One Step at a Time – Peters Valley

“A Mish a Day” #210 Peter Valley. St James Conservation Area. 31.5.2020. I have mentioned the similarities between Queenstown and Hanmer Springs before, but a major difference between the two places is the number of locals visiting the pristine area. The norm for my sister and her husband’s families is to meet up around Queens Birthday weekend in Hanmer Springs, and partake in some of the activities that the mountain town has to offer. As the year 2020 has been the year of me ‘not up to much’, I was not up to much, and keen to join the Whanau for a get-away in Hanmer Springs.

At this stage it is important to mention that New Zealand had just come out of Level 3 Lockdown, and the long weekend couldn’t have come at a better time. As soon as we arrived in Hanmer Springs we realised that not only the normal holiday seekers had shown up, but half the population of the South Island had joined the party too! A large home at the base of Conical Hill(550m) housed all ten of us (good job it was booked in advance), and with the fire cranking we were warm and toasty inside. It was around this time that my hip was at its worst, and there would have to be a good reason for going from A to B. During our stay we came up with a plan to head over Jacks Pass into the St James Conservation Area, and find an easy walk suitable for the whole Whanau (including niece Beffie aged four, and me).

Upper Peters Valley

Early-ish the next morning I got up to see a heavy frost forming on the township, and the clear skies above signalled a sunny, but cool day in the mountains. The gang loaded up into two vehicles, and we set off for Jacks Pass. We followed the muddy road to the St James Homestead, where the cars were parked, and it was finally time to see how far I could walk. On a previous trip to the area I had followed the road to the left up the Williams Valley, and this road eventually makes its way up to the slopes of the Hanmer Springs Ski Field. We turned right instead of left, and this took us into the mellow, tussock covered Peters Valley on the St James Cycle Trail. The work to build the cycle trail is impressive as Peters Valley slowly rises to nearly 1000m above sea level, and can be covered in snow during the months of winter. While the others sorted out the kids I set off along the trail in the crisp morning air. With hiking poles and legs working together I slowly limped my way up the valley towards Peters Pass(900m), and it was great to get some left foot, right foot, repeat action going again. I was driven along by 50% stubbornness and 50% the epic view of the snow capped Tonga Hill(1672m), Mt Sadd(1798m) and Mt Horrible(1764m), standing tall beyond the head of the valley. At a snack stop my young niece once again showed us her lack of fear by easily climbing up a small rock face just off the track, and then insisting on down climbing the face instead of taking the easy route down. Not long after this point I realised I should have turned back a couple of kilometers back down the track. So now I had to grit my teeth, focus on the finishing line at the car park, and just put up with the sharp pain from now not only my hip but my entire left side. Victory was achieved, but the price was an afternoon/evening laying flat on the couch, doing my best not to regret the hike. When it’s all said and done the hike was well worth it, as there is no better feeling than hiking in the mountains. And although the hike might not have exactly ‘healed’ me, it definitely provided motivation to get better, and back into the mountains that I love so very much!

New Zealand. What a place to explore!

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