Fab Feb holiday – Kahurangi adventure

The second week of my holiday took me into the peace and quiet of Kahurangi National Park. It’s been my favourite park ever since I first visited in 2002, and this time turned out to be a a particularly interesting backcountry adventure.

That’s because of some really surprising contrasting experiences. The Anatoki-Waingaro track travels along a couple of river valleys, and I started off at the Anatoki end.

Basking in the morning sun at the start of the track:

On the first day, it was 99% easy walking along a well maintained benched track. But every so often, the track presented me with a real challenge with a windfall with no track marker in sight, or pleasant creeks with big boulders to navigate.

To my great surprise, despite the numerous creek crossings, I didn’t get my boots wet. And to my even greater surprise, on arriving in Anatoki Forks Hut I was greeted by a warning sign regarding hot water.

I first thought this was a joke until I went into the main room of the hut and saw the big water cylinder. This was for real! But as it was a warm day and I was on my own, I didn’t want to fire up the range and opted for a cold shower.

That’s until I turned on the shower and WARM water came out. Courtesy of the people who had been at the hut a whole 3 days earlier!

A day’s walk further down the track, there was another surprise waiting for me. A shelter that had only been opened less than a year ago and wasn’t on maps and track brochures yet. I had heard about it from other people so had decided to go there instead of camping.

The Soper shelter tent camp:

It was fantastic. A place of pure magic, and made with love. It was like stepping into Hobbit wonderland, with even small details having done with great love and attention right down to the toilet seat. It was very cold that night and I was shivering in my summer sleeping bag, but it was so worth it.

Lake Stanley, formed in 1929 by an earthquake:

Stanley river:

I usually had the huts to myself, but just when I felt like company, I got it. This was at Waingaro Forks hut,  a beautiful old style hut:

I shared the hut with a couple from Tasmania, and a veteran tramper and mountainbiker. Who had come up to the hut on his bike just to prove to his wife that he could do it. Not an easy feat by any means. He turned 65 the following morning.

Another 2 nights in a hut further down, and then a spectacular walk out thanks to clouds hovering

Reaching civilisation again, I was greeted by farmlands with a distinctly Bavarian look which gave me a short moment of feeling homesick.

Me at the end of my Kahurangi adventure:

Dusk in Golden Bay from Takaka campground:


Kahurangi tramping holiday – Mount Arthur and the tablelands

Part 2 of my tramping holiday was no less amazing and enjoyable than the weekend with Gregor at Lake Sylvester.

The weather was incredible, day after day of sunshine and blue sky. Not a single drop of rain, and I completed my entire walk never getting my boots wet!

After Gregor dropped me off on Monday afternoon on his way back to Nelson, I went up to Asbestos Cottage. It hadn’t changed at all since I had first been there in 2002:


It’s quite a character hut, and was home to a couple for nearly 40 years at the beginning of the previous century. I spent the night there and it was nice to enjoy the comforts of a hut, in particular because I had it to myself.

The next day turned out to be a much bigger day than I had planned. It all started off as anticipated, but things then took a different turn at Lake Peel:


I had wanted to camp there and had actually found a very nice spot. It was a fight to throw up the tent though as it was quite windy. I should have heeded this early warning because after having watched my tent being flattened a number of times by particularly strong gusts, I had to declare defeat and take it down again. No way I could have slept there with the tent in my face every few minutes.

So I didn’t have much choice but to carry on to Balloon Hut where I found a nice sheltered spot in the trees by the hut. Even though it made for a very long day, it was a very nice walk across open tussock in the gentle late afternoon sun:


On the following day, the hut and tablelands were in thick mist. When it finally started to burn off by mid morning, I left for my next accommodation at Dry Rock:


I absolutely loved staying in this big rock bivvie, all by myself with just the resident weka for company. From the comfort of my sleeping bag on the platform, I had a view of  rolling tussock and later the star-studded sky.

The following day, I woke up to another perfect day. Which again turned out bigger than I had planned.

My way first took me over tussock with a single picturesque tarn on the way:


Then up Gordon’s pyramid from which excellent views were to be had:


Then up to Mount Arthur with even better views. 360 degrees of steep mountains, golden tablelands, dark green forests, and the endless blue sky above it all:


I really liked the forest on the way down to Mount Arthur hut with quite a few pineapple trees:


At the hut, I made the quick decision not to stay and carry on down the hill to Flora. It had been a hot day and I just really wanted to have my usual pot shower in the evening, which was impossible at Mount Arthur Hut as there was no stream or tarn anywhere near it.

Another big day, and a real high point of my walk.

As I had arrived at Flora a day or so earlier than I had expected, I found myself with time on my hands to actually not do much at all. Which is kind of boring, so after lunch the following day, I set off to Gridiron rock shelter further down the Flora valley:


It was another night in a place that others have described as pure magic. This time, I had 3 Minnesotans for company. And down on the valley floor, a family group of 5 had made the forest their bed for the night.

It was at Gridiron that the resident weka actually stole my brand new toilet roll. I didn’t actually see it. Just when I came back from my pot shower in the stream, by stuff on my bunk had clearly been ruffled through, and the toiled roll was missing. I later found a few small remaining scraps in the forest. No idea what a weka would do with a whole toilet roll…

I went back to Flora on the next morning to have breakfast in the sun. And then I spent the rest of the day working for the business. Here’s my office:


As I had worked hard and completed what I had wanted to get done, I rewarded myself with a walk up Lodestone on the following morning which also was my last full day in the hills. It was yet another fine day with stunning views of mountains, hills and the Tasman Bay.

This is Mount Arthur:


The following day, I took a shuttle back to Nelson and jumped on the plane back to Wellington in the evening.

So that was my summer tramping holiday. It was awesome!

I just wish I could do this more often not just once a year. It’s the hills where I really can roam freely. No cell phone towers, no wifi, no worries.

Life as it should be!

Kahurangi tramping holiday – Lake Sylvester

I was down South for the last 10 days on my usual summer tramping escape. I spent the whole time in Kahurangi National Park one of my favourite parks ever since I set foot into it for the first time in 2002.

It’s located at the top of the South Island and has some impressive mountains to offer as well as tussock covered high plateaus, lakes and tarns.

This time, I combined my holiday with a long weekend so Gregor could come along for the first 3 days.

We headed up to Lake Sylvester where found a nice spot to set up our camp with a view of the lake and the range we were going to climb on the next day.

Here’s Gregor at our little camp:


Once up on the ridge, we had stunning views of the lakes below us and the mountains beyond. These are Lake Sylvester and Little Lake Sylvester:


Further along the ridge, there were more lakes. The walk itself was in part over very easy grassy slopes, with the occasional scramble around rocky outcrops.

One of those is Iron Hill which looks like a heap of giant rock cubes. Seen from below, it’s hard to imagine that there’s actually a perfectly good route leading up to it:


Looking the other way, here’s Gregor with a backdrop of the cold clear waters of Lake Iron:


It was a great day with stunning scenery and fantastic weather. We finished it off with a refreshing bath in the lake, and a delicious dinner.

Uli and Gregor dining

Well, at least my dinner was delicious, as Gregor had some rather peculiar stuff which primarily consisted of two-minute-noodles.

On the following day, we slept in and then slowly made our way back to the car with a lunch stop by a little creek with clear fresh water to drink from.

Gregor then dropped me off a bit further down the road and left for Auckland.

I shouldered my pack again and set off down memory lane on the track that I had done when I had come to the park for the first time in 2002.

Tramping weekend

Friday was a public holiday so Gregor and I went down South for a couple of days of tramping in Kahurangi National Park.

A Southerly was passing through Thursday to Friday night, so it was a bit wet and very cold. I reckon it was just a few degrees above zero during the night and I slept with my clothes on and a beanie on my head.

But as usual, a couple of particularly nice days followed. We went on a little off track loop up to Mt Gibbs which another tramper had recommended to us. It was fantastic tramping through lonely valleys, up an equally lonely summit with stunning 360 degree views, and down to a couple of lonely lakes. There we hit the track again.

Here are a few photos.

Water hole above Fenella Hut:

003 Fenella water hole (400x300)

Gregor on the summit of Mt Gibbs

009 Gregor auf dem Gipfel von Mt Gibbs (400x300)

Cobb Valley:

012 Cobb Valley (400x300)

Chaffey Hut – recently rebuilt rustic hut where we spend a night:

001 Chaffey Hut (400x300)

Dawn in Cobb Valley:

014 Morgenstimmung im Cobb Valley (400x300)

On the way back, we visited Atamai again, to meet a few villagers there so that we could get a better feel of the people and the place. It went really well and has confirmed my impression that it would be a good place to live. It all depends on the village getting connected to fibre networks though as currently they have Wifi which is a big no for me.

And then there’s also the little hurdle to overcome for Gregor and myself to generate a self-employed income. We’re working hard on this…

Mt Owen

Last week, Wednesday was a public holiday. So Gregor and I took the opportunity to go down to Nelson again for another attempt on Mt Owen.

This time, we were lucky and the weather was our friend. We started the walk on a beautiful hot day with not a cloud in the sky.

It turned out to be a really nice walk. Up through beech forest for the first two hours, then over a couple of grassy slopes and a low saddle. Then down into the forest again and the last bit was in a dry creek bed in Ghost Valley.

005 Gregor im Ghost Valley

I usually prefer staying in huts. This time we were carrying my little alpine tent so while the hut was in a really beautiful spot, we went a further hour up and then camped at a few tarns.

009 Tarn010 Tarn

Here’s our camp, with Mt Owen in the background.

012 Mt Owen Basislager

Unfortunately, low cloud moved in within an hour or so after we had arrived. So we sat in the mist for a while and then went to bed early.

The next morning was still very misty, so we waited until it had cleared up a bit which was around lunchtime.

The walk up the mountain involved a few not very nice climbing bits early on, but then it was easy going up a small unmarked track.

The Mt Owen massif is karst which reminded me quite a bit of the Bavarian Alps. There were some pretty spectacular rock formations, you could even call them scary.

024 Gregor schaut in den Abgrund

On the summit, it was really pleasant as surprisingly, there was no wind. So we sat there for a while and waited for gaps between the clouds and the quick views we could get every now and then.

By the time we were back at the tent again, the weather had finally cleared and we were rewarded with a beautiful quiet evening.

031 Tarn Zelt & Sentinel Hill

The next day we had planned to walk out but the weather was just too good for that. So we used the very rare situation of mobile phone reception on the way back to the hut to let my flatmate know our change of plans, and then went on to climb Billies Knob.

This is a big round massive bump of a rock from one side, steep rock faces on another, and scrub slopes on another. There is also a tussock slope, but we didn’t know about this at the time we set off and so decided to climb up the scrub slope.

It turned out to be a very prickly climb, as there was a lot of spear grass. Since this was all off track and very steep, there was no way to avoid getting your hands out of your pockets and get stung and cut. Certainly not the nicest introduction to off track tramping for Gregor!

But the hard work was well rewarded as the views from the summit were great.

036 Blick von Billies Knob zu Mt Owen

We took a different route down again which was just as steep but grassy and therefore much more pleasant.

037 Gregor beim Abstieg von Billies Knob zum Sattel

The next day, we really did walk out. It was again a very nice day though, so rather than going straight back to Nelson, we first cooked lunch right by the river.

Back in Nelson, we camped at the motor camp right by the beach (and the airport). There was just enough sun left for us to go for a quick dip in the ocean. This felt so good after a long hot day.

Our last day was mostly a day of strolling through Nelson, eating ice cream, and having fish & chips on the beach. Very nice!

Now guess where in NZ I’d like to live…Nelson!

A few holiday photos

Just a few photos from the Christmas holiday.

1000 Acre Plateau, Kahurangi National Park

This is a place where I had wanted to go back again and explore a bit further ever since I was first up there in 2002. It’s an area of vast rolling plateaus covered in Tussock, with tarns and little creeks, and a mountain to climb. Gregor and me at the start, still fresh & clean:

01 1000 Acre Plateau Gregor & ich am Start

It’s three easy hours to Lake Matiri, and then a pretty hard 2-3 hour climb up to the plateau. But it’s absolutely worth the effort, here’s a view of the plateau, from the rim where you first get to see it:

09 1000 Acre Plateau

We camped on the plateau at Poor Pete’s hut, where I had stayed on my previous trip to the plateau. It was a lovely evening, no sandflies at this altitude, and not a lot of wind. On the next morning, we slept in and then slowly made our way across the plateau to the next hut.

Larrikin Creek Hut is situated at the foot of the Haystack, with a view of steep rock walls, bush and flax:

27 Larrikin Creek Hut

Over night heavy rain set in, making a hell of a noise drumming on the roof. The rain wouldn’t stop for 48 hours, it was absolutely bucketing down. Where the rock walls had been dry the night before, there were now waterfalls, and the little path to the toilet was knee deep under water.

We rationed our food a little bit as we had no idea how long the bad weather would last, and sat in our sleeping bags all day to keep warm – 41 hours in a row! When the rain stopped for a while on the second day, we grabbed the chance to have a shower and go for a little walk, only to seek shelter again under a tree five minutes later when it started pouring down again…

During the third night, the rain finally stopped, it cleared up and we were rewarded with a beautiful warm and sunny day. We climbed up the Needle, with amazing fews on the way:

34 Blick auf den Grat zum Haystack

Here’s a view of Needle and Haystack across the plateau, on our way back:

44 Blick zurueck auf Needle & Haystack

We spent a night in the hut at Lake Matiri, and the next morning was just as beautiful again:

51 Lake Matiri am Morgen von der Huette aus

We thought we’d have an easy way out again from the hut, but not far from the hut about 20-30 metres of track across a steep slope had fallen into the river due to the rain and floods. So we had to scramble around the missing bit, 3 hard hours of bush-bashing that left us dirty and tired.

Only when reading the newspaper in St Arnaud did we realise how bad the floods must have been, with campgrounds having been evacuated, and roads having been badly damaged. So having been stuck at Larrikin Creek had actually been a good thing!

Mole Tops, Nelson Lakes National Park:

This was our second tramp. Here we are at the start of the Mole track:

55 Mole Track Gregor und ich am Start

The hut was in a really nice spot, the evening was lovely, so we cooked our new year’s eve dinner out in the sun (and with great panoramic views):

61 Gregor und ich beim Kochen bei Mole Hut

On the next day, we climbed up to the Mole Tops. The views were fantastic:

62 Blick von den Mole Tops

Clouds had lifted just enough to clear the views over to Travers Range:

63 Blick auf Mt Cupola

The view down into the valley wasn’t bad either:

69 Blick ins Tal

That night, we camped at the road end, and then drove back to Nelson where we enjoyed such things as a hot shower, a coffee and a pizza.

So that was my Christmas holiday!