June 2017 – Sylvester Hut and Sylvester Lake.
The first weekend of winter 2017 brought a nice little bonus if a trip to the top of South Island. I was working in Nelson on the Friday so Gail flew with me, picked up a hire care and explored Nelson while I had a nice workshop with some clients. The hills behind the city are worth exploring and the Grampians give a fine stroll with excellent views.
We headed to Motueka for the night and returned to the Top 10 campsite. Their motel units are classy and great value. Saturday was a wonderful day: sunny, cold and very crisp. There was a clear frost as we headed over the Tutakaka hill and up the Cobb Valley. This road is rather exciting, especially when the river gorge closes in. The first 10km is fine, the next is narrow and windy along a road cut into the sides of the gorge, mostly single track. The last third, after the power station, is a windy gravel road with a stunning stop on the ridge for a view over the reservoir. We headed and down and turned right at the bottom to park at the start of the track to Sylvester Hut.
This is a gorgeous walk, two hours of sometimes steep ascent along a landrover track, through the forest until the trees thin and become smaller. A km or so before the hut you pop onto tussock land and the hut is clearly visible over to the left. It is a nice 12 bunker and we sat and drank in the view from the deck. Rows and rows of peaks with the alps glistening in the distance.
We carried on a while to Sylvester Lake and then the next. It was tempting to head on to Iron Peak, another hour r so, but the sun was dropping and it was far colder than we Aucklanders are used to. We raced down and arrived at the car with burning thighs. The heavy frost had not disappeared from much of the track and the road was shorter on the way out. Such a superb walk, and a taster of what we might do in the warmer summer months.
The Aorere Goldfields
On Sunday the weather looked a little unsettled so we stayed low and drove down the Aorere River, heading towards the start of the Heaphy Track again. A short way down the valley the goldfield track gives a nice 10km loop up to about 800m. There is quite a climb, far more than we expected, up through the bush until a couple of caves make a stop worth some time. These are decent limestone caves with stalagmite and stalactite formations. Our torch was dimming but we wandered a fair way inside.
From these two caves, the track follows a well-engineered water sluice to Duggan’s Dam, with great views over Golden Bay along the way. We had lunch but some spits of rain spurred us on and down. We just got back as the rain started.
We headed back to the coast and up to Farewell Spit to be real tourists. There is definitely a day’s worth of good walking exploring the coastline up there but we settled for a walk up the hill to the lookout and a drive to other short walks that we turned down as the rain really settled in, hard and cold.
Abel Tasman National Park
The forecast for Monday was for snow lowering to 500m, so we scuttled back over the hill first thing to make sure we were on the right side if it really came down that far. There were hints of sleet over the top, and the ranges had a good dusting high up. We wandered around the start of the Abel Tasman Great Walk, remembering previous trips from over 14 years ago. We had a wander along Kaiteriteri beach (which such a lovely golden colour) before retiring t the cafes of Nelson and a flight home.
It was a great weekend and makes you realise how much great country there is around. Our tastes are whetted for a three or four nighter around and up Mt Arthur.