This weekend was a “Westerly,” meaning the Southern Alps and the West Coast of NZ get torrents of rain. But as the front drops down from the mountains it becomes warm and dry, meaning the Canterbury plains get blustery sunny skies and unseasonable warmth, yet all weekend we can see the thick clouds hovering over the mountains…..and you’re just glad you aren’t up there! Sometimes even the huts get blown off the mountains in a Westerly. We headed for Hinewai Preserve on the Banks Peninsula, just over the hill from Akaroa in the photo.
Hinewai preserve fills the valley from the summit to the ocean. We parked our car at the top, gave Milo a bit of scramble time on the boulders, then headed off down the trail to the end of the bay where we spent the night in a cute little red hut.
Most of the peninsula is now grazing land for sheep, but once upon a time it was all wooded “bushland.” Hinewai preserve encompasses some big native trees like beeches, kahikatea and totara (the last two are podocarps, for the few of you interested in plant lore). It was set aside nearly 30 years ago, and since that time has been managed by Hugh Wilson, a “Tom Bombadil” character if there ever was one!
Hugh sports a thick white beard, a cheerful weather-beaten face, shorts in all weather, and an encyclopedic knowledge of Banks Peninsula flora and fauna. He has been Hinewai’s caretaker and chronicler for almost 3 decades as the valley has turned from invasive gorse (that pretty yellow-flowered thorn bush) into regenerating native forest. And, as you can see, he is both eccentric and humorous.
The red little cabin on the right was our spot for the night. Red is such a cheerful color.
Nothing fancy about the hut interior, but after we had swept the moth wings from the mattresses and encouraged the resident lizard (the messy eater who dropped the moth wings like so many crusts of bread) to head outside for the night, it was suitable. The lizard startled me because it scampered so unexpectedly quickly. I must have let out a little screech, much to Milo’s delight, and he recounted the incident in Milo fashion with relish repeatedly that evening (“Mommy, Aah! Liz move”).
At least we knew we were welcomed by people, whatever that lizard might have to say about the matter.
That porch gate was just Milo’s size, and he was careful to close it behind him as we left.
You could actually drive right to this hut if you wanted to, but we chose to walk down through the forest instead. I think that fierce looking fence behind Milo is simply guarding that cabbage tree from disturbances by animals.
The land at the tip of the ocean bay is actually privately owned by farmers, but they allow walkers to access the beach over their land. There must be paua (a big one-sided shell fish that cling to rocks) in the bay because their iridescent shells were common on the beach, and Milo thought the were perfect for scooping sand.
During the summer Hinewai boasts a nice new visitor’s center for guest accommodation (you can see the grassy clearing where it is perched on the shoulder of the hill on the left), another good spot to bring visitors if ever someone decides to make the trip to NZ!