Friday 29 September 2017

A Stunning Walk in the Mountains- Part 2


Continuing on from Part 1

I waved goodbye to David as he left the hut and headed back down the track we'd arrived on, I headed off in the opposite direction, passing the family with the tiny baby arriving back in camp after they'd walked to the summit of Mt Arthur- well not quite to the summit, they said there was too much snow but they'd gone a fair way. Another three trampers arrived just after them, fully laden down with heavy packs; they'd just completed the 28km two day Tableland Circuit and had stayed at the Salisbury Hut the night before. The look of surprise on their faces when they saw all the people at Mt Arthur was priceless. I bet they decided to carry on to the carpark.

Once through the bush that surrounded the hut the track opened up; the mountain rising up on one side and on the other, this stunning view over the bush and the mountain range across to Tasman Bay in the distance.

As I was admiring the view another couple of walkers passed me heading for the hut. Going by the size of their packs they'd be daywalkers, which is just as well as there's no room at the inn tonight. They told me they'd walked about halfway to the summit and had then run out of time so turned back- very sensible tourists.

Shortly afterwards the track split- my track heading off to the right and the summit and another track to the left. As I was taking photos, one of the couples we'd been chatting to at the hut, along with their 4yo daughter, caught me up. The guy had been up here often and talked me into walking up the Summit track a little way because he said, 'the views were spectacular'.

The little girl sat down at the sign and refused to budge, she said was going to wait there until they returned. Eventually she was cajoled and bribed with chocolate into walking further but she 'was only going to the first pole and then she was going back to play with her new friend'. 

The views were indeed spectacular, I'm now clear of the lower mountains and can see all the way to Nelson and Rabbit Island. Mt Arthur Hut is below the point, in the trees.

A little further on and there's a rocky platform overlooking the valley behind.

The track climbed steadily up the exposed rock behind and then dropped a little before it becomes a long steady walk across fairly easy terrain before a short climb to the summit (so the husband tells me). I'm tempted to walk to the top of this rock to see Mt Arthur but decide against it as I'm unsure how my track will be and with no communications, David will start to wonder where I am if I add another 40 minutes or so to my return walk. Another couple appear over the the track is getting like Piccadilly Station!

I'm told by the very helpful husband that my track crosses through those brown patches up to the peak and then drops sharply to the valley floor on the other side.

One hour, 2.6km, mostly downhill. Not far at all, this should be easy.

Immediately after leaving the sign-post the track disappears into a stand of bush. After the lovely manicured track up to the hut, this one is the exact opposite; narrow, root ridden with lots of holes. I'll have to watch my step.

Once out of this first lot of bush, the track gets lost under the snow tussock and when I find sections of it, it's deeply furrowed, uneven and full of water. I have to jump back and forth over the deep track and the water, squelching through spongy bog plants when the tussock disappears. I start to worry that it'll be like this all the way and it'll be slow going. I can see the orange marker poles marching up the ridge ahead of me, I keep one eye on them and the other one on where to next put my feet, and hope for the best.

This cutest little fluff-ball of a Tomtit/Miromiro(male) flitted into say hello to me as I was passing a clump of bush. Either he was cold (the temperature was dropping) or he wanted me out of his territory.

I stop often to look back along the track, the rocky platform I stood on at the beginning is at the base of the exposed rock to the right. I've now crossed a couple of those 'brown patches', the track is still a bog and there's water everywhere. I think it is actually a bog, the water seeping through from the ridge heading downhill.

Then it's back into the next lot of gnarly moss covered bush...

And a little further along, into the open again where I can't stop looking back at the view and the beautiful colours of the vegetation which is especially colourful for New Zealand native bush. Not only are there the purple leaved Mountain Neinei (Dracophyllum traversii) we saw earlier but there's also their smaller cousin the Dracophyllum Longifolium aka Grass tree or Inaka; the copper coloured upright shrubs in the foreground.

Just before I stopped to take photos I spotted a walker heading towards me from out of the bush. She stopped to ask how far it was to the hut, she told me she was going to stop overnight before heading to the summit. I hadn't the heart to tell her that the hut was full.

I pointed out that it wasn't too far, and while explaining where it lay in the bush ahead of her I spotted the hut's roof peeking out of the forest (see blue arrow above, click to enlarge the photo). I zoomed in for a better look below.

Once last panoramic photo of the amazing view before I turned around...

And headed over my 'summit', through one last clearing...

...and down into the bush proper. The track was wet and muddy, full of tree roots and holes with a number of rocks to navigate over and slide down. And even though it doesn't look like it in the photos below, it was a very steep downhill track (actually called a route because it just has tree markers pointing the way), it took a lot of effort to not let my forward momentum get ahead of me and topple me over.

My toes and knees started complaining very early on and after taking these few photos near the top I put my camera away so I could keep my balance better and hold onto trees to swing down banks or slide down muddy patches. It would have been very easy to trip on a root, or twist an ankle on a slippery section, I really needed to concentrate.  It seemed like the track went on and on forever, it got darker and colder and I begun to wonder whether I'd ever get to the end. I kept thinking about the woman I'd seen up on the top, she'd come up this way with her pack, that would have been hard going.

Eventually I could hear voices and children calling to each other but it still took a long while before I finally broke out of the bush above Flora Hut. Two more families with children (and a pushchair) had just arrived at the hut. Sitting on a bank in front of me were another young couple sharing a beer and chatting. 

I wondered how on earth I was going to get down this steep slippery slope because I not only knew my toes would scream blue murder, but I'd likely slip over and slide down on my butt past the now smooching couple who hadn't yet seen me. So I coughed loudly (that startled them) and then stopped to chat for a minute before spying another track through the bush to the side that looked to be heading towards the 4WD track and the way back to carpark. It did end up on the track and it was with great relief when I finally stepped out onto the gravel track. 

I still had 2kms to walk to get back to the carpark but it felt like I was walking on a cushion of air, the 4WD track was such a relief after the continuous pain of my toes being pushed into the front of my boots (even with thick socks) and my knees complaining at every jarring step. In the end it took me 1hr 40min from the start of the track to Flora Hut, I think 20 of those minutes would have been spent taking photos across the ridge but it was a tougher walk than I expected.

David met me half way along the track, he'd been back to the carpark, had a coffee and a snack and then come to meet me. He'd past another three groups of walkers heading to Mt Arthur Hut on his way down. It sure was going to be a busy night up there.

Thursday 28 September 2017

A Stunning Walk in the Mountains- Part 1


We had another walk we wanted to do while we were staying at Kaiteriteri, it's one we missed on our last visit even though we had visited the area twice.

As the sign says, it's 7kms of steep, winding and narrow road straight up the side of the Arthur Mountain Range to the Flora Carpark and into the Kahurangi National Park. Mt Arthur is the prominent peak in the range that forms a backdrop to the Motueka/Tasman area.

Back in 2014 when we visited the Park we walked to Flora Hut and then we came back a few days later to do the walk to the Mt Arthur Hut as we'd heard it was a stunning half day walk and we'd already seen how much bird life there was. Unfortunately it had snowed and we only just made it to the carpark before turning around and heading back down.

This time the weather was good and we allowed enough time to get to Mt Arthur Hut, a 8.4km return walk from the carpark where the old stone and cedar shelter above marks the entrance. After our marathon 17kms walk to Lake Daniells the other week, we weren't keen to take on a tramp to the summit of Mt Arthur; a 18.2km return walk from the carpark and a steep climb, once past Mt Arthur Hut. 

There are numerous single and multi-day tramping tracks throughout Kahurangi National Park and several start (or end) at the carpark.

We follow the 4WD track to a junction 600metres from the carpark, the Flora Hut walk heads off to the right, our track to the left. The bush we pass through at the beginning of our track is nothing short of spectacular, and while I'm waiting for David to finish a bit of bird spotting, I take a little bit of artistic license with my camera and shoot some creative blur photos.

These two photos (above and below) are of the same piece of bush. To achieve creative blur in your photos slow the shutter speed down (these are 1/50sec) and then as you push your shutter button, quickly move your camera up and down. Play with settings until you get the desired effect, it's fun to see what you can produce. I enjoy doing this with colourful flower beds too.

Here's a couple more taken in bush similar to the top photo, I like the effect a little bit of sunlight has had on the green moss on the forest floor. Cool aren't they? 

Anyway, back to the task at hand, the track is well formed and it's a steady, easy climb upwards.

There's a major change to the vegetation and bush as we break out onto a ridge. I've only ever seen these unusual trees in suburban gardens (including my sister and parents) I've never seen these plants in the bush before but they are the native Dracophyllum traversii, aka Mountain Neinei.  

A gorgeous little Grey Warbler/Riroriro was checking us out as we detoured off the path into his moss laden 'enchanted forest'.

Back on the path and we reach a clearing where Mt Arthur can be seen ahead of us. There's also a picnic table to the left and we decide to stop for a snack. As David's heading to the table he suddenly calls back to me 'Listen, listen.....there's something in the bush and it's heading our's wild pigs!!" he says, as really loud snorting, grunting and rustling noises reach me. I'm about ready to run and jump on the table when...

...out of the bush bursts one small Weka in full flight (they are flightless) followed by another weka twice the size! He has evil intent on his mind and he chases her around and around a tree trunk, then  across the clearing, round the table, back around another tree and then back across again, all the time emitting this really loud grunting noise. Both of them take no notice of the two shocked spectators as they disappear back into the bush. (Excuse the blurred photos, I wasn't expecting quite so much action to happen in the quiet bush)

We sat down for a snack and it wasn't long before they both emerged to see if we had anything they might steal. And looking at the state of her, I think he must have finally caught up with her.

We move off the ridge and back into the Mountain Beech forest where the tallest canopy trees are hundreds of years old and have obviously escaped the early settlers logging operations. Through a gap in the trees we can see some of Tasman Bay, Rabbit Island and the Richmond Range behind Nelson.

We must be getting close to the hut; the track has many switchbacks and we're now climbing steadily. back, forward, back, forward. We start to wonder if we'll ever get there.

Around a corner ahead of me I find a mother and her young son (about 3yo) sitting in the middle of the track checking out something in the dust. I have the feeling he had refused to go any further. His father suddenly appears from ahead of us, he's carried on to the hut with some of their gear and has come back to hoist the boy onto his shoulders. They carry on up the track while I wait for David to catch up.

Finally we reach the hut and what a surprise awaits us! It's like Piccadilly Station, there are four different groups of people including three groups with children, all under five, one of them just a baby of about 3 months old. There's even a small child's balance bike and a pushchair with a flat tyre- 'Have we got a bike pump?", they ask. As if! 

This is an 8 bunk hut and I have the feeling it's well and truly oversubscribed tonight! All I can say is thank God we're not stopping. It is lovely to see families enjoying the great outdoors and introducing their children to tramping and huts at such an early age though. 

We have our lunch and a few laughs at the picnic table before deciding it's time head back to the carpark. David's decided he's going to return the way we came, I've decided to do the loop and head down another track to the Flora Hut and then back up to the carpark, it shouldn't be too hard it's only 1/2km longer. Famous last words...

To be continued...Part 2

Saturday 23 September 2017

Civic Duty


When you live on the road full-time you never know where you're going to find yourself when the three yearly call to civic duty goes out. The top of the South Island obviously has an appeal to us at this time of the year, we were in Nelson the last time we voted. Today finds us casting our 'Special Votes' in the charming little seaside settlement of Pakawau in Golden Bay.

We once again had to reach into the far recesses of our memories to recall our last known physical address. Four years after selling up and moving out of Tauranga, we still need our old address for the electoral roll. Now, let's see if any of these faceless candidates rings a bell....

Thursday 21 September 2017

A Visit to Harwoods Hole


Do this lot look like intrepid explorers? Hmmm....thought not. But they do look bright and chirpy don't they. This enthusiast crew of Kaiteriteri Camp locals is about to head off to find Harwoods Hole, the deepest vertical shaft in New Zealand. Well, find isn't quite right either because it has already been found. What we're about to do is the 45 minute walk to see the Hole (6km/90min return).

Back L to R- Craig, Sarah(sitting) Geoff, Brian(not looking!), David
Front- Sheryll & Roseanne
Harwoods Hole is located at the top of the Takaka Hill in the Pikikirunga Range, 11kms inland from the main road along a narrow, corrugated, gravel road. It's part of the Abel Tasman National Park and while it's a long way up behind, as the crow flies, it's not too far from Kaiteriteri.

About half way along the ridge we stop to check out a very interesting area at Canaan Downs where there are several large open clearings surrounded by beautiful mature trees and bush.

The Stage
The eight day long Luminate Festival is held here every two years, an 'earth friendly festival of music, culture, inspiration & transformation' according to the article in that link (check it out for photos). It's hard to believe that over 4000 people converge on this area to set up camp,  party, dance, participate in workshops and get spiritual.

We had a wander around checking out the interesting facilities- I bet the Pizza oven gets a workout during the festival. Some of us tried the outdoor bath out for size, stood in the middle of the standing stone circle and waited for miracles to happen and gave the carvings a kiss or two. We were all impressed with the bank of composting loos; clean, non-smelling and still doing their job six months after the last festival.

I was fascinated with the urine-catcher, a metal strip, a bit like a piece of guttering, strategically placed at the front of the loos; they even mentioned to sit up straight so the stream was directed better! Remember to click on the photo to read more.

Let it all hang free- outdoor showers. I suspect when they're set up they would be inside toilet tents or something similar, there are children on site after all and I'm guessing there'd still be many who would want a bit of privacy. 

And more fancy loos...including a 'Pee Loo Standing'? Isn't that a Urinal? I didn't take a look to check.

You can actually camp at Canaan Downs at any time of the year. As long as you're prepared to drive the road in and the ground isn't covered in snow! We'd happily take the 5th-wheeler in although there'd be a few tight corners and you wouldn't want to meet anyone coming the other way. We thought it would be a great place to hold a rally. That would sort the wheat from the chaff!

We carried on to the end of the road, to the DOC Canaan Downs Campsite and Harwoods Hole trailhead. There are plenty of warning signs at the beginning of the track, along with a two page instruction and information sheet available for cavers thinking of heading down the hole.

We set off a good pace, the track is very easy to begin with, flat and wide with lovely dappled sun shining in...

We passed a couple of small water filled kettle holes where it was hard to see where the water reflections ended and the bush and moss begun.

The track got a little gnarly towards the end with plenty of small boulders and rocks to clamber over and around. Careful attention was needed to avoid the small gaps between them, they could easily trap boots or twist ankles.

Finally we reach a junction in the track, we decide to take the Gorge Creek Viewpoint track first....although it's not a track, it's a route (as it says under the name). Which means it isn't marked and you must find your own way straight up the side of a steep rock covered bank. 

Luckily people have been before us and there's a sort of track to follow although 300 metres still feels like 600 by the time we reach the 'viewpoint'. 'Viewpoint', that's DOC speak for 'it's not a lookout with steps, a platform and barriers'.  No, it's an open space with a bunch of weird looking rocks at the top of a cliff... 

...where, if you manage to clamber over them to the far side, you'll find that you have a magnificent view down to Gorge Creek and across to the the main highway in the Takaka valley over in Golden Bay. 

Those unusual rocks might look nice and smooth and relatively easy to walk over but believe me, they are far from it. These are very sharp edged and uneven karst limestone rock formations with deep and narrow slots separating the sections at irregular intervals. Slip a foot or leg down a gap and you'd be in big trouble. 

With the agility of a goat, Geoff makes it to the far side...

...while some of us were still trying to crawl and slither our way to the edge. Woah! It's scary stuff looking over the edge.

The best way to peer over the edge was to get down on your belly and pull yourself forward.

I decided I'd probably not get back up and knowing my luck (second name Calamity Jane), I'd somehow topple over or worse, drop my camera!

Craig, Sarah and David checking out the view...

 ...and then we had to do all the clambering again in reverse, this time on our hands and backsides downhill. What are you smiling at Craig? You'll be in big trouble now.

Back down at the junction we meet up with Roseanne and Brian who'd carried on to the Hole. They'd been to the lookout before, so didn't put themselves through that little exercise again. We headed off to the Hole, the marble rocks getting bigger and mud getting deeper.

At 183 metres Harwoods Hole is the deepest vertical shaft in New Zealand. A dry sinkhole, the hole drops to an underground river that emerges and flows into Gorge Creek (the valley in the photos from the 'viewpoint'). Henry Harwood (1844-1927) discovered the hole, though it remained untouched until 1958, when cavers were winched down. After a complete exploration in 1959, Harwoods Hole became the deepest explored cave in New Zealand, a record that stood for many years.

Harwoods Hole connects to the Starlight Cave system which eventually exits above Gorge Creek in the side of the hill,  the whole cave system is over 357m in depth. After abseiling down the hole, making their way through the Starlight Cave system, cavers then have to make the strenuous climb back up the hill to the carpark. There have been many rescues and a few deaths over the years,(including a curious walker who got too close to the edge), Harwoods Hole is for experienced cavers only and the complete trip takes a minimum of 9 hours.

A plaque on a rock just before Harwoods Hole- click to enlarge

Finally we reach the end of the track, ahead of us are some very huge jagged boulders and somewhere over the back of them is Harwoods Hole. The entrance is a 50 metre round hole.

We send the advance troops in to find a route....   
"Arr...I think that's the wrong way Sheryll, darling" says Geoff

They regroup and disappear out of sight. I can't go any further with my camera so I leave it on a rock and then slip and slide my way over towards them (phone camera safely installed in my zip-up pocket) 

There's a handkerchief sized piece of flat dirt between boulders near the edge, or what seems to be the edge. You actually can't see down the hole, it disappears underneath the rocky outcrop somewhere. Geoff squeezes through a slot in the rocks to another point further towards the hole but reports that, while he can see the vertical walls opposite, he can't see down it either.  

The rest of us stay on the safe side of the tunnel. I lean on a rock and stretch my arm and phone out as far as I can to take this shot. And that is as much of Harwoods Hole as we're going to see. 

Here are a couple of photos (which obviously, I didn't take) of Harwoods Hole. Looking at the overhead photo, I think we made it to the end of the rocks at the bottom right.