Our current phase of life doesn’t lend itself well to spontaneous weekend trips. To go on an overnight tramp or kayak or bike trip, the weekend needs to be staked out on the calendar weeks (sometimes months) in advance, when the spouse’s calendar, the hiking companion’s calendar, and the companion’s spouse’s calendar is still free. Clearly, we can’t schedule the sun’s part in this orchestration.
That’s one of the many reasons I enjoy planning activities with Sally. As a native of England, she lives by the adage “there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.” She’s not going to ditch weekend plans because of a spot of rain, or a deluge really….but we may shift locations to avoid the worst of the river crossings.
Which is just what we did looking at the weekend forecast on Thursday night. We had bantered around ideas for a few hikes in Arthur’s pass, but the Metservice radar looked particularly unfriendly for that region. We thought we could detect a little relief from the precipitation if we went a bit further south, so we set our sights on Stour River, about 1.5 hours southwest of Christchurch.
As we drove we kept peering hopefully through the flopping windshield wipers. “There, there’s a light spot in the clouds up there,” Sally observed, optimistically, pointing at the sullen sky. The drizzle would ease for a few minutes before resuming again.
Still, when we arrived at the car park the misty precipitation hadn’t turned into anything worse, and it wasn’t windy. We zipped up our coats but didn’t don rain jackets.
There were several small river crossings on the track, and I had rather hoped to be able to bike across them with dry feet. Sally was more pragmatic. She whipped off her boots before each ford, preserving dry shoes for the next day’s tramp, and I decided to follow suite.
We made it to Manuka Hut for lunch, and decided to keep moving to Double Hut, not far up the valley.
At Double Hut there were residents already in place–though they weren’t there in person.
They had stacked all 6 mattresses under their 3 sleeping bags and we surmised that they were hunters, from the empty bullet shells lined up on the window sills.
There weren’t lots of beer or whiskey bottles and they may have been a perfectly pleasant bunch, but the afternoon was still early so we decided to head back to Manuka Hut, where we’d probably have it to ourselves.
It was a bit drizzly on our way back to Manuka Hut, so we were happy to arrive (again).
There aren’t many trees in the Hakatere and most down wood was wet from the recent rain, but we scavenged some dead standing wood out of a small tree and Sally built a fire. It was more for ambiance than warmth, since an open fire doesn’t warm the hut like a wood stove, but it was still good.
While Sally tended the fire (one match start!) I cooked dinner.
We were thankful for warm sleeping bags that night. One of the luxuries of sleeping in a hut without other guests is the opportunity for a sleep in. I didn’t wake up until 8:00; it was great.
It’s hard to tell, but this is the dawn of a sunny day, before the sun has peaked over the mountain to warm the valley.
We spent a little time basking while eating breakfast
Enjoying the sun that was a pleasant surprise given the previous day’s weather
We packed lunch and climbed the ridge behind the hut
Climbing gave us a great view of the massive glacial valley spread out below us, with the ridges of rock that the glacier hadn’t obliterated strung out between the gravel-filled valleys with hanging terraces.
The mountains in the other direction were covered in snow. I had debated about bringing my snow shoes, hoping to make fresh tracks, but we didn’t go high enough to need them.
It’s fun hiking with a geologist (Sally), because she has good explanations for the landscape we’re gazing at, and doesn’t seem to mind my rapid fire questions.
Snug photo/lunch spot, before the wind picked up.
Since we had biked up the river valley the day before, the way out was a gentle downhill, almost imperceptible, except to make the biking a breeze.
Dry foot ford!
Wet foot ford, but not too soggy.
We finished out ride under sunny skies. when we got back to Christchurch, we learned that Saturday there had been downright wet, and Sunday morning had been drizzly. It makes the trip away that much sweeter to have escaped the bad weather!