08 September 2012

Manuka Point Remembered - Rakaia Valley


After a New Zealand Alpine Club instruction weekend in the Arrowsmith Range three of us decided to make our way home by raft via Lake Stream and the Rakaia.  I’d been in a party in the Jagged stream and walked around to the Cameron where I extracted Jim Wilson, my climbing mate, from his warm hut in the upper Cameron.  With Tony Evans we pumped up the raft and set off down Lake Stream.  It falls quite sharply to the Rakaia and the journey was quite rapid.  We struck a sharp rock and put a large hole in the raft floor.  No air was lost but half full of water the raft became quite unmanageable.  After we reached the Rakaia we could see Manuka Point Station buildings in the distance.  We deciding that the raft needed serious attention so set off across the Rakaia flats for the station.

After carrying our empty rubber dinghy across the desolate Rakaia riverbed with a sleety southerly whipping the backs of our legs we were cold and tuckered out. We closed on the homestead and now the dogs were in full cry.  We banged on the door and were soon greeted by Lawry Walker.  He eyed us for a few moments.  The sight must have told its own story. Three wet bedraggled youths – a punctured dinghy – the cold sleet.  We confirmed the story and asked if we might use the shearing quarters or some other shelter for the night.  Yes, there was that shed over there – the words were few – the tin shed cold and sparse, but it had some bunks for our sleeping bags.

After Walker left the shed, we shivered our way out of our wet clothes and started to unpack.   A wet empty fireplace and no wood completed our misery.  We shivered again.  Shortly the sound of an approaching truck penetrated the noise of sleet on corrugated iron.  Through the door in quick succession came kindling, and enormous heap of wood and “This is Joff”, Joff Thomson, of deer culling fame.  Soon a massive fire was blazing in the fireplace and we sat warm in our dry clothes with Lawry and his man.  They didn’t say much but the thaw had started.  Soon they were up and off.  They paused in the doorway, - “We’ll expect you at six for dinner, boys”. Outside the storm was now plundering the valley.  In our now warm tin oven we relaxed and rejoiced in the comfort.  Life was looking better.  At six we tossed a big log on the fire and scurried through the rain to the homestead.

The greeting was warm – we were now old friends returned to the valley – and the first part of the night was spent attending to the feast. There was a huge roast of mutton, gravy, roast vegetables and green peas.  A large pudding with treacle sauce followed. We were soon replete.  Their large library was complete with the Golden Treasury of Literature and we all delved into it, reciting our favorite works.  Philosophy followed and a dram or two of single malt.  All in front of a warm fire.  Nearly sixty years later the memory of that night is still vivid. In the small hours, with arrangements made for the following morning – not too early – we crossed the horse paddock to our still warm hut.  A few stars overhead and a chill wind bode well for a clear day.

At the prearranged time Lawry and Joff arrived at our hut.  With sacking needle, twine, rubber cement and a skill borne of years in the high country Joff produced a perfect repair in the dinghy floor. Everyone helped carry the dinghy over to the nearest braid of the Rakaia.  Hands were clasped all round and we were soon dipping our paddles into the swollen river.  We turned and waved – already they looked small in their big valley. Big men, big hearts.
Rakaia Valley (above Lake Stream and Manuka Point Station) from Prospect Hill