Four beats to freedom - a horseback journey through New Zealand

Mary's New Zealand Diary    (sent 24 January)

See map for this section of the journey here.
The weather has not been kind in January – which should have been the sunniest bit of the journey! The Hurunui remained uncrossably high and dirty, so we had to go round over the bridge by float, to a station called Island Hills . 

This had the one advantage of leaving Boris just a wee bit disorientated – he might have had a rather dim view of setting off from home otherwise!! As it was he saw something in the bushes, whilst saying good bye to Rob…

At Island Hills they breed LLAMAS . The boys found these pretty alarming , but they bravely crept past them on tiptoe and went on up the Mandamus stream to Valley Camp which is a very lovely spot beside a wide stream…. with the hungriest , most vicious sand flies in the south island. The poor boys were really troubled by them and couldn’t stand still for long enough to eat properly!

The cloud sat low over the tops as we set off over the Organ Range, following tight and steep bush tracks over two saddles at about 800 metres, and creeping through some lovely native forest thick with birds and lichen, before tackling a long steep climb up to the boundary fence with Glynn Wye, at over 1000 m. I was impressed with both boys on this – they had had a week off, but they got into their rhythm and ploughed on up, zigzagging through what was almost alpine scrub, with scarcely a break. 

It was of course an equally long haul down to the Hope valley, where, having forgotten to confirm with Glynn Wye exactly which day I would be going through I found a locked gate and had to pop a couple of staples and tie a fence down to get onto the main Lewis Pass Road! I might add I left the staples in tighter than I found them.

The Hope River was bright and clean, though it came well above the bottom of the saddle flaps where I crossed it (not realising there was a ford further up!!) and we made our way up to Glenhope Station without difficulty. Despite heavy rain that night, the Waiau was not discoloured and Rod Milne advised me to go on up the valley before it rose further , since it can be a difficult river to cross. 

It is much narrower than the others we have encountered, but swift and full of boulders, and had I not been able to see the tracks where a commercial trekking group had gone through earlier that afternoon I would have had grave misgivings about tackling it at all. Borrie was packing and did in fact get stuck up against a rock mid stream for a few moments, but they are both pretty pragmatic about these things and we came out unscathed on the other side. 

We eventually found our way find up a bush track up from the mouth of the Edwards river towards Charlie’s saddle and reached what I believe is known as Scotties Camp, on St James Station. You can see it as a tiny speck in this photo…

I loved Scottie’s – a tiny hut with just 4 bunks and an old cast iron stove, and with a great horse paddock, and was really quite glad when heavy rain the following day made it prudent to stay put and give the boys a day off! I had company from some chaps who were pighunting, in the afternoon – whether they actually got a pig or not I don’t know, since at last count they had lost two dogs and didn’t know up which gully they were hunting….
On into the Clarence river valley in grey, wet conditions – a big southerly blew through for several days, but at least the rain was at my back. One night we spent at Fowlers hut, next to the ‘Hydro road’ – this is very much a has-been- hut and in fact I put my stuff under cover and slept in the tent, out of reach of rodents and starlings.

We came over Island pass into the Rainbow valley in heavy rain, and spent a night in the doc Hut at Island gully where Foggy was glad to wear his WEATHERBEETA cover, and both were glad to have a proper feed of NRM COOLADE before spending a wet night in the rather small and rainswept patch of tussock.

The Rainbow Valley is spectacular and I was looking forward to it as the high spot in the whole trip scenically. Sadly I spent most of the time trying to imagine what the tops of the mountains looked like, and how the colours might be under a blue sky! It comes in to a very narrow and magnificent gorge, with the river chasing well below you. We used another Doc hut, at Connors Creek where the boys staged a getaway in the evening , thinking that they might just get back to Harwarden for a proper meal before nightfall I suspect!!

Then we were back in ‘civilisation’ though my cell phone did not work for another two days. A night at Raglan station, and a long ride down the north bank of the Wairau to Blenheim where we were in the heart of the Marlborough wine producing area 

In Blenheim we were met by the mayor– the boys ran the gauntlet of the Saturday morning shopping malls to get to the main square, fazed only by fountains, which were a new experience…

Interisland Horse Transport   are very generously supplying our long distance transport, and were fantastically efficient – we were picked up at 10.25, on the ferry at 11.30 and in Wellington at Upper Hutt RDA by 3.00pm. The last view of the South Island was for me a sad one….

Then on Saturday we all three had our big day at the Racecourse at Trentham Park., This was Wellington Cup day – a big day in the racing calendar. The cup itself is run of 3200 m, and was won this year by Cyclades. We led out the 4th race, parading with them first in the ‘birdcage‘ (paddock)

There cant be all that many pack horses who have paraded at Trentham, let alone cantered down the straight….

So now we start the north Island, setting out properly on 2nd February. It will be very different. I hope I will find it easier to keep in touch with the website, and to take photos – really the weather has been so bad in the mountains that there was little point in taking out the camera which is disappointing…






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