|You know how sometimes a particular song becomes a soundtrack for the day and sticks in your head no matter how hard you try to eradicate it? So it was today. We were out in the foothills of the Alps on Bealey Spur with the Tramping club, enjoying good weather and great scenery looking north towards Arthur's Pass. A day perhaps (you would think) worthy of some epic classical tune to hum in my mind. Alas, it was not to be. As we walked through lush forests, the soundtrack of the day heralded its triumphant overture in loud multi-layered vocals:
"We built this city...We built this city on rock an' roll"
I temporarily lost my footing in disbelief at the inappropriate nature of my brain's choice. I am out in the middle of Middle Earth and my mental jukebox throws up the 80s soundtrack to film Mannequin. I hurriedly tried to flush the mighty Starship from my brain and replace it with anything else. Anything. I frantically flick through the record shelf - Queen, Peter Gabriel, Crowded House, anything anything...too late - it had started now..
(Chung, chung-chung, blip blip blip blip blip blip)
That strange man/woman vocalist begins:
"Say you don't know me, or recognize my face
Say you don't care who goes to that kind of place
Knee deep in the hoopla, sinking in your fight
Too many runaways eating up the night"
Now listless with shock (not least because I actually remembered the line "Knee deep in the hoopla") I was causing a concern to my fellow trampers. Mercilessly, the paean to urban construction through the use of popular music continued:
"Ma Coley plays the mamba, listen to the radio, don't you remember
We built this city, we built this city on rock an' roll"
Who is Ma Coley? After a few minutes I resigned myself to my fate and allowed the mulletted rock'n'rollers to play on, repeating their biggest hit endlessly. By the time we had reached higher ground, the views and general chat with fellow walkers had relegated the screaming jets of the Starship to a form of tinnitus in my left ear, occasionally punctuated by visions of Kim Catrell in her first major screen role. I will never cease to be amazed at what information the mind can retain.
I digress. The walk itself was great. There were seven of us in our group led by Dave Henson (who turns out to be the Chairman of the Tramping club).
Starting from the car park at Bealey, we managed to cover a lot of ground, traversing forest, marshland and heath, much of it still covered in snow. The trees in the forest areas were covered in a strange moss which hung from the branches like a kind of frost. It gave the woods a quite spooky feel but it was quite beautiful in the specked sunlight.
Once above the forest line we had great views over the Waimakariri River (which continues its journey down past Christchurch), and up into Arthur's Pass. We could see the famous railway line disappear between the mountains.
It got a little harder under foot as we started walking through the snow, but after a couple of hours walking we made it to the Bealey Spur Hut. This was the first walking hut we had seen and it had quite a bit of character, although I wouldn't fancy staying in it overnight. Made of wood and corrugated iron, it was originally a Muster Hut, where farmers would stay to guard the sheep as they grazed the higher ground. In New Zealand terms it was quite old but it looked in reasonable condition. We stopped here for lunch.
The sun had come out now and we continued from the hut and took a fairly steep climb to the top of the ridge (about 1500m). Another team of trampers were intending to walk on to Jordan's stream and back down into the valley - probably another 3-4 hours walk. However, this was far enough for our team. We sat on the top for a while and took in the views. Even though conditions weren't that great, you couldn't miss the impressive nature of our surroundings.
Looking at the map, I assumed that the people who named the mountains around here did not have very good days - Mt Horrible, Mt Misery and Mt Damnfool were some of the cheerier examples in our vicinity.
We took the same route back down to the cars, and it was surprising how much ground we seemed to have covered in the short time. By my calculation the walk was around 15km with a climb of around 900m. Not bad for our first tramp.
We stopped off in Springfield on the way back (no sign of Homer) and had a coffee.