Friday, 20 November 2015


This time next week I'll be finishing up packing for a trip to do the Routeburn. I cant wait! This trip has been in plan since February or March, when Mark asked for a second week in Australia in quick succession.
This will be the longest I will have been away from Spike - we leave Saturday afternoon, and get back Wednesday lunchtime.
A ladies tramp, with a truly random assortment of women from very different parts of my life.

Hopefully it goes well and we get good weather! Wish us luck!

Friday, 30 October 2015

Summer in the Catlins

December 27-31 2014

Team: Mark, Spike, Myself

Catlins Area

Our summer holiday this year saw us hit the Catlins - an area neither Mark nor I had ever visited before. It was lovely to explore somewhere new, that was laid back and relaxed, with lots of outdoors things to do. We spent MONTHS planning this trip, and managed to largely get absolutely perfect weather, which was awesome.

While there are some longer walks available in the area, mostly the walking is short - as in 45-minutes at a time is a fairly long hike. Which is perfect when you have a nearly 2 year old on your back because he doesn't want to walk!

We based ourselves at Pounawea to start with, at the campground. It was lovely. Couple of really nice little units, clean showers (although the hot water was patchy), a small kitchen that worked mainly because the site was predominantly taken up by locals, who bought their own massive set-ups to stay for a week.

December 27th

After an early arrival at the campground, we did a loop walk that starts at the back corner of the site. This is call the Pounawea Nature Walk. It had heaps of interesting stopping points with information about some of the native trees that were in evidence. It didn't take us as long as we anticipated - or as long as the signs advised, even though we took the long way to go down to the tidal flats of the lake to make our way back to camp.

Low tide

December 28th

It was a very warm day. We decided to head around the coast a bit to Nugget Point for our walk in the morning, stopping briefly at Tunnel Gully on our way there. Its a nice, cool little spot, but only worth it for train or history buffs, really!

Nugget Point was really neat, although you wouldn't want to try it if you had vertigo!

The return walk from the carpark was 1.8km, and took us 40 minutes return, with Spike in a pack. We stopped at the lighthouse for morning tea, and I definitely think I need to go back - although rumour has it that the area down there is hectic at dawn (which would be epic) with busloads of tourists - buses we never saw, anywhere in the Catlins. It is quite markedly downhill from the carpark to the lighthouse.

Beacon Nugget Point 

In the afternoon we did a double waterfalls walk - first in to Purakanui Falls, and then to Matai Falls. Both were gorgeous, and cemented WaterFALLS as one of Spikes favourite things. Purakanui was busy (as expected) and Matai was pretty quiet, which was lovely. Spike largely refused to walk anywhere on these two walks.

Purakanui Falls Greenery

December 29th

A quieter day - a morning walk up the hill to Jacks Blowhole. I found it quite an effort, and I wasn't carrying a toddler. The blowhole was neat, but as with many, your view is limited as you have to stay well back for safety reasons. The views on the way back were better.

Best seat in the house Windblown

In the afternoon, we hung around the campsite as Spike had had a rough night with getting to sleep the night before and was refusing to nap. We also had nothing we felt strongly enough about to go back to, as we had done all the key walks we wanted to do at this end of the coast. It was actually a lovely afternoon at the campground, especially since it was rather hot!
The dusk was seriously impressive, which I would have missed had I not made friends with the family on the neighbouring campsite and spent the evening chatting to them.


December 30th

After checking out of the cabin, we headed up to Kaka Point for morning tea. There aren't many walks here, and Spike hated the beach, so we jumped back in the car to drive south to Waikawa Bay, where we had another nights accomodation booked. As with everything in the Catlins, it wasn't that long a drive, and we wound up going through "town" and down to Curio Bay for lunch once Spike woke up.

After checking in to our lovely, but VERY hot accommodation, we headed to the access road for Cathedral Caves, intending to arrive shortly after the road opened so we would have as much time as possible to explore. The day was roasting hot and we were looking forward to getting our feet wet. Sadly we hit two problems: 1. The road wasn't open yet, 20 minutes after it was meant to be, and there was no shady area to wait in, and 2. We didn't have anywhere near enough cash to pay the fee to cross the private land to get to the Caves.

So, we abandoned that plan and headed for McLean falls instead, which were totally worth it. In this day and age, where viewing platforms and safety barriers are the norm, you can actually climb all over and into  the falls. Fantastic on a hot day for cooling yourself off! On the way back we stopped at the campground cafe for an ice-cream and to grab a couple of cans of coke (at $4 each), as there are no shops in this part of the Catlins. What we really wanted was a beer, and Mark seriously considered staying at the cafe for dinner so we could have one, but we had meat that needed to be cooked back at the motel.

Stop Motion (2) Walkable

December 31st

We had purposely not done Slope Point the previous morning, leaving it for on our way south to Bluff. This was a mistake. The weather turned absolutely nasty when we were half way to the sign, and then started hailing as we got to it. Cue panicked toddler in backpack and soaked parents in jeans! A quick photo at the sign, then I threw the backpack on while Mark carried Spike in his arms, inside his raincoat to keep him calm. I all-but ran back to the car so I could dig out towels and dry clothes for everyone, and after a very rapid change of clothes in the backseat for Spike (including a nappy since he was wet through!), we got changed too and headed off again.

Slope Point

The weather for the rest of the drive south was much better. We got some nice views down the coast, and stopped in a small town just out of Invercargill for a late morning tea (we were completely out of food because we had expected small shops down the coast, since the map indicated there were shops or cafes in most towns. There kinda werent). In Invercargill it was time for lunch and groceries (I pushed Spike in the buggy to the supermarket to keep him quiet) before we headed south to Bluff for the night.

Stirling Point

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Family "camping"

29-30 March 2014

Matiu-Somes Island, Wellington Harbour

Crew: Mark, Spike, Myself, 15 others from the WTMC Families group

Exposed Crossing

Saturday morning and we were running for the train, trying to get Spike in his carrier plus a daybag and two overnight bags from the carpark to the platform so we didn't miss the ferry to Somes Island. We made it with moments to spare, and the lovely train attendant even helped us load the bags onto the carriage.

Figuring out how we were carrying all this luggage from the train to the ferry was an entertaining game at the other end, but we got it sorted and missioned our way down the waterfront to meet with everyone else nicely in time for our pre-booked and pre-paid (thankfully) ferry across the harbour.

Our arrival at Somes Island was too early for getting in to the houses we had booked (should have checked that before arranging ferry times around Spikes nap), so we had to leave our bags at the wharf and go exploring for a while before the houses came available and we could try and get Spike to have his nap, since he was refusing to do it in the carrier.

Here Sheepy Sheepy Made it to the top

Once we eventually got into the houses and got Spike down for a sleep, it was time for a bit of chilling out, watching the weather, which was a bit average. We got a short walk of about 45 minutes in during the late afternoon before it was time to retire to the house for dinner and chilling out before it was Spikes bedtime. The entire party, who were spread over two houses for sleeping, enjoyed dinner together in the house we were established in, and the kitchens were much better equipped than I had expected.

In the house

While the bigger kids and parents wandered off on a nocturnal walk, we settled Spike to bed, and were joined back in the lounge later by the intrepid explorers, where books were read, games were played and the heat pump was thoroughly enjoyed until it was time to turn it off.

Sunday morning was a chilled affair. A quick breakfast, clean up and pack up and then off for another walk. Because we knew we had stuff on at home in the afternoon (and Spike needed his naps, which seemed to be a dominating exercise the whole weekend), we had booked an earlier ferry home than many of the others. Back to Queens Wharf, a walk back to the train station and a train home to our car and our weekend was done.

Soft cut

It was very neat staying in the houses on the island, as I have previously camped there twice. Looking back from over a year later, I do wish we had just pushed on with doing stuff rather than making ourselves slaves to Spikes naps. And I definitely intend for us all to do it again sometime.

Saturday, 12 September 2015

Stewart Island Day Walk

View from the lookout
 01 January 2015

Team: Mark, Spike, Me

Our holiday planning for our trip to the Catlins was nearly complete when Mark sprung on me the idea "we could go to Stewart Island". Wow. I hadn't even thought about the fact we were coming out of the Catlins in Invercargill - probably as close as we are going to get to Stewart Island for a long time coming.

We wanted to stay overnight, but the cost was prohibitive with a toddler, so we opted to do a day return instead, and just explore Oban and Patterson Inlet.

In the morning, it was cool and overcast. We wandered up from the wharf to the DoC office, where the lovely lady behind the desk highlighted half a dozen potential walks we could do as a family, either with Spike walking, or with us carrying him. We picked the longest for filling in the morning before our scheduled boat trip and headed off up the hills behind the town.

Our first bit of bush was a lovely reserve between the town and the rugby club. Then it was on, up the rather steep roads to the lookout at the top. Incredibly, after this Spike refused to get back into the backpack, and so walked all the way down the not-as-steep side of the hill, across the rugby ground and all the way to the end of the road, looking in to Patterson Inlet before deciding he was tired and wanted back into the backpack after all. During this time we saw a pair of kaka in the trees, which was rather magical.

End of the road Into the secret garden

Back up and over the saddle, through the reserve again and down onto the waterfront for lunch.

In the afternoon, as part of our Patterson Inlet cruise, we enjoyed a guided nature walk on Ulva Island, which is a bird sanctuary. Spike was very tired by this stage, so opted to stay in the backpack, where the slow pace and our guides lovely voice soon had him fast asleep. We got to see a whole range of unique plant species, and got up close and personal with a Robin. It was lovely.


After all that walking and Spike carrying, we were tired, so we opted to do a bus trip around the parts of the settlement we hadn't yet had a chance to see before we headed home.
Bush Walk Sleeping Beauty

Saturday, 15 August 2015

Family Camping

Roaming Water Fight

17-18 January 2015

Battle Hill Farm Forest Park Campground, Paekakariki

Team: Mark, Spike, Myself. Assorted other tramping club families to total 27-odd adults and children

Saturday lunchtime, and Spike went down for his nap. It started raining. Mark and I spent the whole time he was asleep debating as to whether we should still go the half an hours drive up the coast to go camping as planned. Because of this dithering, when he woke at 3, I had just put a cake in the oven that needed to cook for an hour and a half, and the car wasn't packed - half our stuff wasn't even organised.

We threw everything together, and organised for my Mum to come over and get the cake out of the oven, and dashed off just on 4pm. When we arrived, we discovered the campground was "full" for the weekend, and there were several large groups set up in the different parts of the campground. Having come from a summer-holiday stay at Pounawea, where the tents and caravans were packed in like sardines, this was a breath of fresh air. The open space was fantastic.

Checking out the river

We pitched the tent, set up the beds inside, and sat down to chill out with the other families near the fire (which was only needed because most groups needed it for cooking dinner). We did some exploring, over to the toilet block and down to the river, then sat down to our cold bacon and egg pie for dinner (yum!). At some stage, Spike made friends with a mother from another group (by vanishing across the campground), enabling him to "borrow" their ride-on bike for the late afternoon / early evening.

Cooking with Fire

Eventually we tried to put Spike to sleep, which he was not keen on. Not surprising, given how light it still was outside, and the noise of all the other kids still running around outside, and enjoying the jumbo swing immediately behind our tent. We finally got him to sleep at about 10pm, after several attempts. He tended to stay quiet in the tent (happy to be closed in on his own), mainly because he was figuring out how to escape his portacot!

Sunday morning we were awake stupid early - sometime around 6am, since thats when it was light - with Spike demanding to get up and dressed and do stuff. Thankfully we weren't the only ones awake early, and Spike managed to stay fairly quiet for a while, mainly by riding around the campsite on the bike he had "borrowed" the night before. We passed the morning with a moderately long walk with Spike in the Tula, where we found a fantastic stash of drop wood for the fire for those who were staying Sunday night, and participating in a water fight.

Pony Club

At some point while we were wandering around the campsite, a random gust of wind came around the side of the trees and blew away the gazebo we had up - a big 6x3m thing. Picked it clear up, pulling up the guy ropes, twisted it around and threw it towards another group of tents - which we knew had people inside. We were far enough away at the time that there was nothing we could do about it except pick up the pieces afterwards and check no-one was hurt (thankfully the answer was no).

Climbing High

When Spike refused a nap, we opted to drop camp and head home for Sunday night, rather than trying to stay again with an over tired toddler.Other than that, the weather was perfect, the lightest of breezes, lovely and warm. Fantastic camping, fantastic company, and even the long days weren't enough to put us off the idea of doing it again.

Monday, 15 December 2014

Goal Achieved

Monday 15 December 2014


Route: Ngaio Shops to Awarua St, up Bells Track to the Skyline. Climb to top of Mt Kaukau and back down via Simla Cres track. Return to Ngaio.

View to top of Bells Track from lower Awarua St
I've been meaning to get up Kaukau for a couple of months now, but events had continually conspired against me. Between toddler-at-home days, sickness and the awful weather we had in November, it looked like I wasn't going to manage it before Christmas.

Bells Track
The weather report for today was glowing - calm and warm. Awesome. I know from past experience that a light breeze around the suburbs means a bluster at the top of the hills, while still here is not still at the top. So after doing a chunk of our Christmas shopping in the morning, I headed off.

I opted to be a little lazy, and parked my car at Ngaio shops to save the 10 minutes walk each way. At the end of the walk I was so rediculously glad of this forethought! Whipping through Cummings Park at about 12:45, the climbing started almost immediately.
Traffic was quiet as I started up Awarua St, although there was a random surge of cars going past when I was nearly at the top. By the time I got to the top, I was incredibly glad that we had opted not to buy the house up there that we looked at the same day we saw our current place. I was also really hot, and realising that I probably could have left my jersey at home.

At the Skyline Walkway
The sign indicated half an hour to the Skyline Walkway, and 75 minutes to Mt Kaukau. It was 1pm. My friend Louisa had done a 7km loop up here and back in 1hr 45, so I thought perhaps the times were a little exaggerated.

Final climb to the top
It was a long, slow climb up the hill. I made it to the Skyline in about 17 minutes, and I thought I was pretty slow (and stopping frequently, both to admire the view, and to rest). I continued what seemed to be ever upwards towards Mt Kaukau, standing at the bottom of the final grunt to the transciever at 1:45, and making it to the top at just on 2pm.

View to Tappy
I spent a few minutes sitting underneath the viewing platform, trying to cool down a little from the heat, and watching the herd of cows that were hanging around, seeming pretty docile, but huge and seeming slightly threatening none-the-less.

I toyed with the idea of going around behind the transciever to actually bag the trig at the proper top of the hill, but decided against it in favour of getting home for a cool shower.

A quick mission down to Simla Cres (which actually seemed to take ages, and every time I looked down to where I was headed, it looked forever away), and then a whip along Khandallah Road, and I was stopping at the dairy to buy an icecream, before being back at the car just before 2:45.

So, just under 2 hours, including breaks, just under 6.5km travelled. Total climb 317m.

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Hutbook Search Story

When I went to Herepai hut a couple of months ago, there was a very interesting, slightly long, story written up in the back of the hut book about a search that took place back in the 1970's in the area.
I've transcribed the photos I took of it for your reading pleasure :)
I have corrected some spelling (excluding the original poster misnaming Chamberlain Creek as Chamberland and Mangahou instead of Mangahao), but the sentence structure is the same as I could interperet.
I have no way of knowing when exactly the report was written up - and the author did not sign their name to it.

In the late 60's a scout party went missing on East Peak. The scout master separated from the other three scouts to find the route, but didn't return. The three scouts started to get very cold and decided the best thing to do would be to get lower down, so they dropped into Harris Creek (not know what side of the ridge they were on).
The next day they made it out to Mangahou dam and alerted the caretaker there. The next day a full search was mounted which involved the Police, Army, and Air Force, plus many tramping clubs members. A base was made at Bryant Farm and search headquarters was a caravan.
The army put up tents and provided hot meals for everyone. The Air Force [unsure of word] helicopter only made three flights as the wind became too strong to fly.

Three search parties got flown in to various locations. The rest (searchers) had to walk to their allotted search areas. As the search proceeded the weather progressively got worse (N.Wester). High winds on the main ridge were atrocious.

It was difficult to stand up and even breathe facing the wind. Fine gravel was picked up by the wind and thrown in your face. Also we were soaked to the skin by torrential rain. Conditions were so bad we were told to go to Dundas Hut. Half way there we were forced off the tops because we couldn't handle the wind.

We made a makeshift camp on some bench above Chamberland Creek, south of West Peak. A tent could not be pitched so we tied the tent out flat and got under it. I must say I was [pretty?] comfortable considering the conditions. The bottom of my sleeping bag got wet, but other than that, all were well apart from not being able to boil the billy.

The next morning we moved off at dawn, and headed back towards East Peak. We finally got to what we thought was Ruapai Peak and made a radio sked to base. We were told to proceed back to Putara Hut as the conditions were too dangerous to search in. When we got to about Hines, the rain stopped and the wind was still so strong it instantly dried our clothes out, which helped to warm us up. I remember I was wearing two jupara parkers and soaked through. Finally arriving at Putara Hut, the hut was full of other search parties bulging at the seams.
The next morning a radio message called the search officially off, as condition were atrocious for searching.

Some months later a party found the remains of a pack and sleeping bag in Chamberland Creek. The scout masters remains were never found. It was said much later that he had serious health issues and probably bit off more than he could handle, also endangering the other scouts in the party.
Possibly the hard right turn you make at East Peak may have been mist by then and got them into trouble??
Interestingly, underneath this account was another statement, from Phil Doole, one of the Venturer Scouts who was on the original trip:

Some clarifications to the above account:
1. The events happened in early September 1973 (40 years ago).
2. I was one of the 3 Venturer scouts with Ken Balfour. We were returning to Putara Hut from a bivy between Pukemoremore and Dome (we did not reach Dundas Hut the day before)
3. We reached Ruapae Peak (not East Peak) - confirmed by the pipe which is still on Ruapae. Hail & sleep, we couldn't confirm the route off towards Hines, Ken headed back towards East Peak. I dont recall why. We waited over an hour then had to make a decision to find shelter. We opted for the quickest descent into Harris Creek headwaters. Herepai Hut did not exist then, descent in the open over Herepai Peak did not seem like a good option at the time.
4. We bivied in the top of Harris Creek and continued out to the Mangahou River Hut and then on to the caretakers house at the dam, taking 1.5 days. The weather had cleared and at the time we had no concerns for Kens safety, thinking he would have made it out and would be looking for us (we were not due out until that day as it was a 4 day trip).
5. Finding Kens gear in Chamberlain Creek is a puzzle. Perhaps it was the Ruamahanga River, he may have come to grief in Ruapae Stream?
The 40th anniversary of what came to be known as Operation Balfour was covered in articles in the Wairarapa Times Age and Wilderness Magazine in 201, both of which are worth a read.