Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Away in the hills at last

At last I've got away into the hills.

Away at the crack of 8am Barry and I did the now familiar trip across the great gravelly plain of the Waimakariri. We met Mark in Springfield, left his car at Claire and Jim's house and continued on to a layby through a rickety gate next to the Taipo.

Griffin creek hut from the Remote Huts website; photo: Mark Buckley 2004
A short roadbash of a couple of km's and then up Harrington Creek for the 800m grunt up to the scrubline. The track was thin in places but that set the standard for the enire trip.

There's a drought going on right now on the West Coast, all weekend we crunched rata leaves underfoot. A curious sound for west Coast trips. Nearing the top we surprised ourselves by catching up to a couple also sweating their way up the hill. They seemed particularly interested in how far we were from the top.

Barry's GPS didn't seem to want to talk to more than one satellite, I have no time for the things myself. I go to the hills to rely on my skill and instinct, not to depend on the trappings of technology that pervade my life, my profession makes sure of that. I assured them they were nearly at the top, but strangely we never saw them again.

If you weren't paying attention it would be easy to miss the turn off to Griffin Creek, maybe they got waylaid on the tops. The turn off is right on the scrubline so a quick detour is in order to get a view from a nearby knob. Ah, the view down the Taramakau is grand. The ocean looks inviting as there's no water up here to drink, unless you count the scoty old water barrel at the turn off.

As we started down a karearea Falco novaeseelandiae silently assumed position on a dead spar above us. And then a plunge down to the cool clear sparkling Griffin creek. Water, the best beveridge of all.

Pohangina Pete takes a way better Whio photo than I ever could, so we were content to just sit and watch a pair of them glide through the rapids. A little further up the river and this time three whio hopped up on a rock and watched us. Five in one trip is not a bad talley at all.

"I thought" Mark said "that blue ducks were supposed to be rare. How come we see them every time we go tramping?"
"Ah that's because we go places that other people rarely visit" I replied.

Griffin Creek hut is an easy boulder hop upstream, a standard four bunk forest service hut that has been adopted, strangely, by hippies at some point recently. Dream catchers hang by the window, an inflatable kiwi (!) sits on the bench and various hippy musings fill the hut book.

Sadly the hut book is only a couple of years old, a victim of that curious DoC policy of removing old hut books from their home of origin. I believe that their own hut is the best archive af all. The last visitors were three months ago.

The new Titanium gas stove ran like a dream. It's a 9000 BTU flamethrower i got from Bryan Dudley and it's a doozy. Because of my gross lack of fitness (pathetically) attributable to selling houses and owning a small child, I've adopted a lightweight tramping regime to be able to get away with it. My base pack weight is down to about 4.5 kg, with a weekend worth of food that's still way below the 10kg+ I'd usually carry. And what a differance it makes! Shoes instead of boots, a daybag size instead of a large sac. Many breaks I wouldn't bother to take my pack off, it's weight seems insignificant.

Mark had a bottle of Brew Moon lager, chilled in the Creek it made a superb apertif before a big feed of pasta and an early night.

Up and away at the crack of 9 the next day, so much for going to Scotty's biv (my orginal intention) and back down the track to the turn off to Rocky Creek. Again a thin trail, but not to hard to follow all the same. We seemed to fairly skip down to Rocky Creek Hut, and then we lunched in the river bed just downstream. Follow the river down till multiple permolats on two trees signal the start of the track and then away and out to the Taipo again. Cross the Taipo and up to the car, easy.

Soon we're gliding along at 100km/h, effortlessly climbing the Otira gorge to Arthur's Pass for a ice cream.
After another perfect weekend in the hills, the smell of a hot day fills the air at springfield.
Lactic legs, a head full of green, birds and rushing water.


At Friday, 3 March 2006 at 10:52:00 AM NZDT, Anonymous pohanginapete said...

A good read, mapguy. Nice to hear about other people's time in the hills — there seem to be few other bloggers writing about this sort of thing in NZ. It's not long since I was down there doing that, and already I'm restless for more. The karearea link is a good one — thanks (also for my link: cheers).

It's a shame DOC doesn't at least photocopy the old logbooks and leave a copy in the hut. My brother and I arrived at Hunters hut a few years ago and there were only a couple of entries in the newly commissioned hut book — BORING!

Oh, and you don't own small children: they own you. (From what I've seen; not from experience!)


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