Going Up The Country

Going to some place that i've never been before...

Tag: Hiking

Dramatic place names and jaw-dropping scenery

The Devils Punchbowl, Arthurs Pass and Avalanche Peak. They all sound terrifying, but actually they’re all lovely.

I know what you’re thinking. Why on earth would the devil need a punch bowl? Surely that’s a bit of a frivolous and light-hearted item for the big red guy to own? I guess even the Lord of Darkness likes to throw a little cocktail party from time to time.

So following our previous debauched night at the Mussel Inn, we decided to cover as much ground as possible the following day, and headed south. There was some stunning scenery on the way, but we really wanted to get down to the west coast so we could make our way up to Arthur’s Pass. We’d had a tip off from a few different people that it was well worth the couple of hours drive inland, with some amazing hikes, great views and one of the best waterfalls in New Zealand. They were right on all accounts.

The devils punchbowl, it turns out, is an icy cold lake at the bottom of a huge waterfall. Rather confusingly, you can’t actually access the lake itself (or so the signs would have you believe) and the official path ends at a viewpoint where you can see the waterfall, but not the bowl itself. We had it on good authority though that if you head through the bush and keep climbing for another 5 minutes or so that you come out at the lake itself, so we pushed on away from the beaten track and were rewarded with a immense view of a towering, staggeringly beautiful waterfall crashing on to the rocks below. Clara and I had neglected to bring any kind of swimming gear, and so we stripped off and went for a truly wild naked swim, much to the amusement of the couple of other tourists luckily enough to be there!

Avalance Peak, New Zealand

The following day we set off to hike up to the top of Avalanche Peak. Despite its dramatic sounding name, in the summer months its not too dangerous due to the lack of snow, and it has great views over the pass itself, as well as the waterfall, the valley below, and neighbouring peaks. Despite being relatively safe, it was still a testing hike up some fairly steep terrain. I’d definitely recommend it though, it was well worth the effort and the views from the top were fantastic. We also befriended some Kea at the top, a kind of Alpine Parrot that are pretty noisy, and pretty cheeky, eating and stealing anything thats not packed away or tied down!

Kea on Avalanche Peak, Arthurs Pass

After a few days inland we were ready to head back to the coast, and we headed for Hokitika, a small town roughly halfway down the west coast. The D.O.C campsite there is just out of town, and right on a beautiful lake, which meant that this morning we could take the kayak out for a spin. After a few days of full on hiking it was good to gives the legs a bit of a rest and do an upper body workout instead!

Abel Tasman and Rainbow Valley

I know Rainbow Valley sounds like a Mario Kart track, but this is an actual, and very lovely place.

Nothing quite beats cooking dinner with ingredients that have been freshly picked or caught that day. For dinner last night we had the most delicious mussels I’ve ever eaten, gathered earlier that day on our first trip out in the new kayak.

After we bought the kayak, we left Nelson and headed north, up the coast towards The Abel Tasman National Park. Abel Tasman is one of the most picturesque places I have ever been, where long, gently curving golden beaches meet deep turquoise seas, surrounded by lush, subtropical forests. As it is a national park, there are a number of campsites run by the Department of Conservation (D.O.C.), which are usually nice grassy spaces, with clean toilets and stone built fireplaces. Sometimes if you’re extra lucky there’s even a (cold) shower.

We stayed at Totaranui, the northernmost D.O.C. campsite, which gives some of the best access to the incredible beaches and a number of coastal and forest walks. We used the campsite as a base for a two-day hike up the coastal path to the north, taking our tents, sleeping bags and food with us. It was one of the best hikes I’ve done in New Zealand so far, with the first day snaking north along the ruggedly beautiful coastline, stopping at several isolated, gorgeous sun-soaked bays along the way. It took a while longer than it should have to reach the campsite purely because of the number of times we stopped to take pictures or to have a swim, or even just to take in the view.

Abel Tasman

We camped for the night at another, smaller DOC campsite up at the top of Abel Tasman only accessible by foot or by boat. It was a great little campsite, and we managed to muscle in on a roaringly good campfire built by a group of guys from Spain and South America. The best nights when camping are always the ones where you have a campfire.

We hiked inland the next morning, into the forest and over a hill to get back down to the Totaranui campsite, and it was a much shorter and quicker hike than the previous day, so we made it back just after midday and decided that it was time for the Kayaks first outing. Especially as there were lots of rocky outcrops just off the beach that looked like they were covered in mussels. Pick your own dinner! The paddle along the coast was a lovely way to spend an afternoon, stopping to swim and sunbathe in little coves and bays along the way, and we managed to fill almost an entire supermarket carrier bag with mussels between us. After a long, lazy afternoon in the water, we took our time to load up the kayak, and found another campsite fairly close by, a beautiful little place called Rainbow Valley. Rainbow Valley Community Campground, to give it it’s full name, is run by a lovely older lady who owns an entire valley just to the west of Abel Tasman National Park, and there are little houses and huts scattered along the valley, with the camping spots being situated in an apple and pear orchard just next to the river. We were instructed to help ourselves to as many apples and pears from the orchard as we liked, an offering we definitely made the most of. I think we were still eating pears about a week later, and they were delicious, completely organic and unsprayed.

Rainbow Valley Community Campground

That brings me back to my opening paragraph, we cooked the mussels we’d gathered that day for dinner in a candlelit riverside cook-off, and ate until we were completely bursting, feasting on some of the biggest and juiciest mussels I’ve ever had the pleasure to devour.