The Havelock Adventure – A Little Truck’s Epic Journey (Part One)

“A Mish a Day” #97 The Havelock Adventure – Part One. Havelock Valley. Hakatere Conservation Area.17.5.2020. I have never been to a place where “but it’s just over there” has been said so often. Having a Hip Injury and therefore not being able to wear a pack or walk very far has prevented me from getting my mountain fix, which is a major problem for someone who frequently goes on adventures into the mountains. To my surprise the problem was solved by a small white truck…

My cousin Adam has a beast of a Suzuki Jimny 4wd, and I was about to find out that there aren’t too many places in the wild that this determined little vehicle can’t go. This trip was the first time we (The People of Aotearoa) had been released out of our homes after five weeks of Covid-19 Lockdown (round one). The entire country was suffering from cabin fever and adventures needed to happen! We had a discussion over a few beers about seeing how far up the Rangitata’s southern bank we could go in the Jimny. Up until this point I had only ever been on a few proper 4wd missions, and in my incapacitated state it was the only way I was going to get some mountain meditation. The area is dripping with beauty, and the harsh environment makes it one of New Zealand’s most remote high country stations. Even before getting to the station the drive in via the Rangitata Gorge Road is jaw-dropping. We got our first view of the vast reaches of the Mesopotamia High Country Station, and the first good look towards Cloudy Peak and the Rangitata Riverbed. Unfortunately, we didn’t get this grand view until our drive out of the area, as there was low cloud and drizzle as we left the road and started the track heading towards the riverbed. After leaving the gravel road the track condition deteriorated immediately and it became apparent that this is an on-foot or 4wd drive track only. As we crept our way up the valley we approached the first major obstacle, the Rangitata River. We crossed over a major braid a couple of times, and at one stage nearly got stuck in deep sand. This would have been a disastrous way to start our mish, so we were happy when we got out of the riverbed and back on the rough track. The sometimes painfully slow grind over numerous massive washouts up to Growler Hut was thankfully complimented by some of the best scenery in Canterbury.

Early Morning in the Havelock Valley

The final push up to the hut was finding a way through the maze of boulders that had been spread out all over the track due to recent heavy rain in the area (a problem we were going to see more and more as our trip went on). Considering it was the end of a long lockdown we were surprised to see Growler Hut empty. Hunger was starting to set in so we set up our cooker and broke out the large slabs of beef we had brought (eating excellent food is a very important part of our missions). We were now into the Havelock Valley and not only was the place very beautiful, but now the valley had the aroma of steak floating through the air. We noticed the lights of multiple groups of 4wd vehicles slowly plodding their way up the valley coming up to the hut, so we knew our time alone was coming to an end. We made quick work of our huge feed, and then after chatting to the first group that arrived, we pushed on further into the valley in the low light of dusk. I have an awesome tent, and with Adam sleeping in the truck, we can set up camp anywhere. In the dark we eventually found an excellent campsite amongst the tussock high on a terrace beside Camp Stream.

New Zealand. What a place to explore!

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