Where it all Began – Hurunui High Country Track

“On a Mish” #230 Resparking the Flame. Hurunui High Country Track. Island Hills Station. 20.3.2005. We are taking a step back in time. Way back in 2005 I was well into my career as a Christchurch Bogan, and adventures into the mountains were far from a regular event at this stage. After a childhood of excursions around the South Island (mostly Canterbury) life took a turn towards wage-consuming modified cars. Opportunities to venture into the mountains with whanau came and went, as I continued my life of burgers and burnouts. Eventually I came to my senses and joined my family on a hike in the hills, Island Hills to be exact…

My parents had organised for myself and my sister to join them on the Hurunui High Country Track.

The track is located south west of Hanmer Springs, where the Balmoral Forest meets the foothills of the Organ Range. Our first night was in the Old Island Hills ‘Cook House Homestead’, and the farms owners Dan and Mandy were very friendly and accommodating. An early-ish start the next day had the legs getting some long overdue work, as we made our way into the Mandamus River Valley.

The first day’s hike is the longest, and I was happy when we got to Valley Camp Hut.

After dinner, and mid card game, I had to go have a lie down. I awoke over 12 hours later! With the first day out of the way the legs seemed to be working a little bit better the next day, as we hiked the undulating terrain towards Bush Hut.

Small tarn near Bush Hut

We were told to keep an eye out for a surprise, and it came in the form of a picnic basket, complete with scones and hot drinks! The picnic basket was strategically located around the halfway point for the day, and after enjoying the treats we continued on.

Bush Hut is a unique collection of a historic hut, along with semi-permanent tents serving as bunkrooms. The fine weather we had enjoyed on the first couple of days changed not long after arriving. The night was alive to the relaxing symphony of heavy rain, and it didn’t ease as the sun rose the next morning. We left Bush Hut in heavy rain, but luckily it was the last day of the hike.

An impressive amount of rain had fallen overnight, causing a lot of the side streams to start running over the track in places, and we could hear the rumble of the Glencoe River before we could see it. The approach to the bridge over the river had been washed out, and this added extra drama to the last day. We had to be careful scrambling over the loose ground when getting onto the one person bridge.

After the Glencoe River, the final part of the hike was splashing through the mud on easy farm tracks. I always look back at this adventure with Te Whanau as a very important point in my life when I rediscovered the pleasures of being out in the mountains hiking/exploring. Now 15 years on, with 14 of those spent working in New Zealand’s most pristine locations, I can say it all started with a hike on the Hurunui High Country Track.

Crossing Glencoe Stream in flood

New Zealand. What a place to explore!

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