INLAND PACK TRACK, PAPAROA NATIONAL PARK|
1-3 Jan Easy-Moderate
Day 1: SH6 to Ballroom Overhang via the Fox River
The group was dropped off at the Fox River,
north of Punakaiki, about 10 a.m. We walked along the Fox River track, with a couple of easy crossings,
before pausing for lunch at the Fox-Dilemma confluence (2h30m). Then it was into the Fox River bed for
the 30 minute wander up to the Ballroom Overhang, with water seldom above our ankles. The Overhang is
obscured by trees and the large orange triangle marking it is very faded. On arrival, two double tent
flys were pitched, but two opted to sleep outside. The Overhang has a toilet. We enjoyed Narnia and poetry
readings around the campfire after dinner. An attempt was made at a Jewish dance. Walking time: about
3h. Weather: sunny and calm.
Phillip led a reflection comparing life to camping with God. Like
camping, life is temporal ad temporary. Our bodies are compared to tents. Death is simply folding up
the tent and moving on (2 Peter 1:13; 2 Corinthians 5:1-5). We need to be ready for that time (I John
Day 2: Ballroom Overhang to Bullock Creek Clearing (via Dilemma Creek and Fossil Creek)
Leaving the Ballroom Overhang, we returned to the Fox-Dilemma confluence. After crossing the Fox
River, we continued up Dilemma Creek for about four kilometres, walking in the creek bed (seldom more
than knee-deep), with a few tricky clambers. After turning into Fossil Creek, we encountered lots of
treefalls which required care to traverse. We paused for lunch on the bank. Shortly after, we exited
the creek to climb over two low saddles (the first slightly overgrown) before descending to the edge
of the Bullock Creek Clearing. Breaking out of the trees, it was a short walk across a flat grassy plain
to Bullock Creek. We pitched our flys on the grass 4WD track just after crossing the creek. Jeff did
a noble job digging a large hole, complete with log seat, to serve as a loo. Walking time: 5-6h. Weather:
sunny and calm.
Phillip led another reflection on the theme of camping: camping as communion.
Tent travelling through the wilderness was where and how the ancient Israelites encountered and experienced
God. Their camp itself was sacred space, where God moved about (Exodus 23:14; Leviticus 26:11-12). God
journeyed with them. In Revelation 7:15-16, God says he will “spread his tent” over his people. We can
expect similar experiences when we journey in the outdoors.
Day 3: Bullock Creek Clearing to SH6
(Punakaiki) via Cave Creek
After walking to the southeast corner of the Clearing, we reached
the memorial monument to the 14 victims of the 1995 Cave Creek tragedy. From here most of us did a 45
minute side-trip down into the gorge where it happened. IT was a sobering place. Back at the junction,
we continued on over easy terrain through lush forest to the Pororari River Bridge, where we had lunch.
A few opted to leave the Inland Pack Track and take the shorter exit down the Pororari River. Most continued
over a saddle to the Punakaiki Valley. It was a short distance to the Punakaiki River Bridge and carpark,
before grinding the last couple of km along SH7 to Punakaiki Village, where the van arrived simultaneous
with us. Walking time (without side-trip): 5 hours. Weather: sunny and calm.
The track times in
official information proved inaccurate for this tramp. We progressed much more slowly because of the
size of the group and the condition of the route.
NINA VALLEY-DEVILSKIN SADDLE-DOUBTFUL
VALLEY-TE ARAROA TUI TRACK
6-8 Jan Hard
Day 1: SH7 to Devilskin
Biv via Nina Hut
The shuttle from Reefton dropped us off at the NZDA Lodge on the Lewis Pass about
10 a.m. We crossed the highway to begin our walk up the Nina Valley. It is mostly flat, wending its way
through beech forest and across one high bridge to the Nina Hut (2h30m), where we stopped for lunch.
Moving on, the track become much rougher as we moved further up the Nina Valley before ascending (at
times very steeply!) up Blind Creek. We eventually reached the bush-line and climbed for a further hour
through the tussock to the Devilskin Saddle and 2-bunk bivouac, which was already occupied. There was
little flat ground, so we were forced to pitch our fly on a slope near the toilet. Sometime during a
somewhat uncomfortable night, David managed to find a place to sleep on the floor of the bivvy. Walking
time: 6 hours. Weather: sunny and calm.
Phillip led a reflection on the fact that treasure can
be found in the most unexpected parts of Scripture. For example Exodus 3:6 simply seems like a title,
but from we learn that God is the God of separate individuals, differing personalities, and successive
Day 2: Devilskin Biv to the Doubtful Valley via Doubtful Hut
We woke to a
chilly morning. Leaving soon after 8 a.m., we followed a somewhat rough and uneven trail down the Devilskin
Creek to the Doubtful River. Most of the descent was gradual, but the track dropped steeply closer to
the river. After crossing the river without problem, we paused for lunch at the Doubtful Hut, harassed
by sandflies. To shorten our walk the next day, we continued down the Doubtful River valley for 1h40m
before pitching our fly on the bank. The sandflies were horrendous! Walking time: 6 hours. Weather: sunny
Phillip led a reflection on John 2:5. Mary said to the servants at the wedding in Cana:
“Do whatever he tells you.” Each word in that instruction is pregnant with meaning and has something
to teach us.
Day 3: Doubtful Valley to SH7 (Boyle River Lodge) via the Tui Track
soon after 8 a.m., we found ourselves near the Doubtful River-Boyle River confluence in little more than
an hour. It was decided to head west along the Tui Track, which forms part of the Te Araroa Trail. After
walking along the river flats, we crossed the Boyle River to reach the Boyle River Lodge and campsite
about 11.15 a.m., almost completing a full loop. We managed to phone the shuttle company to alert them
to our whereabouts. They arrived soon after noon to return us to Reefton. Walking time: 3h 30m. Weather:
sunny and calm.
This is a demanding tramp for experienced and fit trampers only. Congratulations
to “Tina the Tough” for matching it with the men!
LAKE CHRISTABEL: VICTORIA FOREST
10-11 Jan Hard
Day 1: SH7 to Lake Christabel Hut via Rough
Creek (about 10 km)
The van dropped us off on SH7 at the Rough Creek Track entrance about 10 a.m.
An initial steep pinch gave way to a more gradual section, followed by another demanding grunt to the
bushline (2h45m). More climbing took us into a tussock basin below the ridgeline, with views whence we
had come. Here we paused for lunch. The ascent after lunch was short and sharp but taxing. Eventually
we reached the ridgeline (1450m). We had ascended about 900m. Simon and Phillip sidled west a little
to secure a dim and distant view of the lake below.
We dropped off the ridge through tarn-strewn
tussock basins before entering the forest in the upper reaches of the Blue-Grey River. Just to our left
was the Main Divide. We passed a magnificent cliff-face adorned with mosses, rivulets and alpine flowers.
After three hours, we crossed a bridge to arrive at the 8-bunk Lake Christabel hut, set in a clearing
on a low terrace, complete with ample vestibule and wood-shed. We had the hut to ourselves. A sign in
the hut offered a $10,000 reward for a confirmed sighting of the South Island kokako (declared extinct
in 1987). Walking time: 6 hours. Weather: Cloudy with light drizzle at times.
Day 2: Lake Christabel
Hut to Palmer Road (about 15.8 km)
We woke to another overcast day and left the hut at 8 a.m.
The walk down the valley to the head of Lake Christabel was flat and straightforward, but the route around
the edge of the lake was undulating, broken and in parts hazardous, with few views. At times we broke
out of the forest onto small pebbly beaches. The lake was grey and rather sombre. At the bottom of the
lake (outlet end) was an old rowboat on a small beach. We were not tempted to swim.
the lake we traversed a high hill before dropping to the Blue-Grey River. The river had many boulders,
was turbulent in places, and fast-flowing. It was aptly named. There were some large slips and steep
drop-offs to negotiate. We met a family coming in, just after one of them had been stung crossing a wasp
nest on the track, which served to warn us. It seemed a very long way down the valley, but we trudged
on doggedly as the weather improved. Eventually some grassy clearings told us that we were nearing our
destination, and suddenly there was the road. Walking time 7h30m. Weather: Overcast, then sunny.
This is a demanding tramp for experienced and fit trampers only, and best done in fine sunny weather.
Waiuta-Big River Track
Seven completed this tramp
which was led by Paul & Ruth Ungemuth and consisted of a five hour (11km) walk from Waiuta to Big River,
staying there at the (booked) hut, and then returning by the same route on the second day.
the intent was to tramp further on the second day and come out on the Lewis Pass Road (Hwy 7) but we
had decided not to do that because DOC reported that there were substantial tree falls and slips, so
that the route could only be completed by walking in a river along a deep gorge. One DOC official advised
the track was closed (although signs in the hut still referred to it as an option). There is also a 4WD
road access to Big River Hut which DOC describes as a 7-8 hour (25km) which was not contemplated in view
of the extra time.
The Waiuta-Big River track starts at the old Waiuta settlement which is a
ghost town. Gold was mined underground from quartz rock 1908-1951 to a depth of 900m and the value of
gold recovered amounts to $1.3b at today’s prices. This was one of the most productive gold mines in
NZ. When the mine shaft collapsed in 1951 the company made an immediate decision to close the mine rather
than spend money on reopening the mine. Staff were immediately without a job and had to leave the town.
Almost all buildings were either removed or demolished within three weeks. Much gold remains in the ground
and a mining company has recently drilled exploratory shafts to determine the profitability of further
mining. This company has estimated a further $1.3b can be mined and has now made a decision to develop
a new mine.
The track took us from Waiuta to Big River which was another mining site. This mine
commenced earlier but was less successful. Mining at Big River occurred 1888-1942 reaching a depth of
Day 1 Our group was driven by Barbara to Waiuta arriving at about 8.30am. We first left
our packs at the shelter and spent about 1.5 hours exploring the old town site. We followed the explanatory
notices: about the few remaining buildings, the remains and the history of the town and its people. (Also,
the Reefton Museum has an excellent film about Waiuta).
Next we collected our packs and tramped
to Big River. The track at first followed a road before entering beautiful native bush on a wide benched
track, gradually ascending beside a long ridge. At around half way the track descends to cross a river
before undulating - then eventually coming out of the bush, crossing a barren plateau, and finally entering
a valley where stands the hut.
We arrived at Big River around 3pm. Then after a cuppa we walked
down into the valley where the mined quartz was crushed and processed for gold. In the part of the valley
below the hut stood a miner’s hut and four large cyanide tanks (about 6 metres diameter each) beside
the river! Further up the valley was a stamper battery, and on a hill above the valley on the other side
was the poppet head tower atop the old mine shaft. The weather was cloudy and the place felt gloomy as
we contemplated the poisons that may have escaped into the river and surrounding environment all those
years ago. We could also imagine that this isolated valley was once busy with much optimism, noise and
We had the hut to ourselves. The hut was spacious with 20 bunks and good views across
Day 2 Again cloudy, with a few spots of rain, but no rain. Departing 8am, we retraced
our steps back to Waiuta arriving at 1pm. Barbara had brought the day walkers up to explore Waiuta and
we now returned with them back to our homely accommodation at the Old Reefton Nurses Home.
The Paparoa Track is the newest of the Great Walks and extends
55.1 km from Blackball to Punakaiki on the West Coast of the South Island. The track climbs steadily
onto a ridge line on the first day rising to levels of around 1100m on the second day, then gradually
descends over days 3 & 4, providing panoramic views throughout. We enjoyed fine weather and most days
were cloudless so the views were stunning, as were the sunrises and sunsets.
Being a Great Walk,
the club had booked the huts in advance. We had a group of twelve including leader Paul Ungemuth and
co-leader Bryan Schroeder. (Sadly because of the heavy booking the day they opened on the website some
others who wished to do this tramp could not be booked in).
The group found that their walking
times (excluding stops) were equal or better than the DOC minimum times, which in hours were: 4, 3, 5,
4. Cyclists are allowed access to the track, however we only saw about 6-10 each day and they were all
For the first day and a half the Paparoa Track follows an older track called
the Croesus Track which provided access to the many gold mining explorations in the area. This track
eventually veers to the west and comes out at Barrytown on the coast – the club has walked the Croesus
track before. The Croesus track is about 140 years old and has an historic covenant over it. Although
built without modern machinery it is strongly constructed using large stones so that it is unlikely to
be eroded – an impressive piece of engineering. After leaving the Croesus track we continued on the Paparoa
Track which continues northward until it ends near Punakaiki.
Because NZ was still under Covid
restrictions we were required to maintain social distancing and hygiene and also watch out for any of
our group who displayed symptoms. But fortunately no emergency occurred and we felt as though Covid was
Day 1 It took about an hour to be driven by van from Greymouth to Blackball where
we were dropped at the “Smoke-ho” carpark and we started tramping around 10am. It was a hot day as we
climbed through the bush but because the gradient was gradual we reached the hut without difficulty by
2.30-3pm. The old Ces Clark Hut is above the bush line (16 bunk). It has large windows and a wide veranda
looking over the Grey River valley and southward along the Southern Alps.
Day 2 About 20 minutes
after leaving the hut there was a side route up a steep knob on our left (Croesus Knob 1204m) which offered
extensive views of the Alps, the coast from Greymouth southward and the inland mountains and valleys
to the east. Our walk this day was all above the bush line, along the high ridges leading us to Moonlight
Hut – one of the two new 20 bunk huts built on these northern new parts of the Paparoa Track. We managed
to get all our group in one bunk room so that we were keeping to our Covid “bubble”.
Day 3 Moonlight
Hut looked north toward a long rock escarpment which was to be our objective for the morning part of
our tramp. The track first dropped into the bush for a while and then when the view was clear to our
east we could see the Pike River Mine area and the mine ventilation shaft far down in the bush. A track
connecting to the mine is being built as a memorial to the miners who died. We then continued along the
top edge of the escarpment looking deep down into the valley below. Again this was a very hot day. After
lunch the track started to descend toward the Pororari Hut.
Day 4 Due to the lack of booking
options the last day of our tramp was also the day that we needed to catch our flight from Christchurch
(6pm) back to Auckland. Because of all the driving in the van back to Greymouth and then to Christchurch
we wanted to allow plenty of time for unforeseen delays. This meant that our wakeup time was 4.45am and
our departure time 6am – in fact we were earlier than that. It took us just 3.5 hours to walk out (16km)
and Christine & Jill had just arrived at the carpark at 10am when we came out. The track descended and
then was fairly flat as it followed the Pororari River. There were dramatic areas of windfall damage
in the forest caused by fierce storms during the last decade. As we got nearer the coast the valley became
dramatic with high limestone cliffs on both sides and many Nikau trees growing along the way.
Paparoa Track is an excellent track, enjoyed by all and is highly recommended.
January 1: The day started with an early drop off (by van and car) to north
of Punakaiki for Inland Pack groups. Day walkers travelled south through Hokitika to Lake Kaniere. We
walked a distance along the walkway on the western side of the lake. An almost level easy track with
scenic views of the lake. We enjoyed lunch on the track, and Lynn shared a thoughtful devotion on the
parallels of track walking and on our Christian walk. On return Lynn took to the water for a swim, along
with many locals who were enjoying water sports and swimming at the lake. On return through Hokitika
we purchased much needed fuel! Catering for meals in the Motel Units worked well.
Travelling north to Punakaiki, we appreciated the misty view of a rugged, rocky coastline. With great
weather we were treated to the surging sea at the Blowhole sounds in the depths of the Pancake Rocks.
How fitting to also visit the Pancake Rock Café where some enjoyed pancakes. The group were dropped off
at the end of the Inland Pack Track, where they tramped in a north-easterly direction to the junction
of the Paparoa Track, and then outwards to the highway via the Parorari River Track. Graced by rocky
bluffs and Nikau Palms, such a scenic track! All stopped for ice-creams at Punakaiki before the return
trip. In the evening Lynn shared a second devotion about ‘Walking’ sent by Brian who was unable to join
January 3: Point Elizabeth Walkway, which follows the historic gold-mining trail
between Cobden and Rapahoe, provided a pleasant coastal walk and great sea views, with the group dropped
off at the southern end, and met by Barbara with the van at the Rapahoe end. On return to Greymouth we
drove to Cobden Breakwater area, viewing the entrance to the Grey River. After lunch, we took a short
walk along the Cobden Aromahana Lagoon track, with bird sightings and a variety of plants in the area.
Peter hosted a group to visit the Hokitika Gorge by car, and we enjoyed amazing turquoise waters and
the 2km loop walk and crossing a very new large suspension bridge. (Meanwhile, the van pick up met the
Inland Pack Group for their return to Greymouth.) After Dinner, Phillip shared a devotion and Don led
a group in a Narnia chapter reading.(which had been started on the Inland Pack Track).
4: A second group, in the van, visited Hokitika Gorge, and walked the 2km loop in the morning. A pleasant,
shady, afternoon bush walk to Coal Creek was accessed by van and both cars for the large group. Some
large trees in this mixed beech-podocarp forest and a beautiful waterfall made this track memorable.
Having made evening visits to the beach, observing the many driftwood fires, we decided to have one of
our own! Ian, David R, Tina and others built a substantial framework for the flames to rise! Jill provided
marshmallows, and the toasting began. Phillip shared a devotion on experiencing ‘God moments’ as we reflect
on the tramping sights and sounds. Later Don read another chapter of the Narnia book by the bonfire.
January 5: (A rest day). A second group walked the Point Elizabeth Walkway, while others decided
to enjoy coffee and peruse the shops! Some walked along the top of the Breakwater, observing the Mining
Memorial with names of deceased miners from 1865 onwards. Sobering to see how many disasters there have
been, with the Pike River casualties the latest names. 2pm – Trampers for the next two options had to
transfer to Reefton, with the van returning to Greymouth for Day-walker’s ongoing use. In the evening
Barbara shared her devotion on the personal implications for Creation from ‘Café Theology’ reading. Created
for us by God, underpins His plan for us to be His family.
January 6: After
the juggle of loading luggage for 16 into cars and van, we set off for Westport. (van 9, Peter’s Car
4 & Lynn’s car 3). First stop was the Truman Track just north of Punakaiki. Native trees are identified
on the gravelled? track, which leads downwards to the coast with its pounding breakers, rocky headlands,
but also some sandy beaches off limits. (only safe at low tide). The track ended series of solid, well
fenced platforms providing the views in safety. We anticipated a walk in Charleston but the access was
not easy and we moved on the Cape Foulwind. But Kim had dropped her phone, and inquiries had not been
successful. The weather continued perfectly fine and warm for venturing along Cape Foulwind Walkway,
a potentially cold and bitter place in other conditions. Having had lunch at the northern end, David
drove one group to the south end and Barbara led the other. We stepped up the short rocky side-track
to the lighthouse, enjoyed the wide rocky vistas all along the track, viewed a memorial to Abel Tasman
and a Seal Colony to the south, until we picked up the van for our return. From here we drove into Westport
and located our accommodation at the Westport Holiday park. Some of us in cabins and others in chalets.
We used the communal kitchen and spacious outdoor seating area for meals. A kind man from Charleston
Adventure Centre drove to Westport to return Kim’s now discovered phone!
January 7: It was
a misty morning when most of the group made a long trip north to visit the Oparara Arches. Peter’s car
also reached the end of the Heaphy track and tramped to the lookout for a great view, now the weather
had cleared. All three arches were visited. Three stayed in Westport and appreciated the Visitor Centre
and Museum which displayed machinery and history of the Denniston Mine. A video in the back ‘Mine Area’
demonstrated the different methods of coal extraction and gave a great background for our upcoming visit.
Barbara shared Part 2 of her Café Theology Devotions and about respecting all that God has made, including
our fellow travellers on life’s journey.
January 8: Visit to Denniston Mine. Accessed up a
winding narrow sealed road to the Plateau, we began on the Brakehead walk. Views of a very steep incline
and wagons that were lowered down it on a pulley system. Wagons descending pulled the empty ones back
up. Stories of residents climbing up the incline, dodging wagons, until a track was formed in 1864. The
hard life and danger of life here was very evident. We drove further down the road to the Museum (old
school house) where a generation coal miner and Hill Resident welcomed us and spoke of his life here.
We walked around the town loop – wet underfoot and swampy, with chimney remnants past the old bowling
green. Driving further inland we reached the 1.5km flat track to Coalbrookdale Mines, and a large brick
fan house for extracting stale air and replacing with fresh. Informative Information Boards showing housing
and shop locations on the way up the valley. Returned to Westport for lunch, before travelling onto stay
in Reefton for the next part of our tramping programme.
January 8: After
arrival all joined for dinner at Dawson’s Hotel, including the overnight trampers from Nina Valley and
Kirwans-Montgomerie. Accommodation at the Old Nurses Home, Shiel St, Reefton.
January 9: A
group of us attended the Reefton Baptist Church and significantly swelled their congregation. In the
afternoon some had appreciated videos showing at the Visitor Centre about the Denniston Mine and Waiuta
Historic township. In the evening Phillip shared a devotion about God’s nature seen in creation.
January 10: Early van trip to Waiuta township to drop off Overnight walkers. Day walkers and Lake Christabel
groups travelled together to drop off 3 O/n trampers, before taking the Lake Daniells track to view the
Lake and the new hut there. 2.5hrs each way. They enjoyed viewing the new hut and the lakeside. Creation
part 3 Devotion by Barbara. God is distinct from Creation. We worship Him.
January 11: Day
walkers made the trip up the narrow winding road to Waiuta , and followed the Rectangular extended walk
around the village, beginning at the Post Office site, with acknowledgements to the photographer who
captured much of the history on display. Passed the Barber Shop, a homestead, the Hospital (now a DoC
lodge), the Head teacher’s house site adjacent to the school location. Rugby field with posts still standing,
cabins for single workers, and the ‘Long Walk’ back to the start. (2 hours in all). While having lunch,
the overnight group emerged 1-2 hours earlier than expected. We made our way back to Reefton. Late-afternoon
pick up of the Lake Christabel ?