Posted by: Talie Morrison | December 27, 2013

December in New Zealand

Blue Gray River

Blue Gray River

I headed out of Christchurch on December 1st.   My first destination was Kahurangi Forest (Northwest South Island).   My plan was to hiked between the Sylvester Hut and the Fernella Hut… well “best laid plans oft go astray…”   🙂   I camped the first night on the Cobb Reservoir road – the weather was marginal (you will hear a lot of that this month!) and the sandflies were out in force!   The next morning, instead of fighting with the sandflies for my cup of tea, I headed into Takaka to check the weather forecasts and fix my breakfast (hopefully out of sandfly munching zone!).   While I was finishing up my breakfast, I noticed quite a few hikers “gathering” and I thought about how we gather at the 4 way stop for hikes in Crested Butte.   Then someone poked their head around behind my van and said, “Talie?”   It was my friends Janet and Paul who live in Rangihaeata (outside of Takaka).   They were going with the “Wednesday Walkers” on a hike that was across private property which the Walkers had permission to cross.   I was invited to join them for the day!   How fun – an area I would not have been able to access on my own.   And I am now a Wednesday Walker!   Lets see:   A Butte Beauty, a Gray Hare, a Friday Hiker (all in Crested Butte) and now a Wednesday Walker in Takaka!

Janet and Paul invited me to camp at their house (what a lovely place!).  I had camped there last time I was in Takaka.   That night Janet and I went to the Mussel Inn to “Quiz Night”.   What fun!   Maybe we need to start something like that in CB….hum…. And the Mussel Inn has a lovely local beer:   Manuka Beer – yum!

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Quiz Night!

The weather forecasts were not good, so “going to the tops” was not a good idea.   I decided instead, upon Paul’s suggestion, to hike the Inland Abel Tasman track.   So next morning, Paul took me to Pigeon Saddle and I set off for basically 3 days in the rain!   Ah well, I guess this is what makes New Zealand so green!   Since I was in the forest most of the time, it wasn’t too windy, but when I should have had a view or two, all I saw was cloud.   It was still a beautiful hike, and I had always wanted to see the inland part of the Abel Tasman Park.  Another benefit of being “out in the weather” was that I was the only one on the trails and the only one in the huts – so for 3 days I didn’t see a soul!

Coming back on a Sunday afternoon (I was able to hitchhike right to Janet and Paul’s front door from the end of the track!) and the weather was finally  beginning to clear.  Another hike I have always wanted to do was the Kaharungi Lighthouse Treck – which is basically beach all the way!   Janet and Paul were keen on going back down there – so since the weather looked good for a couple of days ….   This hike has to be planned around low tide since there are several big rivers that have to be crossed at low tide.  And, of course, those rivers are about 5 hours hike from the end of the road (which is a 2 hour drive from Takaka).   Low tide was about 10:30 – and we decided instead of leaving at “o’dark thirty” in the morning, we would go for the evening low tide.   It being almost the height of summer, the sun wasn’t setting till about 9:30 pm.   It was an interesting way to start a hike – leaving the car at 6 pm!  🙂

Paul had arranged for us to stay in a private hut in between the two rivers so that night we crossed the Anaweka River and stopped at the Raukawa River.  Then the next morning we crossed Big River at the morning low tide getting to the Kahurangi Keepers Hut for an early lunch.   We had all afternoon to explore the beaches further South and climb in the sand dunes before coming back to the hut to hang out with the local sandflies (ah, it’s New Zealand).   Janet had twisted her ankle, so she “put it up” after dinner while Paul and I went out and explored around the lighthouse.   There had been quite a community there in the 20’s but almost all the houses were wiped out in the 1929 earthquake – the lighthouse, however,  survived.   Now it is remotely controlled and has a high-tech light which is attached to the old lighthouse structure.   The next day, after we had crossed the two big rivers, we met up with one of Janet and Paul’s friends, Brett, who was out on his 4 wheeler looking for some stray cattle.   Brett saved us the last few miles of hiking on the road back to our car – which was a blessing for Janet’s ankle!

Having used up my allotment of clear weather on the Kahurangi, I decided to head to Nelson to see my friend Christine.   It was fun to go to the Nelson Saturday Farmers Market and Christine and I went the Boat House for dinner and music while I was there.   Christine had an “open house” on Sunday since her beautiful house is on the market, so I headed out on Saturday afternoon…

Another place on “my list” for this trip is the Lewis Tops – that area is across Lewis Pass from the St. James Walkway.   I knew that I would have to camp instead of staying in a hut on these “tops”, so I took my tent up with me.  It was definitely up, up, up and it was beautiful being on the tops again!   The views were outstanding, the tussocks grasses were waving, and, once again, I didn’t see anyone!   I found a beautiful little lake (just a bit bigger than a tarn) to camp by and totally enjoyed watching the sun go down and the shadows on the mountain peaks.   Another benefit of “being on the tops” is the lack of sandflies – YEA!

A beautiful place to spend the night!  (...till the weather changed!)

A beautiful place to spend the night! (…till the weather changed!)

I had a delightful sleep in my tent till early the next morning (like 4 am) when the winds picked up – and “the weather went South” (maybe down here the expression should be “the weather went North”).   I was totally in the clouds!   So after my cup of tea and muesli,  I thought I would try to get to the “Brass Monkey Bivy” (what a great name).  Following my GPS I headed toward the Bivy.   The GPS is great technology, but it doesn’t show the actual “lay of the land”.   I realized that I could very easily walk off a cliff in the “pea soup” in which I was wandering.   So after about an hour of going across the tops, I decided that it was not a very wise thing to be doing, and the better decision would be to follow my GPS track back down off the mountain tops.   At one point, I got totally turned around – and I thought, “Isn’t that interesting, the wind is coming from the totally different direction.”   But checking the GPS, I realized that I was going in the totally different direction!   Whew, that was a close call to being lost!   So I paid a bit more attention to the GPS!

Back in my van, waiting out the marginal weather – I headed over to Westport to check in on my friend, Jen.   She is one of the Red Lady Raft Team and has landed in Westport for a couple of months before she goes home.   We did a quick jaunt down to the Punakaki Rocks and found a lovely place to camp next to a river.   We managed to survive the sandflies, and even though we didn’t get to see the rocks at high tide, we saw them at sunset and sunrise.

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This says it all! Jen waking up camping in New Zealand!

Leaving Jen back in Westport, I headed back to the Lewis Pass area.   This time I decided to do a treck that I had done 21 years ago on my first trip to New Zealand.   So I packed up for 3 nights in huts and drove to the end of Palmer road.  I decided to do the track in the opposite direction of 21 years ago, and so headed up the Robinson River.   The track was a bit rough going up the Robinson – lots of downed trees, several “slips” to go around and lots of roots and rocks.   It is another beautiful area and the river was lovely.   Once again, I was “off the beaten track” and I didn’t see anyone till I was almost out on Day 4.   I knew I would be dealing with weather while I was out there, but luckily I was able to have a couple of hours on the tops before the rain chased me down once again.   It was very spectacular, and what fun to revisit the memories of 21 years ago.   On that trip so long ago, I had a terrible time trying to cross the Robinson River (which was swollen from rains).   Since that time they have put in a couple of 3 wire bridges.   Oh I am so glad to be out in the “land of the 3 wire bridges” again!  I had a lovely hike around Lake Christabel – an awesome lake tucked in the mountains!   I knew that at the end of day 4, I would have a 5.5 mile hike back along the road to get to my van, and I was not looking forward to that!   But such is life, and after about 9 miles, I got to the road, and started off on the 5 miles to where I was parked.   After about a mile, low and behold, along came the station owner (who only goes to town once a week on Sundays to play golf), and he stopped and gave me a ride right to my van. Whew (once again!)….

And I am so grateful for having such a wonderful year of 2013 – I am blessed with good health, great friends, lovely places to live and visit, and what a wonderful planet to live on!  What a year: with Winter in Crested Butte, Spring in England and Scotland, Summer in Crested Butte and Italy, and now (summer again) in New Zealand!  Life is so good!  I wish everyone a wonderful Holiday Season and a lovely 2014!

(These photos loaded up in reverse order – so you might want to start at the bottom!)

Lake Christabel

Lake Christabel

Tengu at Lake Christabel

Tengu at Lake Christabel

Very adorable little flowers - have no idea what their name is!

Very adorable little flowers – have no idea what their name is!

On the Robinson Saddle

On the Robinson Saddle

Looking back down the Robinson River valley - that's what I walked up!

Looking back down the Robinson River valley – that’s what I walked up!

Three Wire Bridge

Three Wire Bridge

Top Robinson Hut

Top Robinson Hut

Love those ferns!

Love those ferns!

Sometimes the track is hiding under the fallen trees!

Sometimes the track is hiding under the fallen trees!

Robinson River

Robinson River

Yes, that is the trail!

Yes, that is the trail!

Love the mosses and fungus

Love the mosses and fungus

Mid-Robinson Hut

Mid-Robinson Hut

Robinson River

Robinson River

Not quite barefoot tramping this trip!

Not quite barefoot tramping this trip!

Start of the Robinson Track

Start of the Robinson Track

This was when I decided to turn around and head down!

This was when I decided to turn around and head down off the Lewis Tops!

The next morning!

The next morning!

Sunset on the tops

Sunset on the tops

Home for the night!

Home for the night!

Lewis Tops

Lewis Tops

View from Lewis tops

View from Lewis tops

Footsteps on the beach after crossing Big River

Footsteps on the beach after crossing Big River

Beautiful turns!

Beautiful ferns!

Janet and Paul

Janet and Paul

Kahurangi Keepers Hut

Kahurangi Keepers Hut

Beautiful Beaches

Beautiful Beaches

Love the sand dunes!

Love the sand dunes!

Tengu loves it too!

Tengu loves it too!

Barefoot Backpacking

Barefoot Backpacking

Way beautiful!

Way beautiful!

Janet and Paul heading off into the sunset!

Janet and Paul heading off into the sunset!

When the track is good, it is really good!

When the track is good, it is really good!

When the track is wet, it is really wet

When the track is wet, it is really wet

The Wednesday Walkers

The Wednesday Walkers

Abel Tasman - misty woods

Abel Tasman – misty woods

Awapoto Hut

Awapoto Hut

Tengu loves the huts too!

Tengu loves the huts too!

Yea - Purple Mushrooms!  Amazing

Yea – Purple Mushrooms! Amazing

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