Mountains, Mud & an Old Honda. Lake Sumner / Hurunui River

“On a Mish” #188 Mountains, Mud & an Old Honda. Lake Sumner / Hurunui River. Lake Sumner Forest Park. 30.7.2006. Like a child with blue cheese, it took me some time to get to like the taste of going on missions into the mountains. As a kid I was always encouraged to venture and explore, so along with my cousins that is exactly what we did. In my teenage years and into my early twenties it was all about cars. So there was no time for going into the wilderness, as there wouldn’t be any bridge-ported RX-7’s (type of car!) out there…

The old man made a trip to Lake Taylor sound quite interesting, and at this point I wasn’t achieving much apart from leaving rubber on the roads of Christchurch. At this stage I was completely out of the outdoors game, apart from a mish around the Hurunui High Country Track. So after working out what exactly we would need, we loaded up my Mum’s Honda CR-V and headed north towards Hurunui Country.

After crossing the northern plains we turned inland at Waikari, and then followed the Lake Sumner Road through Seven Hills over Jacks Saddle. This gravel road eventually ended at Lake Taylor and from here things got ‘interesting’.

We had read about the 4WD Track around the south side of Lake Taylor and we were here in a 4wd (probably the most town friendly machine in the area!). The rough 4wd track continues west to the much larger Lake Sumner, and this is where we hoped to camp.

The track was fine apart from the odd bump until we got around Lake Taylor and out onto the muddy flats between the two lakes. Side streams had flowed across the track causing deep bogs, and the 4WD traffic had carved deep ruts which needed outside guidance to negotiate. I’m not sure if this is what the people at Honda meant when they named the car ‘Comfortable Recreational Vehicle’, we definitely weren’t very comfortable as we bounced and banged our way west, but this was definitely some excellent recreation!

We got to Loch Katrine, a much smaller lake that resides between Lakes Taylor and Sumner, and felt like we could push on further. Now feeling like hardened veterans of the overland travel game, we were now determined to reach Lake Sumner.

After some careful negotiating, not only did we get to Lake Sumner, but we also managed to continue right up to the swing-bridge across the Hurunui River to the Hope Kiwi Track. From a seated position we had made our way deep into the mountains of the Hurunui area. Now it was time to set up our victory camp, and enjoy the spectacular mountainous environment that we had managed to get ourselves into.

Victory camp at the head of Lake Sumner

After camp was set up we explored the area, taking a walk to Hurunui Hut to see what tramping life was like in this part of the country. After checking out the hut we crossed over the Hurunui to the other side of the river. On the true left side of the river our luck continued as we discovered a large patch of field mushrooms. Some of these were picked and cooked and we happily added the wild delicacies to our campfire dinner.

The day had been a long challenging one even if we had only walked a short distance. We were tired and it was time for bed. After retiring to our tents it began to rain, which wasn’t supposed to happen until around lunchtime the next day.

Early-ish the next morning I popped my head out of my tent to see rain-soaked mountains covered in dark clouds. It was a much different scene than the day before. After a rushed breakfast we packed up our wet tents as fast as possible because we knew the track would be getting tougher with each heavy downpour. Now fed and ready for battle we began the long journey home.

On the drive back we both admitted to not getting much sleep due to worrying about the drive out. It was a challenge to get here and we had done it in fine weather. The wet was going to make driving a mish within a mish!

Once again, like on the way in, I was out of the vehicle guiding Jeremy over the deep ruts which were quickly filling with water. Everytime I jumped out it seemed like the rain was heavier than the time before. We were in a situation where we wanted to rush but one false move might mean we would be stuck for who knows how long. After an hour or so (it seemed much longer!) dodgy slippery and sloshy mud traps had us back to Lake Taylor and onto the much more reassuring ground of the gravel road back to civilization.

The mish was much more than a successful one as thanks to this trip and our family hike around the Hurunui High Country Track I got back into the outdoors and as they say, the rest is history…

New Zealand. What a place to explore!

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