Banter & Black Panthers – An Adventure with the Canterbury 4WD Club

“On a Mish” #162 Banter & Black Panthers. Clyde / Lawrence Valley. Hakatere Conservation Area. 28.6.2020. When it comes to travelling through the mountains I’ll take my own two feet over a vehicle almost every time. However, due to the reckless actions of a certain fridge door taking away my ability to hike, I had to turn to vehicular transportation to take me to the places I love to go…

The pristine places in paradise had not changed, I just needed another way to get there. Step up (or roll up) my cousin Adam and his Suzuki Jimny. Knowing I am a person who must venture into the wild every now and then, his truck and excellent companionship would become my savour during difficult times.

Adam is a member of the Canterbury Recreational 4WD Club, and they had got permission to cross over the farmland of Erewhon Station to access the Clyde River, and then continue further to the remote Lawrence River.

I was really excited to finally get into wild country I had looked at on maps for years, due to all my trips around the Hakatere Conservation Area. And also the place is just down the road from my home away from home, Lake Clearwater.

The forecast for the day was grim, and Adam and I camped out the night before up the Potts River the heavens opened up.Our experience was tested as we rushed around getting our gear out of the storm and into the car. We dropped off the unnecessary camping gear back at the crib in Lake Clearwater Village just as the heaviest rain set in and through the sound of the rain we heard the rumble of the Canterbury Recreational 4WD Club approaching the small village.

We joined the group and within moments we settled into our spot in the queue of off road vehicles. Along with the comradery of being part of a passionate team of overland adventurers, there is also a commentary provided over the radio and the first part of our entertainment over the airways was a conversation about the infamous Black Panther that supposedly wanders these hills.

As we rolled along the road in the rain I looked in the mirror to see a massive line of vehicles behind us and even though we usually aim to be by ourselves on our missions, we knew we were in for an epic day.

The lead truck checked us in at Erewhon Station, and then we made our way through The moraine mounds known as ‘Jumped Up Downs’, and then out on to the wide expanse of the Clyde River. It was here that we stopped to let air out of the tyres for more comfortable travel in the rocky river beds, and it was at this point I could finally get out and see how big the team really was.

There were at least 20 trucks, with many different makes and models, and the mighty Jimny was a talking point amongst the team as we readied the vehicles for off track travel. The normally silent valley was echoing with the hiss of tyres and the sound of 4WD banter.

The crew was ready, the sounds of hissing tyres became the roar of petrol and diesel combustion and we began to bounce our way over the rocky riverbed to the true right of the Clyde River.

Black Mountain(1809m) from the Clyde River

The journey across the valley was rough, but nothing we hadn’t experienced before, and once on the other side we picked up a good track which meant we could cover ground quickly. When we got opposite the entrance to the Lawrence River, we crossed back over, and passed the recently renovated Erewhon Station Hut.

We were now in the Lawrence Valley, and I was now looking at country I had scanned over on maps for years. Truly stunning scenery.

The group drove together as far as the track up to Hermitage Hut (about halfway up the valley), and it was here we stopped for lunch with a view. After lunch some of us headed a little bit further up the valley until the rocks were just two big to bounce over, so we turned around and began the long drive back towards civilization.

The lead vehicle decided to have a go at the true left of the valley for virality? And this side of the valley gave everyone’s suspension (and bodies) a good workout as we bounced in and out of old braids of the river. Eventually we arrived back at Jumped Up Downs, and then sadly it was back on to the smooth and boring roads back home.

The trip was an excellent opportunity to meet fellow adventure enthusiasts and also visit a very special part of our incredible country. The only downside of the day was the fact that even though there were heaps of trucks and eyes on the mountains, there wasn’t any Black Panther sightings!!

New Zealand. What a place to explore!

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