CLOSE TO HOME

Get­ting to and from Macau­lay Hut is one of Close to Home con­trib­u­tor Richard Soult’s favourite over­land trips and has re­cently been added to the Ex­pe­di­tions sec­tion of his web­site

NZ4WD - - CONTENTS - Story and pho­tos by Richard Soult.

Strangely, the idea for this route took shape in my din­ing room in Bur­gundy, France sev­eral years ago. I had been liv­ing in France for 18 years and had re­turned to New Zealand for an ex­tended hol­i­day. I was on a trip around the South Is­land and was spend­ing a night at Tekapo vil­lage. I had been told that the walk up to the ob­ser­va­tory on Mount John was worth it, so off I went. Get­ting to the top, the view was amaz­ing. Be­ing a keen 4x4 Ex­plorer, I was drawn to the road go­ing up the side of Lake Tekapo and won­dered how far it went into the moun­tains.

Bath time!

Sev­eral months later and back in France, I was look­ing on Google Earth and fol­low­ing the track that I had seen from the top of Mount John. Cross­ing the Macau­lay River, I con­tin­ued my “vir­tual” trip up the val­ley un­til my curser crossed over an im­age ti­tled “bath time”. In­trigued, I opened the im­age and found an old iron bath, set in the most amaz­ing scenery with a tin of Speight's sit­ting on the edge. I promised my­self that if I re­turned to New Zealand, I would buy a slab of Speight's and test the bath for my­self! I did re­turn to New Zealand, and on my first visit to the Macau­lay hut, I found a happy mix of hunters, ad­ven­ture mo­tor bik­ers and fel­low 4x4 Ex­plor­ers. The bath was there, quickly filled and a fire lit be­neath. I then pro­ceeded to drink my can of Speight's while en­joy­ing the view of the im­mense val­ley and sur­round­ing moun­tains. Sadly the bath was re­moved some time ago, prob­a­bly seen as a fire risk, but the hut re­mains and is one of the best that I have vis­ited.

Up the God­ley

This Ex­pe­di­tion takes you up the stun­ning God­ley Val­ley to the base of the Maud Glacier and then up the Macau­lay Val­ley to the Macau­lay Hut. It can eas­ily be driven in a week­end and you can choose be­tween stay­ing in the Red Stag Hut up the God­ley Val­ley or the Macau­lay Hut, or both. To get there leave Tekapo Vil­lage with enough fuel and sup­plies for a few days, and head up the North Eastern side of the lake. If the weather is nice, there are nu­mer­ous places to stop for a pic­nic and a swim. The gravel road con­tin­ues and within an hour of leav­ing Tekapo, you come to the cross­ing of the Macau­lay River. This is the only se­ri­ous ob­sta­cle on this Ex­pe­di­tion and should be treated with care, as the road sign in­forms you. At times of av­er­age flow, the cross­ing does not present any se­ri­ous dif­fi­culty or re­quire a snorkel.

Weather de­pen­dent

It should be noted that the weather in this area can change quickly and any heavy rain­fall may see you stuck on the other side wait­ing for the wa­ter to sub­side, so take some ex­tra pro­vi­sions and check the weather forecast be­fore cross­ing. Once across the river, you pass through Lily­bank Sta­tion and start up the God­ley Val­ley. There are a cou­ple of signs di­rect­ing you to the river bed marked “Pub­lic Road”. Pub­lic yes, but road, not sure... As you head up the val­ley, the views get bet­ter and bet­ter. On the route, you will pass a sign telling you that you have en­tered Ao­raki Mount Cook Na­tional Park. A quick glance at the map will show you just how re­mote this val­ley is as you are now closer to Franz Joseph, on the West Coast, than Tekapo Vil­lage. The route takes you up the riverbed and at times route find­ing can be a chal­lenge. There are spo­radic cairns and or­ange posts but the route is con­stantly chang­ing and there will be places where the “track” is washed out.

Easy to miss

Red Stag Hut is easy to miss and is lo­cated off to your right as you ap­proach the head of the val­ley. The go­ing be­comes more and more dif­fi­cult as the boul­ders be­come larger and track more dif­fi­cult to iden­tify. I have been told that it has been pos­si­ble to reach the ter­mi­nus lake of the Maud Glacier in a ve­hi­cle, but this is some­thing that I have yet to achieve. I usu­ally get to within a kilo­me­tre or so and the walk up to the lake is re­ally worth it. The beauty and feel­ing of re­mote­ness are truly spe­cial! From the lake, re­trace your path and head ei­ther to Red Stag Hut or back down to Lily­bank Sta­tion and up to the Macau­lay Hut.

Mag­i­cal spot

If you’re do­ing this Ex­pe­di­tion over a week­end, you will nor­mally find friendly, like minded, peo­ple in the hut with the log burner go­ing and plenty of room to stay. The bath may have gone, but this a mag­i­cal spot and still worth the ef­fort. Af­ter a com­fort­able night in the hut, a cou­ple of hours will see you out and back to the civil­i­sa­tion of Tekapo Vil­lage. A re­ally great Ex­pe­di­tion that is eas­ily done in a week­end if you’re based in Christchurch or down that way. For more in­for­ma­tion, in­clud­ing GPX files, on this Ex­pe­di­tion and many more through­out New Zealand, join 4x4­ex­plorer.co.nz

Bath time at Macau­lay Hut.

Macau­lay River cross­ing.

Red Stag Hut.

Maud Glacier and ter­mi­nus lake.

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