13. The Rangitata River and Peel Forest

We visited Mt Somers, but after a quick consultation together, decided to move past. This is a place we could easily stay exploring for a good week or two as there’s a lot of back country here. But we are actually running short on time to get around the South Island before winter when we plan to move on to the North Island! So, we are starting a list of places we want to – have to – return to at a later date, and Mt Somers is at the top.

This is situated at the back of one of the motorhome park ups in Mt Somers village – it used to be high in the hills as a musterer’s hut.

You could look through the window of the door to see a lot of paraphernalia used by musterers in old times – it was great.
Driving across the Canterbury Plains heading for the Rangitata River, we could see this big cloud of smoke starting to rise. Talking with the man on Mt Hutt yesterday (who was mountain biking) we know that the fires we are seeing on the Canterbury Plains (we are seeing several each day – long dark strata stretching in both directions for pretty much as far as we can see) are controlled farming burn-offs of stubble fields. This was reassuring to know as we are very aware of what Nelson’s going through at present with a big fire in the hills south west of the city. He said that these fires will be burning daily for about a month, and that there are heavy restrictions around how they are carried out. He said no-one really likes the smoke in the sky, but it has to be done to clear the fields ready for re-planting.
Heading up the Rangitata River, on the south side, we start to come across small mountains of rock.
It’s all farming land through here, lots of hay bales to be seen, and silage.
Huge areas of hay bales.
More and more mountains – we are really beginning to get into the high country now. Lots of thorny matagouri on the river flats.
It’s so hot and dry that the willows have no sign of greenery! No doubt they’ll come back in the autumn…being willows! You can see more of the linear strata (we saw this in the Rakaia River valley as well) on the hill behind, which are outwash terraces – formed by rivers draining very old glaciers in the last 2 million years or so.
Te Araroa goes through here! But we see no-one – pure bad luck I think as plenty of thru-hikers are walking this route at present.

Te Araroa heads through the gap in the hills – you can see it better in this photo than in the one above.
Can’t stop looking at where Te Araroa heads off…Love this rough, rugged country! …in summer at least…
Where the Te Araroa sign is the road turns into a rough track, so we turn back.
Somewhere in the background here (out of sight further up the valley I think) lie Erewhon Station (as a child I used to read Mona Anderson’s books about her life here) and also Mt Sunday – formerly a meeting place for Sunday sermons and latterly where Edoras was filmed in Lord of the Rings. We’ll see all this, and more, when we go back to visit Mt Somers…
Me seeing how the Rangitata River feels, keeping well out of the deeper channel.
On they way back out now: Forest Creek – so wide yet so dry!
This little cottage is made of cob – you can see all around the bottom it has caved in.
Nice rock…
Looks volcanic…this one’s in Raules Creek.
We did the Big Tree Walk passing back through Peel Forest, and Kevin found this painted rock smiling at him. He placed it back against some tree roots, partially visible, partially hidden, for the next person to find.
We both loved the forest here – it feels old and established and you can really tell that it’s remnant podocarp forest. (Huge tracts of bush were burned in the past with the arrival of people in NZ, first by Maori then by Europeans, so it’s special to find places where the forest is original). I think the main fern here is the one called nini. The single frond in the middle is whauwhaupaku, or five finger.
Kevin’s arm span is 1.8 metres, and the totara beats that!
The totara towers above us.
We stopped for a cold drink and snack at the Green Man Cafe in Peel Forest village – nice cafe, fantastic food. A treat, as we rarely stop at cafes!
And in the evening, staying at Orari DOC campsite, we drove along to the end of the road and found a swimming pool with a small (but impressive) waterfall in the Orari Gorge – thanks to one of the local station hands for explaining how to find this.
Kevin waded, I swam – it was delicious to cool off after our dusty day driving up and down the Rangitata River valley.

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