It’s been a really nice relaxing few weeks back in and around Nelson catching up with great people and places, and going twice on the Heaphy Track (love having that on my backdoor step), and twice to Nelson Lakes.
The Maitland Ridge mountain bike track is up and running since I was last at Nelson Lakes, so time to check it out – only on foot though!
On a short winter’s day, I set off…
I laugh when I see this photo of Kevin with a halo around him – no idea how that got there!! He dropped me off, and after we said bye and I walked off along the track I suddenly remembered my walking poles were still in the car! Argh. I ran back, but too late, Kevin was just turning onto the main road. Oh well, I mainly use them to try and extend my tramping life out, so it doesn’t matter about forgetting them sometimes.
I followed up the track, in the mist, to the Red Hills Hut which took a couple of hours by the time I stopped to look at interesting things. This was a 300 metre climb with a gentle gradient.
I got quite excited when I saw this small cob building, on a private farm right next to the Red Hills track; I have visited it in the past, and been inside. This was the very first Tophouse of the 1800’s, where stock herders could house their stock and have a meal and a bed for the night. The second Tophouse is just a few kilometres from here, still lived in and maintained, and available as accommodation.
I came out of the mist to a nice day on top – hoping it would last!
Serpentine mixed up with peridotite. The Red Hills are famous for their ultramafics, part of an old plate boundary that’s since moved on.
The colours throughout the entire day were a delight.
A skid from a mountain bike; they must have a lot of fun coming down here!
Red Hills Hut at just over 900 metres. I wrote in the hut book, always a good idea when you’re walking alone. The entry before mine was from the previous weekend – a couple who stayed the night, walking through, wrote that it was freezing. I suddenly realised it was written on exactly the same day and time that the woman died on the Mt Robert Ridge last week, not far from here – for her the windchill on the ridge, which is very exposed, dropped the temperature to around minus 16 degrees celcius. It seemed surreal as today was a warm day; I had one layer on and was sweating. All the same, I found myself on the next part of the walk going through factors in my mind for staying safe in the bush.
The mist was still below me but it caught up after this, and rained for the remainder of the day. I put the pack cover on and threw my rain jacket over my head to keep both myself and my pack dry – it was too warm to put it on properly.
There were just a couple of short stretches of steep uphill which were quite slippery in the rain but okay, too. Altogether, from the hut, my elevation was almost 400 metres, so the overall climb and descent for me today was about 700 metres, a nice amount for a pleasant day’s walk.
The stunted beech trees and the mosses on top of the first peak were lovely and I enjoyed eating some food and looking around.
I was coming down here, but most mountain bikers would be going up, so there’s a lot of gently graded hairpin bends. I could see trails leading down between them for trampers, but as I was clearing branches and twigs off the track which I like to do, I stuck to the hairpins. It was actually really nice kicking through the beech leaves anyway; I was enjoying myself.
Snow! These tiny patches were the only snow I saw today. I started to feel cold, so put on my polar fleece while I ate more food.
I reached the 4 wheel drive road that leads from the valley floor up to Beeby’s Knob, that doubles as a bike trail called What’s Up DoC. My next route led off downhill from here, so off I went. The more downhill on this road the better – easier than in the bush!
Here lay my route…Korere Tophouse Road. It was 2.30pm already, so no time for mucking around as I wanted to be out by dark at 5.15pm. I reminded myself ‘no stopping for this stretch’.
This is the view – without the mist it would be spectacular! But the reality is, mist is nice too, just enjoy it.
The route began as a proper track, lulling me into a sense of ‘this is easy’. Then it turned into a route that became pretty steep with a lot of care needed. There was a stretch where roots underpinned the track making holes and dips that had no ground beneath them, so I started watching every step not wanting to twist my ankle. Then the track itself became less clear and I watched out for the tree markers.
It was raining and everything was really slippery; to step on any tree root was treacherous. The route had a long stretch that seemed to be made up solely of tree roots, always on a downhill slope, so I carried on watching carefully where to place my feet.
In places like this I turned around and lowered myself down backwards to stop my feet from skidding out beneath me.
Lower and lower, I came across the first signs that the end of the route was near – the trees turned non native. I hardly heard any birds all day long, but now I found myself listening to the cheerful evening chorus. There’s a lot of trapping in the Nelson Lakes area to help the native birdlife along but I saw no sign of traps on the tracks and routes today; guess it’s only a matter of time before someone picks it up.
The route turned into an easy track once more for the final hundred metres, a nice way to end a fantastic day – ‘cos there’s farmland through the trees! It’s took me under two hours to get down so I was out a whole hour before dark.
Still raining, toasty warm, I walked the few kilometres along the road to where we were staying, looking after the place of some friends while they are away for a few days.