St James/Harpers Pass blog | November/December 2013

The St James Walkway and the Harper pass route are not full-on, in your face, super magnificent scenery with the spectacular vistas of, say, Travers saddle, or around Anapai, or the nikau beaches of the Heaphy, or the constant but changing sea views of Stewart Island.

No superb highlights, instead it’s all somewhat low-key: the Cannibal Gorge swingbridge; the climb up towards Three Tarns Pass, getting stabbed by that pointy aciphylla: the paradise ducks, err, ducklings; Caroline Creek bivvy in all its tiny glory; Lake Guyon; the 1870s Stanley Vale hut still with some ancient paraphernalia; the spectacular and unexpected Stanley Gorge; the Waiau River crossing, well, that last one and then the even more heart-rate-pumping Henry River the next day; some snow in the hills at the Anne valley; the red beech forest around Lake Sumner; staying at Harper Pass Bivvy, seems I like the confined accommodations; the views around Harper Pass and, indeed, trudging down the bouldery Taramakau River . . .

Yeah, nothing much really.

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Day 1 | Ada Pass Hut: right in those mountains

St James Walkway, North Canterbury

Cannibal Gorge is gorgeous, a scenic river, the Maruia, and there’s plenty of flowering happening, most notably a profusion of white on the otherwise dark green of some species of hebe.

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Day 2 | Ada Pass hut: a second night, this time alone

Three Tarn Pass route, Nelson Lakes National Park

Back at the hut mid-afternoon I’m now on my lonesome, might stay this way for a few days, ie, solitude, it’s sure quiet, just the nearby stream doing it’s rushing sound and the rain dripping from the roof.

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Day 3 | Christopher Hut: and some more faces appear

five Paradise ducklings on St James Walkway, North Canterbury

A night of conversation with strangers in a hut, that’s much of what this tramping business is all about.

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Day 4 | Caroline Bivvy, somewhat off the St James Walkway track

Waiau River, North Canterbury

It’s not often I have a change of plans about my destination on an impromptu basis.

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Day 5 | Lake Guyon, more honking geese, lots more

Waiau River, North Canterbury

The hut is on the edge of a small patch of mountain beech, the lake just down there and a considerable expansion on last night’s bivvie, fully cat, or possum, swingable.

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Day 6 | Pool Hut: pool, hunh?

Stanley River gorge, North Canterbury

The direct route, plow straight across the Waiau, a more serious prospect down here, but the river fans out somewhat above a set of rapids, from this elevation you can see the bottom, doesn’t look completely ridiculous, I planned the route from on high, found a trusty stick, and the river turns out knee deep, flowing swiftly, 6 inches more would have been interesting, the main thing is to take it slow enough to be sure of the footing and stashing those two cameras in waterproof bags.

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Day 7 | Anne Hut: finally back on track

 junction of Henry and Waiau Rivers, North Canterbury

The day’s major adventure, and it was a serious enough situation, was crossing the flooded Henry River, not looking too promising at the nominated point, the dirty water washing past in one channel of unknown depth.

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Day 8 | Magdalen Hut: back on my lonesome

Anne Hut, St James Walkway, North Canterbury

First day of summer, so I guess that means we get snow.

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Day 9 | Hope Kiwi Lodge: a big day on the trail

Boyle River, Lake Sumner Forest Park

Tired? Yeah, a bit.

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Day 10 | Hurunui Hut: on my own, or am I?

Red beech trees, near Lake Sumner

It’s the middle of the night, then, as predicted as soon as horizontal Phil started snoring, a degree of contentment there in the tone, almost like a cat, but then, a very large cat indeed. A giant lion, or tiger, perhaps.

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Day 11 | Harper Pass Bivvy: up here again

deer legs, Huranui Hut, Lake Sumner Forest Park

The bivvy is three quarter size, just the 6 feet wide, 8 feet long, ie, I’m not actually able to fully stretch out in the bunk, and I’ve hit my head on everything, the upper bunk, twice, the short door, twice, the low-flying collar tie, a rafter, twice, basically I’m getting intimately involved.

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Day 12 | Kiwi Hut: there’s even supposed to be kiwis around

upper Taramakau River from Harper Pass, Arthurs Pass National Pass

Much of the interest was in the vegetation today, the pass is at 965 m and there’s some sub-alpine species, two dracophyllums, an oleria, a hebe or two, flowering flax, flowering celmisias

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Day 13 | Greymouth, Noahs Ark: with all the animals, I'm a sheep

Taramakau River, Harper Pass route , West Coast

And so ends that almost two weeks in the hills.