METHVEN LIONS CLUB 4WD SAFARI
There was really only was one word to describe the Methven Lions Club’s Glenfalloch to Lake Heron 4WD Safari this year, magic!
For a short time while I was living in Methven I drove the Blackford/ Double Hill Run road on what seemed like at least a weekly basis for work or pleasure and I have to admit, I took it for granted. But seeing people stopping on the side of the road having lunch, taking photographs and pointing at the scenery, presumably seeing it for the first time on the Methven Lions Club Glenfalloch to Lake Heron 4WD Safari added a touch of enchantment that I was not expecting to experience, especially only minutes past the first check point. I arrived at the first checkpoint on Blackford Road at 11am where the friendly chaps told me they had seen around 250 vehicles pass since the 8am start, saying most people were out for a good old fashioned Sunday drive.
In all, the trip would see approximately 370 vehicles pass through the gates, raising approximately $ 18,000 for Lions Club projects in the Methven district and donations to Methven Search and Rescue, the Rakaia Gorge rural fire unit for first aid equipment and the Alford Forest Rural Fire Unit for a defibrillator. We paid our entry fee and received a map showing the trip and all the stations we were to pass by, including a brief history of ownership of the runs in the upper Rakaia Gorge. Glenfalloch and Lake Heron Stations are currently owned by the Todhunter families and consist of approximately 10,900 and 20,000 hectares, and sit at the head of the Rakaia and Ashburton Gorges respectively. The track through the stations is very well maintained and a credit to their efforts.
Gateway to the Gorges
An hour further on from checking in were the Glenfalloch yards and the gateway to the ‘Gorges’ trip. Many participants were parked up enjoying the sausage sizzle and light refreshments on offer which sold out, while others chose to enjoy a picnic lunch in what can only be described as spectacular surroundings with rugged hills and the glaciated mountains of the Arrowsmith Range and Southern Alps beyond. Heading through the gates we were led through a swampy area between the Palmer Range and The Whaleback before crossing a scree slope which brought you face to face with a jagged glaciated peak before rounding the corner to follow Lake Stream. The track hugged the sides of the Palmer Range and crossed many feeder streams making their way across or along the road as they pleased. Over the waters of Lake Stream you settled into views of the bush clad creeks rolling gently off Teddy’s and Cascade hills, and the picturesque Downs Hut nestled beneath in a clearing. It was roughly here that I encountered a family who had suffered the misfortune of puncturing a left front tyre. After checking they were OK I realised it all seemed to
be part of the fun of their journey, and it really was a trip in which you could create your own personal lit tle adventure bubble. Some found it quite intrepid, while others, like myself, saw it more as a wind down relaxing and rather fun trip.
Run as a self- drive safari rather than a tag-along it meant you could set your own pace, take photos at your leisure, pull over and escape the dust, or enjoy a picnic afternoon tea and a dip in the river for the kids on the flats. The track was well marked thanks to Ashburton Property Brokers real estate providing directional arrows at intersections, and volunteers from the Methven Lions Club and Search and Rescue manning checkpoints along the way. After a lit tle while we rounded Shaggy Hill, and Mt Sugarloaf, which sits on the margins of Lake Heron, popped into view signalling the trip was drawing to a close. A short drive through the Smite River was the last and most challenging obstacle of the day. There was one entry and exit that might have caught the odd bumper but on a whole the river crossing was well marked and hard packed making for easy and enjoyable driving. Too easy and enjoyable in fact, as I went a tad fast giving myself a lovely shower in the refreshing water coming through the window.
A cool dip on a hot day after an excellent adventure was just the icing on the cake, and I couldn’t help but smile at my lit tle faux-pas. We emerged shortly after at the yards of Lake Heron Station and joined the Hakatere Heron Road. A few stopped on the shores of the lake for an afternoon refreshment, paddle or fish, while others carried on down the road past the Maori Lakes and to the junction with the main road taking us back to Mt Somers. It was great to see such a wide variety of vehicles and range of people take part in the trip. The camaraderie amongst the participants was excellent with most happy to stop and have a chat, while others issued a friendly wave or thumbs up as they passed.
Thanks must go to the volunteers, organisers and sponsors of the trip and the station owners for allowing us access to their land. If you ever see this trip come up again take the time and go, it’s well worth the entry fee and you know you’ll be donating to a good cause. The scenery is quintessential New Zealand high country and the road is great to travel, you almost want to turn around and do it all over again. Which I would absolutely do in a heartbeat!
Rakaia River looking glacier blue from Blackford Road.
Sharp scree slope and glaciers at the confluence of the Rakaia River and Lake Stream.
Lake Heron with Sugarloaf on the right.
Bush and streams were plentiful on the Glenfalloch side of the trip.
Downs Hut nestles in across Lake Stream.