One Long Night (Part Two) – Upper Ashley River

“On a Mish” #356 One Long Night – Part Two. Upper Ashley River. Lees Valley. Canterbury. 30.10.2022. I’m sure that someone who loves fishing wouldn’t mind fishing in the rain or wind. Just as a surfer will never complain about the sea or a skier about the snow, getting into the outdoors should be fun no matter what the weather is doing. On many missions I have faced Mother Nature’s fury head on and returned with a tale to tell. I was unaware of what Mother Nature had in store for me, but I became very aware of her intensions when she kept me awake all night long…

After crossing the plains of Lees Valley, I arrived at a closed gate and when I clambered out of my car, I felt the first signs of what was to become a blustery and breezy night. After the gate a rough farm trail led to the base of the Kingsdown Range, the Upper Ashley River, and the start of the Youngman Stream Track. The two-day loop track is a popular trek and the vehicles parked up showed there was human activity in the small North Canterbury valley that night.

My plan was to travel up the valley a little bit and then camp beside the peaceful trickle of the Upper Ashley. Camping streamside seemed like a great idea at the time. I was hoping I’d have a relaxing camp, just like many times before. I set off with my first pack saddled with the aim of an adventure of minimal effort. I was wrong!

After returning with my second pack, I had everything I needed, and I pitched my tent on a flat piece of grass beside the stream. Now that my camp was set up, I could enjoy the rolling hills that surrounded me, and what better way to do that than with a meal? While eating the car began to rock a little with gusts of wind.

I had nearly abandoned the trip altogether, however I thought I was going to avoid the weather by coming to the only location in Canterbury that didn’t have rain in the forecast. But as it would turn out the rain and wind didn’t read the same forecast as me!

Darkness had taken over as I made my way to my tent after dinner. No stars tonight as drizzle had begun to fall. As I lay in my tent, I listened to what sounded like machine gun fire, as the wind would pick up each drop of drizzle and fire it at the side of my tent. The durability of my Marmot Tungsten was about to be tested.

Wind gusts increased as the night rolled on and by midnight, I was forced to brace one side of my tent. I did this with my feet, pushing my pack into one corner to prevent it collapsing due to the constant barrage. Even now and then I would drift off to sleep for a few seconds only to be blasted back into an awake state by savage weather raging outside my fabric fortress. It was one long night in the Upper Ashley.

I had a lot of time to think about my escape plan as I lay listening to the solid thuds of wind pounding the countryside. My plan was to get out of here at first light, and with the tiniest glimmer on the horizon I made my move. I moved my sleeping gear first but made sure I left enough weight in the tent so it wouldn’t go flying. Next, I collapsed the tent with one of my packs still inside. The fact that it survived the wild night is a testament to its durable design.

Somehow, I managed to gather my gear without anything disappearing into the blustery air. After getting my gear stashed, I finally had a moment to enjoy the colors of the sunrise. As I made my way home, all I could do was laugh at the experience I had just had when compared to the experience I was expecting. The wild wind might have been wicked in its windy ways, but it did give me a visual reward for surviving the night. It was a red sky morning, but after my long night in the Upper Ashley Valley I wasn’t needing any warning what-so-ever about the rough weather on its way! …

The Canterbury Plains from the Entrance to the Ashley Gorge

New Zealand. What a place to explore!

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