Escape • Explore • Enjoy

While the bodies still can and we still have our marbles!

Category: NZ Travel

Nina Hut: Bookings Not Required – First Come, First Served

Follow the arrow this way.

Nina Hut sits on an open knoll surrounded by beech forest and mountains.

The Department of Conservation (DOC) information reads that it is an easy 1-3 hour walk to the 10-bunk bed hut; is a good overnight option for families with children who have some tramping experience or new trampers and, bookings not required – first come, first served.

An ideal start to getting out onto the back-yard landscape.  We had even convinced a friend (Maree) whom surprisingly accepted our invite to join us even though the toilet was going to be a long drop and sleeping conditions possibly squashed up alongside a total stranger.

It had a log fire and so purchasing a bag of kindling and wooden logs bridged the thought of a snuggly night up in the bush, away from suburbia.  All we had to do was carry them in and walk the distance for it to become a reality.

Kindling and logs for the hut log fire.

We forgot that Maree doesn’t do crossing swing bridges without hyperventilating nigh on having a heart attack.  So, when we parked up the car, lifted the back packs onto our backs and walked a couple of hundred metres up the road to the start of the track, we arrived at our first of two swing bridges to cross.  The maximum one-person load per crossing didn’t help the situation however, we managed to coach Maree across giving high fives when we too swayed unevenly to reach the bank beyond.

The first swing bridge to cross.

The Lewis River.

There, there was the hut book where you sign in to advise your intention as a mountain safety practice.  Oh f..k!  Ahead of us was a group of 11 Venturer Scouts going to stay the night at the hut and, already a family of five who were going to stay a second night.  It meant the hut was full and squashing our best laid plans to escape into the wilderness for the night.

The conversation that followed resulted us in going back to the car, dumping all the overnight stuff to still head into the hut for a day trek, only carrying a day pack.  But before we did any of that, we had to get Maree back across the river and then, back across the river for a third time!  With incremental confidence each time, she did it.  The firewood purchased too sat in the car as we traipsed off towards Nina.

The lushness of fauna and flora rising from the forest floor to stretch up towards the light was staggeringly stunning.  All shades of greens complemented the earthly smelling browns (rot and decay) and care had to be taken navigating tree roots.  Sometimes we had to negotiate sections of track that were mud baths – it was easy to follow someone’s tracks who had gone before, sniggering at a wrong step where the imprint would eventually crust up from the sun’s rays or fill up from a down pour.

Creek crossings were part and parcel of the track, keeping balance critical so as not to end up on your arse saturated.  Walking poles helped.  There was undulation.  The track cut towards flowing river water and then inland to total silence where only our conversation broke the tranquillity.  We had to go further into the valley before bird song was heard.  It’s slowly rebounding after pests have decimated the native feathered friends to close to extinction.  Traplines to snare stouts or weasels play their part – two vermin had taken the bait to lay lifeless from the snapped shut trap.

We were encapsulated by the dark green water depths from a gorge.  Water must rise and fall considerably as two tree trunks laid horizontal up the cliff faces.  A joke was made that we would have to cross it using the logs for Maree’s sake.  Hahahahahaha as we all laughed.

Green meets brown.

Undulation.

The path for when it bogs.

Life on the forest floor.

Emerald Green of Nina River.

That didn’t last long.  We climbed a small rise to a second swing bridge that we couldn’t see because of the tree canopy.  Below were the logs we joked about.  Getting Maree across was another team effort and again, she got there.   We didn’t joke about stuff like that again!

The next two hours was more track, tree roots, mud negotiation, creek crossings and green and browns.  Arriving at the hut was welcomed and yep, chock full of other beings staying the night.  We sat down outside with views of snow-capped mountain tops to eat lunch.

And then they came, by the hundreds.  The Sandfly.  Or, Sandflies to be more accurate.  They are vicious little bastards that sink their mouth parts into unprotected skin to draw blood; leaving a welt that can be itchy from the excretion they inject before the sucking.  We may not have poisonous snakes or spiders or wild beasts – but we do have the sandfly that is the scourge of the bush to ruin all types of forest paradise.  Even though Bushmans 80% Deet insect repellent was lathered on, the little bastards will still kamikaze in to locate the parts missed to take the bite.  In-between bites, hands were working overtime to slap as many as we could dead.

Crossing the higher swing bridge.

Not far now.

The blood sucking Sand Fly.

Nina Hut.

Snare-traps doing their job to eradicate pest vermin who have decimated our native birds.

The Gorge.

Chatting with the Fan Tail.

Carrying fly spray is a must if staying the night so as you can fumigate the hut before climbing into your sleeping bag for the night.  That too was back down at the car.

Some photo’s taken and then we retraced our steps back down the mountainside; Maree crossing the swing bridges with better ease.  Back at the car, we made the decision to head back towards home, stopping in at Hanmer Springs for a hot pool soak.  Well deserved, given the six or so hours on the feet.

Arrr, what the heck, we found a lovely backpacker’s to crash the night, picked up some Scrumpy Cider for Maree as we consumed the wine disguised in our water bottle and enjoyed a chat with a fellow backpacker who was sharing the joint.

Made special because, the fella was in his early nineties.

Sometimes the best laid plans when disrupted can end up resulting in a better time had.

It’s just how the world turns, sometimes.

Scrumpy Cider – thirst quenching 8% Alcohol to sooth aching body parts.

Seek the treasure you value most dearly.

Onuku, Banks Peninsula, Aotearoa (New Zealand)

It’s been a just over a week since the transition back into our New Zealand life.

Spring is at full speed; New Zealand wine is the best; daylight saving has arrived and, there is something too be said about sleeping in your own bed.

But one shouldn’t get too comfortable.

We have a back yard to escape onto, explore more of, so as we too get to enjoy our own slice of paradise.

Just like all those who cross our borders to visit or come to live.

“Whāia te iti kahurangi ki te tūohu koe me he maunga teitei.”

Translated, “Seek the treasure you value most dearly: if you bow your head, let it be to a lofty mountain.”

This whakatauki is about aiming high for what is truly valuable, but it’s real message is to be persistent and don’t let obstacles stop you from reaching your goal.

Just include some escaping to explore to enjoy people.

No matter where on the planet.

BIKING THE GREAT COAST ROAD – Part 2: Punakaiki to Greymouth

The room looked like a laundry mat drying room except for one difference, nothing had been washed.  Wet apparel was a combination of perspiration and mother nature.  The quicker you drifted off into sub-consciousness, the faster you weren’t sucking in the fumes of stench.  Keeping a window open invited the nightly blood sucking monsters and somewhere amongst it, we gained an hour of shut eye through day light saving!  All part and parcel of ‘life on the road.’

WP98 - 050415 Sunrise at PunakaikiWatching the sunrise on the West Coast in reality is more about watching the moon set.  A fellow backpacker aged 10 years rose early to share the experience.  That and a couple of games of Genga with BClaire before other souls fronted.

 

Short sleeves, sun block and shades were the barometer for the days ride ahead.  More insect goo to hide the pleasant smell of clothes re-worn.

WP108 Punakaiki is a must destination to visit on a travel itinerary.  30 million year old towering limestone formations form the renown giant Pancake Rocks.  Dolomite Point gives the best views and when the tide is at highest ebb, the blowholes shoot sea spray metres into the air similar to a whale exhaling air.

WP109WP119WP121WP126WP135

Shags with wings spanned open to catch the rays and dry feathers, rest before they swoop and plunge into the ocean swell.  I wonder if they stink if their cloaks don’t dry properly?!

The approach to carrying and eating meals went wonky after the first spoonful of soup touched the taste buds the day before.  So keeping with tradition, eggs and bacon from the cafe opposite the pancakes were gobbled down as we witnessed the hordes of tourist traffic arrive and depart.  This meant contending with passing buses on the narrow road south with similar coastline ridden, also as the day before.

WP144The Barrytown settlement (population 15) had an old pub turned backpackers for sale.  Photo’s of nudity and frolicking collaged walls not leaving much to the imagination.  A Fantail bird flying around the rafters made for uneasiness, Maori folklore would have one believe it signals death.

WP147Coal mining surpassed gold mining to sustain the economy on the West Coast and for a small part of the year, the Tasman sea is awash with the scrumptious delicacy – whitebait.  Transparent beady eyed 2inch fish when cooked in batter turn white and when dipped in tomato sauce, turn the colour of yum!

 

WP155Runanga was the last township cycled through before we hopped off the bikes for the last time.  Another coal mining township, a coal bucket statue pays tribute to the many that have forged deep into mountainsides or down mine shafts to extricate the black gold.  There was something reflective about the smell of coal burning wafting through the air bringing back childhood memories of an open fire, a red glow and hot heat.  Runanga too has had its share of being a hot spot – it was the last place in the South Island to execute a convicted killer by way of hanging; and in 1967, 19 miners lost their lives due to a mine explosion.

The Great Coast Road has so much more to offer – caving and tramping, horse trekking, surfing, gemstone hunting, heritage sites, art and craft activities, glow worms and gold panning to name but a few.  Attractions left open for a future time.

WP163And although Greymouth was our destination, we peddled a few more kilometres to Dobson where friends Lloyd and Vivien hosted us at their batch they are renovating.  Before the tools were downed and the cork of a wine popped to salute the two days bums on seats, Lloyd cut and nailed a bed together for Alannah.  It was positioned in the kitchen beside the stove, a nice way for Alannah to switch back into suburbia the next day.

We too started the transition; the dozen sausages carried by BClaire from Westport to Greymouth by bike, were at last eaten.

BIKING THE GREAT COAST ROAD – Part 1: Westport to Punakaiki

WP15The chap draped in gold wearing stubby shorts and cowboy boots reminiscent of an 80’s porn star had two sentences of advice for us, as we exited the New World supermarket .  “If you can’t see the mountains, it’s already raining.  If you can see the mountains, it’s about to rain.”

And damn it, he was right.

Laden with worldly belongings for the two days cycle touring, it was only a matter of pedal rotations before the heavens opened up and down came the moisture from above.  The vehicle spray creep slowly into the abyss of our butt cracks yet as a threesome, we grimaced the landscape undulation to reach Charleston some 25kms later.

 

WP41Biking from Westport to Greymouth seemed a great idea by our friend Alannah who knew we would be up for the adventure.  I could only imagine what was going through her mind as we sat hovered over hot soup and toasted bread peering through the blurred glass windows at the torrential rain.  But we knew that the conditions were a test of stamina … resist a third bowl of soup; re-cloth in the wet clothes; and re-saddle to keep going.

WP57The Lonely Planet describes the stretch of road we were traveling as one of the top 10 coastal drives in the world.  The Paparoa National Park didn’t disappoint with rainforest at times coming right down to the sea.

 

WP78WP65WP66 - Historic Fox River BridgeWP74

The beaches that skirmish the foreshore is home to the world’s smallest penguin however, our attention was on safety so as not join the road kill frequently evidenced atop our bike seats – opossum, pukeko and weka.  Oh, and the hedgehog of course.  Nikau Palms, the type you see in desert oasis are dotted across the landscape in their hundreds of thousands, lush and green.  We did wish the sand flies were too only found in the desert as well.  When we stopped to absorb the view or rest after a climb, they were unrelenting at feeding off any bare skin not covered or lathered in Bushman’s 80% Deet repellent.

WP94The grind up to Irimahuwhero Lookout gave the greatest views of the raw rugged coastline, both north from where we had originated, to the south and our destination Punakaiki.  The distance covered was only 51kms, a fair and reasonable start to getting back on the bike after the bike crash last year and for Alannah’s introduction to cycle touring.

WP84WP85

We often believe that some our best conversations have been had in a backpackers except we ventured some more to frequent the tavern and meet some locals.WP97a Not once did we meet anyone who was born and bred on the Coast with extra body parts that is often rumoured.

The weatherman porn star earlier in the day wearing his cowboy boots did stride kind of weird though.

Perhaps the weight from all his gold?  Or the tightness of his stubby shorts?  Or an extra couple of toes!

WP96