Monthly Archives: December 2014


We finished walking and  headed towards Christchurch to dispose of our van and fly home sooner than we expected. We passed by Maruia Falls, created by an earthquake in 1929 that caused a landslide which filled the river channel so the river was forced to find a new way. We briefly stopped at Hanmer Springs and then carried on down to the coast.

We placed our ad on the internet and then diverted to Banks Peninsula to drive out to Akaroa, a small touristy village with a huge cruise ship in the harbour. We mingled with the tourists who were being ferried ashore in the lifeboats to wander the street or join a variety of tours. We sat on a seat by a cricket match to enjoy  our lunch where Ray scored a duck in his lap trying to join the feast. He then almost got taken out by a cricket ball but the wicketkeeeper was more worried it was going to hit the ducks.

We stayed in a campsite by the beach  and then returned to Christchurch to find we had replies to our ad. We ended up spending a week in Christchurch as the first buyer wanted an AA check and that took time. The deal then fell through as he wasn’t happy with what was found so we moved on to the next interested person and had it finalized after two days. Meanwhile we visited the ghost town that is central Christchurch. We were surprised that after four years not much has happened. There are lots of empty spaces and new buildings are beginning so builders are the main people there. Most of the buildings still standing were fenced off and empty. It was sad to see the cathedral minus its bell tower and front while they debate starting again or restoring. However there’s an interesting temporary (could last 50 years!) cardboard cathedral (only some of the fittings are made out of cardboard, not the structure.) At least the Botanic gardens were still full of people.

It then just remained to fly home leaving drizzly Christchurch where the mountains were the only places escaping the all enveloping cloud and return to sunny Australia.

Nelson Lakes

We  returned to Nelson Lakes after bypassing it early in our trip due to heavy snow on the mountains. We came down from Arthurs Pass and visited Carew Falls near Lake Brunner. A huge storm had gone through in Easter bringing down vast swathes of trees and the track was still not officially open but it was cleared enough for us to get through easily.

We detoured from our path to visit the famous Hawks Crag in the Buller Gorge. It’s a tight fit for trucks and buses.

We arrived at Nelson Lakes to find there was still snow on the high passes but Ray still wanted to do a walk so we decided to walk in and out to Blue Lake. We thought we had found a beautiful, previously unseen NZ bird but it turned out to be somebodies abandoned pet – a Mandarin duck – very striking and unable to breed with the local birds.

Our first day turned out to be hut too far. We walked to Speargrass Hut on a rough track with lots of tree roots to carefully clamber over and a half hour steep flood detour so we arrived after three and half hours. After lunch it was then another five hours to the next hut (we took five and a half) with lots more roots, two large detours around areas where huge areas of trees had been brought down by the Easter storm and a tricky climb down to lake level. We arrived exhausted at 6.30.

We thought we had an easy day the next day – five hours and 13 km up the Sabine River. It drizzled most of the day and we ended wet and cold, the streams needed fording so our feet were soaked and we took six and a half hours. The hut was very welcome and Ray got the fire going so we could dry off. The next day was a short trip to Blue Lake but when we set off again in the rain, we found the  side streams quite high and lots of them so decided to retreat to the hut. During the afternoon a group from Auckland Uni arrived up the Sabine river track having waded through waist deep streams. After a break they continued on to Blue Lake. We are not that gung ho! (No pictures – too wet!)

The rain finally stopped and we set off for Blue Lake in the sunshine on our fourth day. The river and streams had all dropped and were easily forded though I would hate to have gone through some on the previous day. We had to cross a large snow bank that half crossed the river but luckily it was easily traversed. Blue Lake was just reward for our efforts, shining bluely in the sunshine with the clearest fresh water in the world (scientifically proven). We climbed up to look at Lake Constance above.

We strolled back down to West Sabine Hut enjoying the sunshine and the views.

Heading back down the Sabine River without the rain was much easier so we covered the ground more quickly and enjoyed the walk. Neither of us were looking forward to the walk back to the car so we accepted an invitation from the uni students to join them on the boat ride down the lake and they would give us a ride back to our car. We had to pick up half of their group from a hut on the other side of the lake where they had joined a hunter whose prowess was on display.

We still wanted to walk to Angelus Hut but the weather was turning again so we decided to retreat for a while and return in the sunshine. After admiring the huge eels that lived under the jetty at Lake Rotoiti we headed north to Motueka. A DOC pamphlet introduced us to the Cobb valley area and we decided to head there. We followed a hydro road up to a manmade reservoir high in the mountains. We camped beside the river and took a day walk to Lake Peel, a lake in a dramatically carved, glacial valley. We then walked to Sylvester Hut, only five km but taking us up to 1300m where we had patches of sunshine and blasts of snow.  I  lost Ray there as he managed to walk past the hut which was 50m off the track and he had his head down as it was snowing.

We arrived back at Lake Rotoiti to forecasts of sunshine for two days – long enough to get to Angelus Hut and back. We had to return along the ridge as the valley was closed for helicopter drops of poisoned baits. We climbed the zigzag path that took us above the tree line. From there we walked along a narrowing ridge as the scenery got more and more amazing and dramatic. We had to sidle some parts and gradually had more snow to deal with though it was all soft. When we thought it couldn’t get any better we dropped down to Angelus Hut, nestled beside two lakes and ringed by dappled snowscapes.

The fog rolled in before sunset but cleared during the night for me to creep out and take pre-dawn and sunrise photos. The clear skies meant that the snow froze so we had to take it very carefully until the sun melted it. Luckily there were footprints  frozen into the snow to make it safer and there was a lot less snow on our return along the ridge. One part had us sidling belong a rocky ridge above a steep snow slope and we were very pleased to be across it safely. It was then a pleasant return tramp on one of our most dramatic walks.