(Back) Into the wild


Our nation was recently released back into the wild. New Zealand stepped down a grade from its ‘Level 3’ COVID-19 lockdown to a (much more conducive to adventure) ‘Level 2’.*

*Basically this meant that we could start hanging around in groups outside our household ‘bubble’ and get out and about tramping and adventuring again.

We opted to avoid the classic ‘Into the Wild’ adventure (subsist on dodgy berries/seeds alone in the wilderness). Instead keeping things a little more laid back, with a womble to Cedar Flat hut (better than a rusty school bus) and hot springs, (by all accounts warmer than the Teklanika river).

The track to Cedar Flat hut

First stop. Hokitika for a spot of touristing. (Well, third—after a stop for pies in Sheffield and snacks in Arthurs Pass…)

Procrastinating and snacking over, we had run out of excuses. It became necessary to don our overnight packs (some adjustments to straps required after a few week’s without the regular weekend tramping adventures).

The track itself was a reassuringly gentle gradient. alternating between following the rocky banks of the Toaroha River and stretches of moss-enveloped West Coast magic.

The trail was suitably non-threatening for our first post-lockdown excursion.

My favourite section of the track was when we climbed above the Toaroha canyon to weave our way along a remnant of the old logging track. Thus avoiding a rather perilous sounding stretch of river (based on the thunderous echo from below).

This took us through lush, mossy green undergrowth, bathed with the dappled glow breaking through the canopy of gnarled trees and delicate ferns. Just the kind of place to make you forget about the weight of an overnight pack…

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Magical West Coast trail.

Being a former logging tramway, the incline continued to be mostly gentle. There were sections where it had either been swept away entirely by landslides or had given way into a jumbled tangle or rocks and tree roots as the hillsides had slowly subsided.

As we began to descend back towards the river we started catching glimpses of the rugged walls of the canyon opposite and the sparkling blue waters below.

A break in the trees gave us a view of our destination, just as the sun was starting to recede from the river bed in the area of the flats.

There was a last short rocky riverside ramble before arriving at a conveniently situated swing bridge. (And some of the Cedar trees for which the area is named).

One of the Cedars that give the area its name.

There are two huts on the site. The first, the historic hut, resplendent with glossy orange paint. The second, a newer hut, less glamorous, but more suitable for our larger group to dine. Although we mostly opted to camp on the tussock flats outside.

The two bunk historic hut.

And dine we did, I was sampling one of my home-made dehy meals (Tastier than it sounds). But there were also plenty of grilled ribs, sturdy steaks, mulled wine and sweet treats floating around.

Some of the group made the 15 minute wander to the nearby hot springs while others opted not to leave the cosy warmth of the hut.

It turns out that during the lockdown the season had well and truly shifted from the last remnants of a seemingly endless Summer to late Autumn chill, as it wasn’t too long into the evening before everything was encrusted in an icy blanket of frost.

The morning began with a hearty breakfast that included toasted bagels with cream cheese, salmon, capers and dill. (Because tramping should be luxurious when it’s that cold out).

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We packed up our tents, shaking storms of sparkling frost crystals into the air and reversed course through the chill morning air.

After an obligatory stop in Hokitika for ice-cream we made our way back home, knowing that the next weekend of adventures wasn’t too far away.

A trip to Cedar Flat makes for a great weekend trip from Christchurch, although next time we might have to continue a bit further… the tracks in the area can take you to a huge network of hut. Also. Adventure Ridge to Adventure Bivvy? A bit too hard to resist that one…

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