St James’ Walkway

We had two goes at this four or five day tramp, both of which were spoilt and eventually curtailed by a lot of water. Other friends have done the tramp in dry sunshine and really enjoyed it. We must have another go one day soon.

The first attempt was just after New Year and we drove up from Christchurch and left the car at Boyle Lodge.

It was fine when we started and the first few km were nice. We trundled along through the forest and then down a steep, sharp descent to the river and across a suspension bridge. From here the track follows the true right of the river which can be quite wide at times. The valley opens out and the terrain alternates from walking across (very sodden) flats to up and down in the forest to circumvent the many streams that feed the river,

A sharp left turn and up over a ridge brings you to another big bridge. The final couple of km are quite steep as the track climbs up through the forest before descending through open paddocks and across yet another bridge to Boyle Flat hut.

There was a party of four nearing the end of their tramp along the walkway (going the other way) in residence when we arrived, plus a lone tramper finishing off the long distance path down the length of New Zealand. Now there is a goal for the future.

He was on leave from the army and very self contained. When we looked on his blog once we were out we had a mention, but only because we had woken him up as one of us clambered out of bed for a midnight pee. It rained all night,

It was still raining in the morning and there were severe weather warnings out for the main divide and our area in particular. We were not so keen as we wandered out and set off up the valley. After an hour we reached the Rokeby hut and had a brew.

We were soaked, my foot was sore, I was nervous about Gail and Carole’s knee was sore too. Gail was all for carrying on but common sense prevailed and we retreated down the valley and got comfortable in the Magdalen hut. A nice four bed hut, this got overpoweringly hot as the fire roared and dried us out.

It is very new and smart. We crossed a small stream just before the hut, ankle deep.

The rain fell steadily all night, alternating between heavy and torrential. After breakfast we ventured out to look at the stream. This was now waist deep and a good 10m wide. A lot of coercion was needed before we all grabbed each other and struggled across as a four and set off up the river towards the bridge. Water flowed along the track, ankle deep, and boulders crashed in the river as the flood swept them downstream.

The river was in full spate when we reached the bridge. This was safe enough, but it felt quite exciting as the water flashed underneath carrying trees and boulders with it.

A few more hours and we were back at the car, absolutely soaked.

Time to beat a retreat to Christchurch.

A couple of weeks later we were returning across the pass from our trip to the West Coast. A lull in the weather tempted us to start the St James again, this time from the other end. Four hours later the rain was heavier than ever, the rivers were even fuller and we turned back at the hut. The side streams, innocuous in good weather, were full of water and required river crossing techniques to get across them. With just the two of us things got a little precarious, but we made it.

We stood in the shelter, stripped off our clothes and had some hut food before giving up, this time for good.

Looking back we had managed about 50km on the track, crossed five suspension bridges and been up to our waist in water at least five times. It does rain sometimes!

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