Rakaia Gorge - August 28th 2013
I've done a lot of day walks in New Zealand, but this is one of the best.
It is a walk with a good deal of variety, fabulous views, and long enough at around 10km to get the blood pumping. There are plenty of short climbs, a few places where a little caution is required and plenty of places where you can take your eyes off the path and just stop and stare.
The track follows the north/east side of the Rakaia Gorge, climbing up from the Selwyn side of the bridge and almost immediately rewarding you with expansive views of the river flats. The whole walk is dominated by the Mount Hutt range, and everywhere you can see the snow capped peaks towering above the scenery.
There is a lot of native flora here. I'm no botanist, but large sections of the walk were coloured by Kowhai in full bloom, Cabbage Trees and Pittosporum are plentiful, flaxes, coprosma, and griselinea too. the ubiqitous gorse and broom are there too, or course, and in places they dominate, but it is the views that make the walk.
The river is ever present, and depending on the position of the sun it changes from turquoise and blue to silver, winding through a very picturuesque gorge past forest and farm, cliffs and shingle flats. Terraces rise above it, mingling trees and paddocks, the few houses somehow making you jealous of the people who live there, though you know in your heart that such isolation is not for you.
This is also the first time that I have seen a New Zealand Falcon. If you know what a falcon looks like it's not hard to identify them, since it's the only falcon species that occurs here. The usual compliment of fantails, warblers and bellbirds were also present.
Another first was seeing pigs in the wild. They looked more like piglets (see photo) but the three of them were ranging freely on open ground and were not accompanied by anything larger. They ran half heartedly for cover when they became aware of us.
The Snowdon Coal mine is a short detour from the main track, but there's not much to see - just a couple of man made caves sealed with steel grilles and dripping with moisture.
It's possible, in the season, to walk out to the furthest point and then make your way down to the river and get picked up by a jet boat. You have to arrange this, or course, and I have no idea what it costs. The track down is signposted, and the jet boat operators have an office in the car park.
All the photo's are © Tim Stead 2013 for what it's worth.