It’s the gathering of ‘The Clan’/Whanau and we are hiking The Tussock Track in the Awatere Valley, Marlborough. The long-distance weather forecast was not encouraging: after weeks without rain, we were looking at being very soggy trampers! However, as is often the case in this beautiful country of ours, our overseas guests were not to be disappointed… and that included our Waiheke import, Gaye!
We kicked off in style by meeting at the Saint Clair Cellar Door and Café for a delicious lunch and delightful wine….I stayed loyal to their Omaka Reserve Pinot Noir, whilst the rest of the party enjoyed a cool, crisp and delightful Pinot Gris/Rose from their Origin Range. Despite a few of us indulging in dessert as well, we couldn’t resist a quick visit across the road to Makana before heading to the Awatere (see map) and the stunning property of Glen Orkney and Strathsey owned and farmed by Simon, Lynda and Tom Harvey.
My farming friend from Waiheke commented that it was lovely to see the dogs and stock in such fabulous condition; and the property so well cared for. There were numerous QEII Conservations areas which have been fenced off and gifted in perpetuity for the benefit of future generations.
This private walking track offers some of the most stunning scenery and an insight into the hard work that has gone into overcoming the challenges presented by the remoteness of these ‘Back Country’ properties that our pioneers worked hard at ‘taming’ and have continued to be developed by the committed and loyal generations of families that have followed.
The Farm Cottage that played host to us on the first night was a wonderful way to set the scene for what was to come. Lynda and Simon visited to brief us on the walk and answer our many questions about the property. Their passion was evident and we all felt it a privilege to be able to access this private land and get a feel for their way of life, especially impressed were our extended family from Cleveland, Ohio.
And it came as a blessing as we did our ‘workout’ up through the tussock-filled valley. By the time we reached the top of the first main valley, the cloud had burned off and we then became toast!
The views were stunning and our pauses for breath were rewarded by amazing panoramas of hills, tussock and the steep banks of the Awatere River which flows along a splinter of the Alpine Fault – and is the trace of the active Awatere Fault. It is one of Marlborough’s four largest rivers.
The colour palette of this area is magnificent with its shades of grey to green falling behind the straw-yellow of the tussock and the grey, drizzly ‘ceiling’ which soon became a very clear blue sky.
Suffice to say that a couple of us sweated and plodded our way up the last haul up the farm track to the lunch spot where we rested to enjoy delicious filled rolls constructed by our fittest and fastest member of the party – thanks Craig!
The first to arrive were the ‘advance party’ who decided to navigate the farm tracks in a ‘Gator with Simon at the helm. I think they felt they’d just survived the ‘heavy’ cycle of the latest washing machine followed by a tumble dry… not through Simon’s driving but more because they’d never quite experienced a journey in such a remote and rugged land… well, that’s how the story goes anyway, and there will be many a more embellished tale to tell when they get home, I am sure!
The tramping group were welcomed by a glass of mountain stream water by Bonnie and this was soon followed by a glass or two of the Rose… the first to bed retired at about 7.30pm and the rest of us waited till sundown and were relieved to roll onto our very thick and comforting mattresses after wonderfully warm/hot showers in the generously kitted-out and well-organised Creghan ‘Hut’ (the most comfortable one I’ve ever stayed in!).
Sunshine and a cool wind greeted us on Day 2 when we chose to reluctantly leave The Creghan Mountain and Hut. We each agreed we wish we could stay for a few more days. After a nicely varied return with the choice between farm track or a stunning QEII Reserve, we headed back to the Farm Cottage for a welcome shower and fond farewell to our kind and generous hosts.
The track is apparently one of an ‘Advanced’ nature which for those of us of the middle ground take 4.5-5 hours to walk and enjoy. As a training ground for the Coast to Coast race I gather that one very fit competitor did all 3 trails in 4.5 hours – I think he must have had wings! Our successors in their 80s managed Day 1 in 2.5 hours… so there’s no telling what can be achieved depending on your purpose!
I thoroughly recommend this place, its people and the perspective it leaves you with.
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