27 April 2020

Reunion of the Ancients

Well this time, as is often the case, I fitted our reunion about other things. One was Catherine coming with me and us having some time with our grand-daughter in Christchurch, Olivia. The other was to attend Hugh Wilson's birthday celebration (together with twin sister, Hilary). Hugh is the long term manager of Hinewai  - an ecological restoration project on Banks Peninsula.  Both visits were wonderful - well worth the effort. Met lots of old friends at Hinewai - wonderful.

Olivia and Grandparents - Christchurch 2020 (Photo: Sally Blake)

Hugh, John, Hilary Wilson - Hinewai 2020

Then Jim, Mike and I headed off to Lewis Pass area where we anticipated doing high altitude traverses of the tops. Well, that was the plan. Jim picked me up from brother John's place - then to Mike's place and on to the Lewis Pass. We tweaked our ambitions as we neared the mountains and the hills appeared ever steeper. On this trip we found ourselves disagreeing, not just about the old stories, but also the identity of peaks appearing on the skyline. Were we safe to be out on our own?

View from Nina Hut

Almost at Devilskin Pass

Always a mushroom to photograph
So we headed up the Nina Valley with ideas that the tussocked uplands might await us beyond the Nina Hut. Hurunui College, we discovered, had been trapping pests in the valley and the results were obvious - every time we stopped, robins popped up to hop about our feet - they seemed to agree with the three old gentlemen about the beauty of the valley and its restored wildlife.

"Nice valley chaps, eh?"
The hut had no water because the tank had been emptied - dead rat! Jim went off up the track looking for water and returned about an hour later with a bucketful - meantime we had found a good supply only about 100m from the hut and had a brew made. Nice hut and a warm sunny evening. We decided that the nearest tussock tops were up on Devilskin Saddle so next morning we set off up the track passing Jim's impressive water source along the way. 

Anyway it seemed a long way to the bush edge. When we finally arrived there we could see the two-man hut on the saddle ahead of us but the valley was quite attractive where we were, so we stopped for lunch and a snooze. Back to the hut we enjoyed another warm evening and next day we decided to descend the valley back to our car - plan B.

Plan B was to head down the west coast and up to Arthur's Pass where the comfortable Rough Creek Shambles awaited us. And there we whiled away some of our remaining time, telling stories, making cups of tea, cooking and resting up from our exhausting trip up the Nina. We were getting older, we decided - yet again.

We had a couple more day walks. Like last year we went up the Otira Valley. Every time we sat (or lay) down to rest people would find us half asleep and probably wondered if they should call for a helicopter. We'd always have a chat with them - sometimes finding that they were grandsons or granddaughters of friends we knew back in the olden days. When they calculated that we were so old we had to restrain them from dialling 111 on their always-ready cell phones. It was all good fun.

Upper Waimak Dreams of the Past

Brew at a Secret Location
At the end we stayed for a couple of nights at the bach owned by Trish at Bealey Spur. This delightful little haven sheltered us while we went up to one of Jim and Ann's secret campfire spots up towards the Jordan Fan on the Waimak River. Here we met a group from Lincoln University. They had covered a lot of territory and had some very impressive and modern firepower so I regaled them with stories of shooting my first dozen deer with my single shot .22 - before I got serious with my father's cut down ex WW2 .303. They were good company and we walked out with them and helped them get their car from the Bealey Spur.

The next morning Jim and I walked up the Bealey Spur where we got a great view up and down the Waimak and dreamed, yet again, of the good old days and noticed the vast numbers of other people using the track. Every time we lay down (quite often) people would stop to check that we were still alive.

And so back to the 'car-infested swamp' of Christchurch - and so to Hamilton for me. But before we parted we started making plans for our next trip - maybe just pulling out some Pinus contorta in a secret valley, not too far from the road.

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