|A rough 4x4 road climbs from Lake taylor|
Honora was up the Hurunui South Branch recently, with some young people training for their Duke of Edinburgh Gold. They'd planned on checking out the hot springs there. However they didn't make it. Honora was still keen to go see what it was like.
It was near 2.30 pm when we left Lake Taylor for the long walk in. We took the 4x4 track over the Oronoko Range into the Hurunui South Branch, and then up the true left of the river till the Swampy Stream shingle fan.
I don't know anyone who says their idea of tramping heaven is walking for hours on 4x4 tracks through cow country. In a wide open valley like this one it seems even further, as the distant hills move past grindingly slow. I thought the only way to get it over with was to 'go for it', and match Honora's serious pace. However, after a couple of hours of that, energy levels started running low so I was glad of the chance to stop for a couple of muesli bars. There was a chill breeze and cowpats littered the matagouri we sheltered in. We weren't encouraged to linger.
It took us four hours to get to Swampy Stream. Honora wanted to push on further up valley and camp closer to the spring. But it was dark already and getting colder. I thought the chance of finding a comfortable place to camp were diminishing. I said I'd rather go back to the hut. Honora turned without a word.
Stony Stream hut is an old style musterer's hut. Within 30 minutes of arriving we'd had a hot drink already, the fire was blazing away and tea was cooking. Honora agreed it was a good move, but said Sean Mackay in Mountain Safety had told her the hut was kept locked.
When I was getting ready to turn in I saw a large Dolomedes spider hunting around the bunks. However I was so tired even that couldn't keep me awake.
Bellbirds provided a morning chorus to wake us. They sort of registered on my consciousness but I was still badly underslept from late nights through the week, so found it difficult to rouse. However when I did fully wake the sun was streaming in the door, and then a friendly Robin hopped inside. That made a very nice start to the day.
Honora gave the hut a good clean out while I was getting ready to go.
We continued up the valley. DoC have just built a new base building for the 'Hurunui Mainland Island' project. We called in as we passed but no-one was about.
Further on a livestock fence stretched across the valley. Just after this we crossed to a small tussock flat on the true left of the river. The track to the hot spring started into the bush at the rear of the flat.
A great effort has gone into installing the hot bath and the little shelter at the spring. I guess it was by people working at the nearby DoC base.
|The well appointed hot springs in the South Branch of the Hurunui River|
It was a great place for a hot soak. The water temperature was perfect.
Another friendly Robin came and hopped on the side of the bath. And there were no sandflies about and that made it even more pleasant.
However it was a long way back to Lake Taylor so we couldn't linger.
Back down the river we encountered a vehicle coming the other way. It was Warren Burge and his partner Jan. It seems Warren has been going into the Hurunui South Branch for years. I've known him at work for 15 years but never had a clue he was an outdoorsman too!
Warren and Jan were driving to within a 10 minute walk to the hot spring. I guess that's what most do to get to this one.
On we went, down the valley, at a repeat of the forced march pace we'd set the day before. My hamstrings and calves ached.
The only excitement was when we detoured off the track through swampy matagouri to avoid a bull that bellowed his disapproval at us.
|Clouds spill over the range above Lake Taylor|
Over the range at Lake Taylor we finally saw the cold front cloud we'd been expecting all day. It was cascading over the Hooligan Range.
So the long drive down the Hurunui was made even more tedious by darkness, mist and drizzle.
But there was still a highlight to come. We stopped for a meal at the NorWester restaurant in Amberley. I have to recommend that as a great way to finish a tramp. The food there is superb.
Footnote: I originally had a link to a DoC page about the former "Hurunui Mainland Island" project. However since then I noticed DoC removed the page from their website. It seems they've withdrawn that project from the Hurunui. Instead they now run a minimal scheme in the Hurunui for which their spin doctors have created the name Operation Ark.
And true to the Orwellian history-rewriting nature of government departments, the "Hurunui Mainland Island" project now officially never existed. And before long, I guess, the great spotted kiwi and orange fronted parakeet too.