The Lake Challis Labour Weekend Getaway (E/M)
Labour Weekend, 2011
Victor was right. Standing on the schist creek bed on Monday morning he had mused about the prospect of returning to Sydney ..."and all this"… gesturing at the surrounding forest, lake and bellbirds in the sun... "will be gone like a dream."
For the first time ever, the trip began by walking downhill for an hour, to Lake Challis Hut. So easy. We continued to the nearby shingle creek bed to fossick about for the perfect campsite. Our stringent regulations ruled out anything too breezy, lumpy, swampy, too public, too far from water or firewood. We were a bunch of comfort-loving pleasure-seekers.
So the existing fireplace on a mossy terrace was chosen as our base, and discerning persons set about establishing their tents and utensils. Three manuka sticks became fire-cranes for various billies and the fire itself was only lit once - Shelagh became adept at puffing it into a blaze in the morning.
She also identified many a plant and lichen on our afternoon stroll around the lake, the prelude to a long and languid evening of brews, conversations and even songs - around the fire.
Sunday - the day for climbing Old Man - began in desultory fashion, with drawn-out breakfast and preparations, so we wombled off at about 9:30 up a very nice track through beech forest. The only wasp - a dormant queen I found in a rotting stump - got squished. As we approached the bushline on 'Little Old Man' we began to skirmish with low-flying cloud - the cause of all that lichen on nearby bushes. Clumps of snow still lay deep on the lee slopes, but that didn't prevent our gallant band from lunching on the summit - though Bruce hauled Mary up from her lurking place on the bushline as a matter of principle.
Another sumptuous Stephenson dinner, plus gourmet dessert by Marilyn rounded off the day, along with a decent blaze plus the obligatory morepork and weka calls in the starry night.
Facing the sunlit fact of Monday morning was difficult for some. Vivienne was suffering from eyelid gravitation and pit-suction for quite some time. The prospect of an hour's walk with packs uphill was a bit daunting, but all made it to the roadend for a midday picnic. As did a weka. I bowled it a spare Tararua biscuit, in which it took great interest, though massive pecks failed to smash the biscuit. It snuck off into the scrub with the thing in its beak, never to reappear. The van turned up as we were marching down the high road, surrounded by views of the lake and Richmond Range, various pine forests and hillsides of flaky rocks.
Tony the driver, a Scot, discovered Victor to be Italian, and immediately began a heavily accented discourse with him in Italian, describing his mixed heritage. This was at Enchanted Lookout over looking upper Wairau Valley and the distant mass of the Inland Kaikouras.
And it didn't rain a bit.
- Party members
- Mary Inglis, Shelagh Leary, Liz Martin, Victor Negrin, Peter(leader and scribe)and Vivienne Radcliffe, Bruce and Marilyn Richards, Bill and Alison Stephenson.