Trip Reports, May/June 2009

3 May 2009 - Kaituna Track
Organiser: Barry Pont

With perfect weather, we left Nelson around 7.30am and travelled to Collingwood. On the way we stopped at Milnthorpe Park and walked to the Lookout at Bells Hill. A return trip of one hour, where we had great views of Golden Bay. We then proceeded to the Naked Possum, the start of the Kaituna Track. We walked three kilometres on an easy track to the Kaituna Forks for lunch. On our return it was decided to stop at the Mussel Inn for refreshments. A good day was had by all. Our group included Gillian Arbuthnott, Brenda Griffin, Beverley Muirhead, David Blunt, Dion and Barry Pont and visitor Liam Pont.

3 May 2009 - Kings Hut
Organiser: Brian Renwick 
Cancelled due to lack of interest.

 9-16 May 2009 - Milford Track
Organiser: Mike Drake 

Four days of rain, and thunderstorms in the evening might suggest that the trip was rather tiresome, and a Star Trek beam-me-up device would have been very much appreciated. But you would be very wrong. Rivers, waterfalls and lichen-covered vegetation are the key features of the Milford Track, and what is the best way to bring these features out? Yes – rain, and preferably lots of it. We arranged the heaviest during the evening and night, and lighter rain during the day to keep things moving along.

The official date was moved forward three days giving a high in the Tasman time to assert itself. Aha! Instead, a more severe weather system developed, causing a last minute decision (whilst cruising to the drop-off point) to head straight for Mintaro Hut. So instead of a 1.5 hour tramp on the first day, it turned out to be 6.5 hours. We knew the Buller Tramping Club (BTC) members were heading towards Mintaro, and that a fire might greet us, and the next day we would be over Mackinnon Pass ahead of the severe weather.

We were advised that a swollen creek had taken out a bridge by the Bus Stop (shelter). However, on arriving at the creek not a drop of water was flowing! Flattened grass and debris along parts of the track were indications of a recent flood. We were to understand later that it takes a lot of heavy rain to stretch the carrying capacity of the Clinton and Arthur Rivers. Just on dark eight rather wet trampers arrived at Mintaro Hut. The BTC had duly lit a fire with wet wood in a recalcitrant stove. Dry clothes, several mugs of tea followed by mulled wine and dinner had the team in full flow. This first day was our Fiordland weather baptism, and prepared us well for the rest of the trip. During the night thunder reverberated around the valley walls, an indication that the weather was far from settled. Having arrived late at the hut, it seemed appropriate to let the BTC have a head start the following day. 

Perhaps, subconsciously thinking that a warm hut would again greet us, and that a trampled snow track would snake over the pass. Our late departure also had another benefit - the weather “cleared” as we skirted over the far side of Mackinnon Pass, providing views and even some patches of blue sky. A stop at the Mackinnon Pass Shelter for a brew was followed by a further break at Quintin Huts. An excursion to Sutherland Falls was left until the next day – nearly a mistake. An hour later we were at Dumpling Hut. Again, out of wet clothes, brews and a warm-up by the fire. More heavy rain overnight, thunder and wind gusts; the latter causing a scurry of goblins, collecting wind-swept clothes from the ground.

The following morning - Sutherland Falls day, and still raining. Heavy rain overnight had submerged a section of the track close to the hut. By late afternoon it was possible to wade through and head towards Sutherland Falls. This was the highlight of the trip for me. The heavy rain overnight followed by steady rain had opened all waterfall taps to an impressive fury. Threads of water jostled each other in their haste to plummet down the valley walls. Sutherland Falls was equally spectacular, the torrential flow keeping us well away from the base. The best view was 300 – 400 metres away back down the track.

By day four we had the hang of the weather – rain and waterproofs. Apart from Mackay Falls the Arthur Valley seemed less spectacular than the Clinton, or perhaps we were waterfalled out by this time. Perhaps our minds were more on hot showers and real food. At Sandfly Point Hut we had our last change into dry clothes and a brew, waiting for the 14.30 boat. What we didn't expect was an inflatable boat, followed by calls to don wet weather gear! It wasn't all bad. A tent with a huge gas blower was waiting for us; any chills were very quickly blasted away.

So, is the Milford Track the Greatest Walk in the World? Quoting a wise middle ascent party member “if you haven't done all the walks in the world how can you answer the question”. If you want waterfalls, greenery and steep valley walls, then it is spectacular, and a good dose of rain certainly turns on the waterworks. And Winter Season? – No tourists, few sandflies and not too much sweating. So, when a tourist (or anyone) asks me whether I have done the Milford Track, I can now say a resounding YES!

Yes, we finally got the hot shower, then a pleasant evening starting with a 32 minute film of a helicopter view of Fiordland, and then a fine meal. So perhaps a Winter crossing of the Dusky Track might be a good follow-up! Thanks to Mark Stevens, Dion Pont, Barry Pont, Ray Caird, Ken Ridley, René Visser and visitor Gina Andrews (Hamilton) for a very enjoyable trip.

10 May 2009 - Fringed Hill 
Organiser: Alison Nicoll 

Participants: David and Alison Nicoll, Brenda Griffin, Gillian Arbuthnott, Mary Honey, Christine Hoy and visitor, Bel Paine.

Martin Cleland, the NCC track supervisor informed me that the track was now cleared from the July storm damage but it was very impressive in the destruction of the beech forest. We found the track from Third House to Fringed Hill was passable and through masses of uprooted huge trees. Their roots, supporting clay and stones, like huge newly erected circular walls, were impressive by their size and number, making the walk a bit like a labyrinth to pick our way through. The mass of tangled branches, already showing borer holes, had been chained sawed through enough to let us pass. We were lucky with the day as the forecast had not been good but we tramped in near perfect conditions, the cloud providing cover from a still hot sun. Views over Nelson were enjoyed from the top.

17 May 2009 - Takaka Hill Walkway. 
Organiser: Ross Price 

Beverley Muirhead and Ross Price were the only two remaining from an original group of six, so, after reviewing their options decided to try to find the track to Mount Evans (GPS PLB in hand). The amount of water around made the track more of a mud hole than a walking track, and with water up to their calves over an extended area of track, decided to retrace their steps. So, what started off as a trip to the Takaka Walkway ended up as a guided walk through the Ngarua Caves, which proved to be very interesting and enjoyable, both vowing to return for a repeat look at the caves in the future.

23 May 2009 - Cullen’s Creek 
Organiser: Uta Purcell 

The weather forecast for Blenheim and the east was dismal but the Western Ranges were fine apart from strong winds. So the Takaka Walkway became the easy option B. The original six interested trampers dwindled to three, Jim Maxwell, Ruth Henry, and organiser Uta Purcell. Jim was keen to explore the karst landscape, looking for a future possibility of reaching Hailes Knob from the Walkway. When he could see the rugged route to the destination, it did not encourage him. But if anyone has ever gone that way successfully, I am sure, he would like to hear about it. We enjoyed the best part of the day during the early stage of the Walkway, which also had the best views to the snowy tops of the Cobb, Mt Snowden and Devil River Peak. The bush generally provided shelter from the southerlies. It was a short but enjoyable outing.

24 May 2009 - Wooded Peak 
Organiser: Dan McGuire 

Five members showed up at 8.00am. for the trip up Wooded Peak from the Brook Sanctuary. We made very good time and despite an overcast sky and some wind the views were excellent from Wooded Peak. We dropped to Windy Point and came back along the Dun Line. Participants: Dan McGuire, Gretchen Williams, Mark and Noleen Tullett, and Ron Mailer.

31 May 2009 - Urban Hills 
Organiser: Gillian Arbuthnott 

The gentle stroll along Hardy Street from The Botanics belied the steep ascent of upper Collingwood Street to the northern slopes of The Grampians, but the Liquid Amber in its autumn glory of red and orange and the expansive view of the silvery waters of Tasman Bay soon calmed the pounding heartbeats. A rapid descent via a service road brought us to Brook Street from where we wound along the Old Codgers Track in the company of mountain bikers, over the Tantragee Saddle and downhill to the Maitai River Walkway. Like ten green bottles hanging on the wall, hungry walkers perched on a fallen tree trunk to eat lunch and then wended their way past the golf course and alongside the river to Branford Park, where a three-way split saw some return to the cars and the remainder headed for the Centre of New Zealand via two different tracks. The walk along the western spur to Sir Stanley Whitehead Park gave ample opportunity to enjoy the city and sea views and after comparing the same with the photos on the information board, we descended through the eucalyptus forest to Milton Street, accompanied by Maurice Cloughley for the final 50 metres. Highly recommended is the ambience and coffee of The Sprig and Fern on a chilly Winter’s afternoon, and only a short amount of pavement pounding was required to get back to the day’s starting point at The Botanics. Thank you for your congenial company and enthusiasm: David Blunt, Gillian Arbuthnott, Jane Dewar, Mary Honey, Merrick Mitchell and visitors David Wratt, Fiona Nisbet, Natalie and Beverley.

30 May - 1 June 2009 - Robinson River / L. Christabel 
Organiser: Dion Pont 

Saturday morning from Grey River back road to Robinson Hut took six hours in fair conditions but with travel from Nelson meant arriving at the hut after dark. On Sunday it began snowing and we went three hours towards the saddle in deteriorating conditions. Retreated to Robinson Hut. On Monday we walked back out through snow for the first few hours but the weather fined up and it is a very pretty valley with alternating flats and mossy forest. Well worth another visit. 

Participants: Carole Crocker, Dion Pont and visitors Raymond Salisbury, Paul Richardson and Georgina.

6-7 June 2009 - Maitai/Captain Creek Hut/Dew Lakes 
Organiser: Ian Pavitt 

We left the Maitai carpark at 8.30am and followed the straightforward track to Rocks Hut where we stopped for a leisurely lunch. Two hours further tramping and we were opening the door of Middy Hut, where we overnighted. At 8.00am the following morning we closed the door of Middy Hut and at 10.00am we opened the door of Captain Creek Hut. (A few windfalls were experienced on this section of the track.) Closing the door of Captain Creek Hut, we headed north up an unmarked spur to Point 992, which is the highest point on this ridge. Initially it was a bit of a bush bash but then the vegetation opened out to mature and open bush. From Point 992 we dropped down a couple of hundred metres to a little saddle before the final 200m climb to the Dew Lakes. This last section, like the first, is scrubby. The climb from Captain Creek Hut to Dew Lakes had taken us four hours, including our lunch break. At Dew Lakes we got on to the main track back to the Maitai, arriving at the car just on dusk, about 4.30pm. Many thanks to Dion Pont for accompanying me on this enjoyable tramp, in pleasant weather. 

PS. Dion damaged his knee doing heroic acts in shifting substantial wind-throw.(Ed)

7 June 2009 - Cable Bay Circuit 
Organiser: David Blunt 

There was a good turnout for this trip which started at The Glen and saw half of the group going up the Walkway and the other half following up the farm access road to the airstrip where both groups joined up for morning tea on the lookout seat. The Walkway was followed from there to the saddle below Sentinel Hill where a short detour was made off the track to a grassy terrace overlooking Tasman Bay. After having lunch here the group split up again with some returning via the walkway and those with a head for heights climbing down the 45 degree slope to the beach below. This took about twenty minutes with Tony managing to pick up a baby goat on the way down. This was the only part of the trip which couldn't be described as easy. With the tide going out it was straight forward going over the stones and boulders back around the coastline under Mackay Bluff to the carpark at The Glen where Margot had been patiently waiting after doing her own sightseeing tour of The Glen on her two walking sticks.

Participants were: Gillian Arbuthnott, Jim Maxwell, Dan McGuire, Peter and Margot Syms, Beverley Muirhead, Uta Purcell, Sue and Mike Locke, Gretchen Williams, Tony Haddon, Merrick Mitchell, David Blunt and visitors Beverley and Tom, Marion, Trevor and Annie.

14 June 2009 - Cloustons Mine / Gordons Pyramid
Organiser: Pat Holland 

This 7.5 hour day trip was fitted in between a turn to southerly gales after a week of NE rain. Missed the rain but caught the gales. Flora carpark rather empty in mid-Winter (do others know something we do not?). However, weak sunshine and only a slip of wind as we head through the ever beautiful Flora Valley. Rather brisk but still sunny at Cloustons where lunch was speedily taken on the grass rather than in the mine shaft which was very wet and dark. Up and straight out of the bush onto the bare ridge leading to Gordons Pyramid. Swiftly into mist and steadily rising wind. By the time we reach the high point the wind has reached gale force, visibility is down to 50m and it is bitterly cold. The wind causes us to stagger and groan like drunken sailors. But we are thankful to see the main track snow stakes. On we continue, doing a virtually non-stop traverse of the ridge and across the karst basin to the main Mt Arthur Track. Here the gale was even stronger and mixed with horizontal drizzle turning towards sleet. So we plunge down the ridge and are relieved to reach the shelter of Mt Arthur Hut. Under the cloud on the track back to Flora Saddle we see across the Bay that it has been a fine, calm day in Nelson. But no regrets, even from Alison who has put her knee to a severe test (Two years since the injury and reconstruction - yeah!). 

Participants: Alison Nicoll, Barry James, Jane Dewar, Uta Purcell, Patrick Holland.

13-14 June 2009 - Marlborough Mix
Organiser: Marguerite Verheul 

10.00am rendezvous at the Spring Creek Junction before heading off to Monkey Bay. New country for all but two, the ten minutes walk up the grand steps and down the path to the bay under a halo of swallows was an unexpected delight. Next a quick visit to a narrow cave beside the car park required high gumboots and strong torches for further exploration. A notice at the entrance suggested the cave was the result of a character in days gone by who tried to tunnel his way to Whites Bay!! Next trip was up and over the hill, with cloudy views from Cape Campbell to the south coast of the North Island, before dropping down through plantation to Whites Bay. For several party members taking photos was more interesting than walking, so four headed back to the cars and returned for a late lunch on the balcony of the historic Whites Bay Cottage. 

Post lunch: Robin Hood Bay “stud & mud” Cottage for a close inspection of print used as wallpaper dating back to very early 1900s, followed by a walk along the stony banks of the beach under darker skies and the promising rain. After a side trip to the north end of the Wairau outlet Sara, Sandra and Brenda headed back to Nelson, and the rest of the party headed to wonderful accommodation in Blenheim. Compliments of Lynne – Thanks Lynne. Sunday morning started very leisurely and the weather much improved. The flooded track across the Wairau Lagoon, meant water logged feet but good photos of reflections, ship wrecks, Wither Hills and White Cliffs. 

Participants: Sandra Lawn, Peter Wise, Ruth Hesselyn, Beverley Muirhead, Brenda Griffin, and visitors Sara Vickerman and Pete.

20 June 2009 - Appletree Bay
Organiser: Ruth Hesselyn)

Clear blue skies and no wind, though a little cool. A perfect day for a picnic and a great way to celebrate the shortest (almost) day.

10.30am saw six of us crunching across frosty ground and onto the Abel Tasman Track. An easy walk of 5.5km through dappled sunlit bush soon saw us at the picturesque Appletree Bay. A picnic table was spotted then occupied, communal nibbles and drinks consumed, the views admired, photos taken and while conversation continued, we wandered back to the cars. This time taking the shorter and sunnier route across the sand flats.

Fellow picnickers were: David Wratt, Marguerite Verheul, Uta Purcell and visitors Fiona Nisbett and Louise Gould.

21 June 2009 - Mt Duppa
Organiser: Gretchen Williams 

Party: Dan McGuire, Katie and Maurice Cloughley, Jim Maxwell, Beverley Muirhead, Sue and Mike Locke, Brenda Griffin, Jane Dewar, Mark Stevens, Ken Ridley, Gretchen Williams. Visitors: Annie, Betty Reber and Jacqui Gough.

Despite the short daylight hours on this day we all managed to make it up this lovely little mountain through the limestone rock formations and lichen-draped bush to the top. There was snow up there, fantastic views for miles and a very nice sun-drenched lunch spot. Our departure point had been Millers Acre and the café was still open when we got back so quite a few of us capped off the day there nicely with coffee and debrief.

28 June 2009 - Richmond Hills 
Organiser: Jo Kay 

Easby Park was our starting point to explore a new area of the Richmond Hills. We walked up a farm track to the old reservoir built in the 1890s to supply water to the Richmond Township. Beyond the reservoir is a lovely bush track which follows the stream to a 500 year old Kahikatea, at least a four person huggable girth. We then retraced our steps to the head of the reservoir and climbed up to the cell phone tower and forestry road which led us back onto the track to the top of Queen Street and on to Lodestone Gully. At the top of Valhalla we lunched then walked down Cypress Road into the Jimmy Lee Creek Walkway and continued up to the saddle that leads down to Hart Valley Walkway. A quick return along the streets to Barrington Place where another track leads back up to a lookout and Keith’s Walkway, back to Easby Park. We met a couple of the wonderful workers who spend their retirement days quietly maintaining and enhancing the tracks with new plantings and trapping pests (390 rats caught in Jimmy Lee Creek) etc to provide us with a delightful playground to enjoy our walks. They are the unsung heroes in our community. 

Thanks to my companions, Gillian Arbuthnott, Mary Wu, Beverly Muirhead and Susan Sinclair for sharing the day with me.