Can’t Beat the West Coast on a Sunny Day – Paratu Stream Camp (Part One)

“A Mish a Day” #235 Paratu Stream – Part One. Arthurs Pass National Park. 28.12.2020. After my first proper Christmas with the whanau in 12 years I needed a good hike to burn off multiple Christmas feasts. Being the holiday season I would rather be working (time and a half!), but Christmas with the family is an excellent upside to a year (2020) which hasn’t given us many reasons to celebrate…

The excitement began before starting my hike with interesting holiday traffic on the road to Arthurs Pass. You can really understand why we have such terrible road tolls when you see a ute with a trailer passing a truck towing a boat plus another car on a blind corner! After so many missions on the Milford Road I have got used to insane drivers and their crazy antics, and it’s best to just let them pass. After driving through a very busy Arthurs Pass Village (post-Covid boom), I began the climb over the alpine pass, and then the descent into the stunning Otira Valley. The western side of the pass is a jaw dropping feat of engineering. Where the Otira River flows through a deep gorge, the road spans over the drop on a magnificent viaduct. This is a replacement to the old zig-zags at the ominously named ‘Deaths Corner’. It had been a while since my last trip to the West Coast, and with the sun shining its beauty is hard to beat. My injured hip meant minimal loads, so I was still using two bags to distribute the weight of my camping gear. I set off from the busy little roadside car park, and immediately crossed over the Otira River on the Morrison Footbridge. From the bridge the views were spectacular up and down the valley, even with the assortment of signs of mankind in the form of power pylons and railroad tracks. From the bridge I followed a section of the Te Araroa Trail, before gaining altitude via the open grassy flats at the base of One Shot Hill(1214m).

My objective was finding a campsite somewhere near where the Paratu Stream enters the glassy flats of the Otira Valley. Thanks to years of grazing by sheep and cattle there are excellent campsites in the lower reaches of Paratu Stream before it becomes a gorge. I found an awesome grassy location on the riverbank under a massive lone Rimu tree. First task accomplished, and now it was time to head back to the car for my second bag. On the journey back I realised it had taken about 45 minutes to find my campsite, so I knew it would be a while before I returned with the bag containing my tent. I left a Weka in charge of the camping area, and headed back across the grass-covered flats towards the constant hum of traffic on the West Coast Highway. After collecting my second bag I eventually I got back up to Paratu Stream with the rest of my gear (most importantly my tent), and as light rain fell I pitched my tent quickly so I would have some shelter. According to Yr.No the afternoon forecast was for 0.3ml of rain, but there was definitely more than that. It rained on and off all afternoon and evening, but I found myself reasonably dry due to the shelter of the large Rimu tree. The light started to fade, and eventually the evening sun disappeared behind Kellys Hill(1394m). I was tired due to my recent lack of exercise, and even before it was dark I was wrapped up in my sleeping bag fast asleep…

Rain clouds over camp in Paratu Stream

New Zealand. What a place to explore!

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