Mt Grey Amberley 4th – 6th February 2017
Day One -
As the planned Wilberforce Trip had to be postponed due to high river levels a group of 8 trampers headed for Amberly to camp out at the beautiful old homestead of Amberly House and their lovely grounds and hospitality.
After setting up camp and looking around we headed west to a lovely area which promised to reward us with amazing cliffs at the gorge end of this river. First we went up river to look at the lines in the cliff that marked the dinosaur age. We then headed back down the river on a mission to get to the big white cliffs we were told were just around the next few corners. It was a beautiful warm day, so perfect day for lots of walking in the river, which there was.
One corner lead to another then another then another until we were running out of time and we need to think about turning back.
A couple of guys were up ahead of us and did manage to find the cliffs, but the rest of us decided to turn back. After our evening meal we were rewarded with a slide show of all the photos that were take by Andrew (David’s son) and they were amazing and what a spectacular sight. Hopefully one day we may get back to see them in reality.
It was a lovely walk and enjoyed by all.
Day 2 -
Well you can’t say you’ve been tramping until you’ve gone up a hill. So David found us a local hill, Mt Grey/ Maukatere. In fact it was 795 metres plus abit to get to the top where the Telecom masts are. 795metres takes you to the Forest Service lookout tower built in 1974. Next time you are driving north through Amberley, look left to the hills, look for the towers and that is where we were. We had these marvellous 360 degree views of Hurunui, Waipara, looking down where we were on Saturday and the gorge. The distant Kaikoura Mountains, Pegasus Bay, Bank Peninsula, Christchurch. In fact the whole nine yards and to top it off, beautiful warm weather, not a breeze to be felt. I think it is what they call summer. The weather we all wanted at Christmas time.
Great things these modern day cameras, panoramic views, video mode. I used the lot. Never got that with the Kodak Instamatic. Lunch at the top and for some (me) forty winks in the tussocks, perfect. Then all the peace and R&R disturbed. The brain had to make a decision, while in my state of slumber it was decided some would carry on a round trip down ending up at a Reserve, where David would come down to get us and bring us back to the others. Decision made, Wayne, Barry and I (J.H.) would take the long way home. Phew, the pace was brisk, I pulled the reins in there on the others. This body wasn’t going to hack the pace in that heat. That lovely 30 degrees.
It was mostly all downhill, but there were a few lumps we had to go up. Starting off in pine forest then as we got into the DOC reserve Beech Forests and noticing how the wasps love to play. Theory is, you don’t touch them, they won’t touch you, so we kept to our bargain. No one got hurt. We meet a couple of couples on the their way up. Boy did they have the gravy running out of them, poor sods. In fact, we had the gravy coming out of us. One of the couples had a pamphlet and we looked at it and what was on it? A wee river crossing, you beauty. Still far enough away, but by the time we got there we deserved a bit of a splash.
Every time you go down you’ve got to go up. So it was out of the river, up a lump in the landscape then mostly downhill to the waiting Dave and Dorothy.
In all, it took a good couple of hours to the top for us all and we three intrepid wanderers took around 2.5hrs down. Not exactly the Wilberforce as planned, still not a bad alternative. More like a holiday with a bit of exercise thrown in, than a mission. Good on you Dave.
Oh! the Freeze Dried meals are still on the menu for when the Wilberforce mission gets off the ground again. Being close to civilization as we were, we stopped off at the supermarket in Amberley, purchased some cooked chooks and salad stuff and took it back to our camp site amongst the Oak trees. Thanks Ladies, perfect for a hot summers night and the amber liquid went down a real treat. Cheers.
Day 3 – Dorothy
The highlight of our homeward journey was the drive through the remote Lees Valley which runs north to south between the North Canterbury foothill peaks of Mounts Thomas and Richardson and the Puketeraki Range in the west. From the summit of Mt Oxford this wide open valley is a prominent feature of the landscape. Taking the Inland Scenic Route from Amberley we branched off at Loburn and followed the Whiterock and Quarry Roads until we came to the narrow, winding Okuku Pass Road, marked on the map as more suitable for 4WDs. On either side of the pass road there was a mix of native and pine forest. We continued many kilometres through hilly country, passing over Lees Saddle and then down to Okuku River. This can, after high rainfall, be difficult to cross but David’s son, Andrew, had assured us that, it was likely to be quite fordable. Thankfully this proved correct and with the water being on 30 cm deep, there was no difficulty. On we went, over the Okuku Saddle, past McDonald Downs, Okuku and Mt Lawry Stations and eventually into the broad, flattish, Lees Valley where we passed a couple of farmers droving sheep, past the Lees Valley Reserve school, past a lady and two girls riding horses, past a DOC sign sign indicating the track to Youngman Hut on the Puketeraki Range, over the Ashley River bridge and past another DOC sign indicating the the way to Townshend Track and Wharfdale Hut. Eventually, after crossing the Ashley River again at Gillespies Bridge the road narrowed and began to climb steeply, winding its way round some tight corners, high above the Ashley River gorge until descending to Middle Bridge where we stopped for a late lunch beside the river. The road then climbed again above the river and we continued until we spied Banks Peninsula and dropped down to the Plains. Once on the Ashley Gorge Road and back on the Inland Scenic Road we travelled on to Geraldine where we had brief stop and arrived home around 5.30 pm.
Wayne Keen, John Hyland, Robert Birks, Barry Robinson, Dawn McAteer, Catherine Thomas and Dorothy Tomlinson express their gratitude to David Mason (and to his son Andrew at Amberley) for arranging this weekend. It was a wonderful alternative to going up the Wilberforce where rain and high winds prevailed. Instead, we enjoyed perfect weather, camping in a sheltered valley at Amberley House, Andrew and Angie’s warm hospitality, great views up Mt Grey and, with the two 4WD vehicles, an interesting detour on the way home.
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