4 March 2016

Otago Coast,Mackenzie Country,Hopkins-Huxley Tramp,Geraldine,Mount Somers,Rakaia Gorge

Final post from my recent NZ trip written in April after returning home.
Link to photo album here

After a morning looking round the Botanic Gardens in Dunedin I headed up the Otago coast ,stopping off at a few places along the way.

Boat sheds at Port Chalmers
Purakaunui
Karitane
This and next photo - Moeraki village and coast

A warm dry evening so I pitched my tent at the small camping ground in Moeraki village.Very welcoming hosts and a lovely spot.

Jenny,a friend from the running club was heading down from Christchurch after flying in from her east Asian travels and we arranged to meet up in Timaru the next day.After a coffee and a catch up we headed off inland to the edge of the Canterbury High Country for a wet walk round the Mount Nimrod track.Typical DOC set up with a seemingly endless gravel road leading you to the middle of nowhere,at which point you find the usual low key car park/camp ground/toilet and a clearly marked two to three hour walk up into the bush.
Waterfall on the Mt Nimrod circuit
The next day I drove inland through the Mackenzie Country to Twizel.The town was founded in 1968 to house construction workers for the massive hydroelectric scheme and has rather a barracks like appearance although the planting in private gardens has now softened this.On my early visits not many tourists seemed to stop here as there was "nothing to see".Nowadays it's become overflow accommodation for tourists who can't get anywhere to stay in Mount Cook which tends to get booked up well in advance.

Lake Tekapo
Church of the Good Shepherd
Lake Pukaki and Mount Cook
Given the forecast for sunshine/showers with strong winds,I decided to repeat the Hopkins/Huxley river tramp that I first did about ten years ago and although it was the weekend I guessed that any other trampers would be spread fairly thinly around the plentiful huts in the area.
It seems a long drive to the roadend past Lake Ohau.The last stretch on gravel was very dusty.Did my final pack check for the three day tramp and headed up the 4WD along the Huxley River.The wind was so strong in my face that I nearly gave up after the first quarter of an hour but decided to carry on!
There were some hunters ,with quad bikes, in residence at Monument Hut.They were waiting for the rivers to go down after heavy rain the day before.After the Huxley swingbridge there are alternative wet and dry weather routes up the valley.Given the conditions I chose the slower dry weather route ,which sidles up and down in the bush,rather than risk trying to get the whole way along the river bank.Harder going in places with a full pack but at least there was some respite from the wind.
Reached Huxley Forks Hut to find it had changed appearance,with a new roof and external cladding, and the other older hut has been replaced by a three bunk bivy.

Hopkins valley
River flats near the Huxley junction

Huxley swingbridge
Huxley Forks main hut
 

Huxley Forks "officers hut"
Track markers!

On the middle day I walked a couple of km up the South Huxley Branch but the previous tramps had finally caught up with me so I took it easy and generally pottered.
After a second night in the hut the wind had dropped and river levels had lowered so I had a fun walk back down the Huxley crossing the stream braids at will.The wades now seemed fairly easy compared with earlier tramps.




Then drove back through Mackenzie Country to incredible edible Geraldine,a fine little town where I stayed at Rawhiti backpackers.From the Rough Guide I thought it might be busy but it was fairly quiet on both the nights I was there.Another really nice small town backpackers.Ended up with a dorm room to myself.





 Another DOC car park,another good half day walk
View towards the high country from above Orari Gorge
Getting towards the end of my time in NZ so planned to revisit Woolshed Creek below Mount Somers.On the way I stopped off at Mt Somers village to take a look at the old Woolshed Creek Musterers Hut which used to form half of the DOC facility up in the valley but which has now been moved down for display since being replaced by a new hut.

 

I'd been up or down from Woolshed Creek a couple of times before as part of the Mt Somers circuit but this time took the more recently marked Bus Stop route via the overhang on my way up and then back by the normal way via the Blackburn mine.





New swingbridge! Not there when I walked up from Woolshed to the overhang last time

The ladder was more fun
The new hut is very bland compared to the old "Musterers/Trampers" combo.But a nice spot  anyway



I stayed at Mount Hutt Backpackers in Methven for the last couple of nights.A fortunate decision not to be stuck out in the middle of nowhere as the rental car finally succumbed to a flat tyre which I'd been expecting sometime during the trip.As with North Island two years ago I got it sorted in a quarter of an hour at a very reasonable repair cost of $29 (about £13).Also used the world's most powerful car wash before handing in the rental car.

Garden at Mt Hutt Backpackers
The veg patch
My starter for tea, smoked mussels in garlic,with Vogel's toast,accompanied by black beer. How we suffer.
My flight back from Christchurch was in the late afternoon so I stopped off for a look at Rakaia Gorge on my way to the airport.



What more can I say other than it was a fabulous holiday and I can't wait to go back.
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