New Zealand 2003 travel blog

Across the mouth of the Hawdon

Up the Hawdon Valley

John lags behind

Lunch in the evaporating snow

Hmm...which way?

This way maybe..

No, this way...

Maybe I'll just follow the others...

River crossing

Kate, Bernadette, Taki, Adrian (with bag), Brad, George, Rodney

Across the Hawdon

Leaving the hut

Today didn't turn out as planned but instead of learning more about snow and ice we managed to learn how to cross rivers instead.

Our 7am call came and went and people only really stirred around 8. It had been snowing overnight with about four inches on the ground, so Adrian didn't think it was suitable to be out on the mountain - greater avalanche risk with fresh snowfall following a period of rain.

Instead, he talked us through how to theoretically build a snow cave over breakfast. Then we thought that we should at least get out and try to do a walk today. There then followed a rather tactless conversation led by Adrian on the most spectacular car crashes people had seen. I left the room at this point but Kate said that the conversation soon ended when George piped up with his contribution: "I was in a car crash - it went right over the gully". Silence. Time to get ready.

We drove back down Arthur's Pass and turned toward the Hawdon Valley for our walk. It was actually turning out to be a bright sunny day with clear blue skies and the views up and down the valley were spectacular.

After passing through the wood at the foot of Woolshed Hill, we made our way through the electric fence to our first river crossing point. It was about 20 feet wide and only about 2 feet deep but the water was really moving. Adrian told us that the best way to cross was in a linked line (arms through backpacks for greater stability) facing upstream with someone strong to taking the force of the water at the top of the line and someone even stronger next to him for support. I was chosen as the strong person at the top of the line. Clearly I do not look as puny as I think, although I think the jacket makes me look bigger..

Anyway, the crossing was fine but you could see why crossing it alone would be dangerous. That was the first of about 8 crossings we did during the day, some of them when we were up to our waists in water. Kate got lifted off the bottom at one stage, more because she had two tall people either side rather than the force of the water. Anyway, it was a bonus to be learning about all this stuff so we could do some serious walks with more confidence later.

We continued about 5km up the valley, all the while pausing to take in the views or stopping to have our lunch. We passed two groups on the way, pausing to critically assess their river crossings, tut-tutting under our breath at their poor technique (a little knowledge is a dangerous thing for becoming smug).

We turned around at the confluence of two rivers and headed back as it was already about 3pm. We were much more confident with our crossings and the water seemed warmer than it had at first, probably because we were too numb to feel it anymore. To be fair, even though our boots and trousers got soaked by the crossings, you soon get used to it and quickly dry off in between.

We made it back to the cars in good time and decided to head back towards Christchurch. We passed the impressive Castle Hill and Flock Hill again, with their boulder strewn landscapes and I kicked myself for not having my camera handy as it looked great in the evening light (I discover later there is another walk here next weekend that I might go on, so all is not lost). We stopped off in Springfield for an ice cream - this was our third visit to the town in 7 days so Kate and I were beginning to feel like we knew the area well.

We said goodbye to all the others and the Adrian drove us back to the flat. On the way he told us all about the biker gangs of Christchurch and how they "owned" a lot of the pubs and clubs in town. He showed us a spot in the hills where a prostitute's murdered body had been dumped by a gang member who had eventually been caught. It seems that Christchurch is not as squeaky clean as it first appears. Perhaps there is novel material here after all...

Anyway, it had been a great weekend and Kate and I felt that we had got a lot more out of it than we had bargained for (the weekend cost us about £25 in total). More adventures await us.

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