A warm weekend
Hapuku - Kowhai circuit, Kaikoura – 1-3 February 2020
Our group of five left Richmond at 7.30am and drove to Hapuku with a couple of stops along the way. We turned off SH1 onto Parsons Road and drove to the Hapuku “carpark”, which is an unmarked area close to a ford across the Hapuku River. Two of our group planned to go up the Hapuku to Kowhai Saddle and along the tops to Mt Fyffe. There was reported to be no water at Mt Fyffe Hut so they planned to go through to a small tarn marked on the map well below the hut.
That left our party of three driving their car through to the Mt Fyffe carpark. We had lunch at the carpark, which was very nearly full, and then proceeded up the Kowhai River. Heavy vehicles had driven several kilometres up the river to extract shingle so we made good time following the road. The river was low enough to make the crossings easy and with the track going through patches of forest in places the walk up to the hut was pleasant and it was not too hot.
After about 3 hours we arrived at the hut and were pleased to have it to ourselves. We had an early night and were away by 7.30am on Sunday morning trying to get the next section finished before it got too hot. We had been warned that the track near the saddle was overgrown but there were signs of some recent track cutting in places and the going was reasonable. We were surprised to find at least a dozen Kaikoura giant weta drowned in small pools of the creek but this fitted with them being parasitised by Gordian worms which force their hosts to water when they are ready to leave the hosts for the next stage of their life cycle in water. We also noticed several large Gordian worms wriggling in these pools of water. Until we reached the saddle we were in the shade, making temperatures warm but not too hot.
From Kowhai Saddle we could see two figures on the skyline making good progress towards Mt Fyffe and assumed they were Pete and Di. From the saddle the track has been re-routed down a shingle slide into the valley. We arrived at the Hapuku Hut and took turns to bathe in the cool river water. Rob managed to chop some wood despite the warm weather but then needed another cool off in the river. Again we had the hut to ourselves and were able to get an early night. The next morning we were away by 7am. The track goes down through some nice patches of totara forest and then climbs up 600m to go over a slip. After going over this steep track we had a good look at the gorge and decided that it was full of shingle and it would have been much easier to stick to the riverbed until the north branch is reached. Going to the new lake 3km up the north branch towards Barratts Biv would be a pleasant side trip. Apparently the Biv was destroyed in the earthquake.
From the gorge the “track” is just down the river bed to the carpark. We reached our car by 10.30am. Those on the trip were Pete, Di, Rob, Maria and Chris (scribe).