11 Lovely Ladies go a-tramping
Punakaiki & Inland Pack Track. 29 January - 1 February 2021
Friday 29 January. Weather conditions: a bluebird day.
Three vehicles left Richmond on Friday afternoon bound for Punakaiki. One car left earlier than the others at 8.30am and managed to arrive later than the other three, having taken a slight ‘detour’ via Hokitika for the annual Driftwood Festival.
In all, 11 lovely ladies rendezvoused at the Punakaiki Beach Camp at dinner time, and at 9pm were lined up at the beach to enjoy a spectacular West Coast sunset.
Saturday 30 January. Weather conditions: a bluebird day.
A small sub-group headed up Mt Bovis, while the majority completed the Bullock Creek / Porari River Loop. The track starts and finishes at the village, and takes in part of the Inland Pack Track, as well as the final section of the new Paparoa Great Walk. After the uninspiring gravel Bullock Creek Rd, it's a nice flat walk through regenerating and mature forest.
Near the Bullock Creek / Inland Pack Track junction is a sidetrack to the site of the 1995 Cave Creek tragedy. Of the 18 people on the viewing platform when it collapsed and plunged 30m, 13 outdoor-ed students and one DOC staff member lost their lives and 3 more students were seriously injured. This was a black day in NZ history from a totally preventable accident.
After completing the loop, the group split up, with the local pub and the Pancake Rocks being popular choices. After dinner, the short walk toTrumans Beach was made, where another glorious sunset graced the horizon.
Sunday 31 January. Weather conditions: a bluebird day.
Overnight packs were shouldered and the Inland Pack Track adventure commenced. Built in 1867 during the gold rush to avoid dangerous coastal travel, the first part of the track from Bullock Creek is across flat farmland, scrub and forest.
After lunch at the Fossil Creek junction, the wet-feet part of the day started. Fossil Creek was criss-crossed many times, and/or was waded straight up the middle. Downed trees presented interesting obstacles to clamber under and over, and in these places ankle-deep water often became over-the-knee-deep. However much of the travel was on wide shingle banks.
Leaving Fossil Creek, it was time to navigate Dilemma Creek. More of the same - lots of shingle, lots of crossings, and at times wet knickers ensued for even the taller team members. The Dilemma Gorge was impressive with its high towering sides, but the river valley stayed wide and sunny.
Finally the confluence with the Fox River was reached. Crossing from the true left to the true right, going slightly downstream to avoid the deep pools, it was only 500m and 6 more river crossings to reach the Ballroom Overhang. Wow!
It is massive - certainly big enough to hold a ball - and there was room for oodles of tents. It's easier to plant them around the outskirts as the ground closer to the rock wall was rock hard.
The overhang gets the late afternoon and evening sun, so it was very enjoyable to sit by the river bank relaxing until the sun dipped below the canyon walls.
Monday 1 February. Weather conditions: a bluebird day.
The group split in two, with an advance guard heading to the coastal road end at Tirimoana to manage the car shuttle. It's about two hours from the overhang to the carpark, with only one additional shallow river crossing to negotiate from the confluence.
From Punakaiki the cars headed northwards to Tauranga Bay. The seal colony there provided amusement, and was followed by a brisk there-and-back walk to the Cape Foulwind Lighthouse.
An altogether fabulous long weekend (and a bluebird day every day!)
The 11 Lovely Ladies were: Diane (leader), Anna, Karen, Robyn, Alison, Mary, Anne, Julie, Marie, Anthea and Kathy.