river. There’s also a ‘Comet Line’, a 160 metre zipline (flyingfox) that crosses the river beside the bridge.

David was a little nervous about crossing the bridge but when we got there he strode out without a worry just as the Buller Jet roared past underneath us.

It certainly was a long bridge but in fact I didn’t think it was as bad as some of the smaller ones I’ve been on. I think it makes a huge difference when you have rocks and roaring rapids below, here the Buller was deep and green as it flowed past.

We took a 30 minute walk through the bush on the otherside (which is known as the ‘Buller Peninsula’) to view the Ariki Falls. On the way we crossed the  White Creek fault line; the epicentre of the 1929 Murchison earthquake where the ground was thrust up 4.5 metres. There were also stone wall reminders of the gold rush and other relics from the past.

The walk was a little muddy and overgrown but eventually we made it to the ‘falls’, a very short fall after which the river was forced through a pink & grey granite gorge. Kayakers often paddle down the falls and through the chasm. We were underwhelmed with what we saw. But I think that had something to do with the constant harassment from the sandflies.

As we crossed back over the bridge a couple were riding back via the comet line. It looked pretty sedate compared with the zipline in the Mokai Canyon. I even thought about having a ride but by then I was back to the other side and it would have cost me an extra $10 to cross the bridge again!

Been there, done that- crossing back over the bridge.


  1. It was great to see the 'Rust and Dust' building that used to be commercial stables. A few times over the years I've sat at the nearby petrol station and wondered what that building was originally used for (and taken a photo of it) and I'm now pleased that you have enlightened me. Rust and Dust must be a fairly recent incarnation, I think.

    1. Yes I think the guy opened it after seeing how many vans use the NZMCA Park right next door, I saw plenty of people visiting but not many buying. Afterall, where does he think they're going to store a old scooter let along a Morris truck! :) He did have some interesting stuff indoors, a bit expensive though.


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