Winter is Coming - 14th April 2015
I looked out the window this morning and guess what? Snow. Just a thin salting over the grass, already melted on the driveway and anything a little darker, but still: snow.
I guess winter really is coming.
Just two weeks ago we were up at Hanmer Springs enjoying a late summer. The temperature was in the mid 20's C. It's a couple of hours from where we live, and the drive up is quite interesting, folowing sections of the Hurunui River on a road that alternates between vast straight stretches (several miles in one place), and twisting roads that rise and dip through sharp little corners. There are cliffs, gorges, and even the odd vinyard.
Hanmer Springs bills itself as an alpine village, and mostly it has stamped its character from the tourist mold. It has plenty of restaurants, cafes, shops, and all that you'd expect, but the star attractions are the hot springs. These occupy a complex in the middle of town next to a rather excellent information centre. It's been years since I dipped a toe in the hot water here, but the springs still have an enduring appeal to most. We came here for the walking.
After a pleasant lunch in the 'Whatever' cafe we set out to walk the Dog Stream Track, but a quick look at the start was enough to deter us. I'm not overly fond of wasps, and they can be a real problem here in the late summer. The beech trees blacken and are covered with drops of honeydew, which causes a population explosion until winter comes and thins them out a bit. There's no doubt in my mind that spring and early summer are the best times to walk here.
We chose to do the forest walk instead, crossing from that onto the Majuba track and then on up to the top of Conical Hill. The trees on this walk are not beeches, so no wasps, and the views are excellent. The track meanders through grassy meadows, past flax bordered ponds and across the hillside to get to conical hill, after which it is all rising zigs and zags up to the summit where a small shelter invites you to sit and enjoy both the panoramic views and the cool breeze. We did the walk a couple of years ago, and little has changed.