Event: The Great New Zealand Trek - Ophir to Lawrence

Walking New Zealand - - Contents - By Frances Har­ri­son

The Great New Zealand Trek cov­er­ing the length of New Zealand which be­gan twelve years ago at Cape Reinga as a fundrais­ing mis­sion for mul­ti­ple scle­ro­sis, con­tin­ued this year to­wards its goal of Bluff. Ophir, a small his­toric gold min­ing set­tle­ment in Cen­tral Otago, hosted the ar­rival of some 320 trekkers, from where we would fol­low the pink rib­boned route, fin­ish­ing in Lawrence seven days later.

Sadly though, this year’s Trek be­gan on a melan­choly note with the pass­ing of Hepa Pae­wai shortly be­fore the event’s first night in Ophir. Hepa had been a long time sup­porter of the Trek and in the past few years taken on a lead­ing role in its or­ga­ni­za­tion and espe­cially route plan­ning. Many a hill has been has been re­named af­ter him, in his dry man­ner of down-play­ing its rise.

So with many Hepa Hills in front of us, the route left Ophir, re­puted to be one of the cold­est places in the coun­try and drew us south. For­tu­nately we didn’t ex­pe­ri­ence -21 de­grees that first night, as was recorded some years ago. But hot­ties, thick sweat­shirts and warm socks did come in very handy af­ter sun­down.

We be­gan wan­der­ing along an­cient gold trails, stark rocky out­crops and through a land the lo­cals call a desert. It was in­deed a harsh, stony, dry en­vi­ron­ment. Yet amaz­ingly wild thyme grew in masses wher­ever a smat­ter­ing of soil lay.

This was once a pop­u­lar herb the Chi­nese gold min­ers had used as food flavour­ing. Now hav­ing es­caped the con­fines of a gar­den wall, it grew ev­ery­where. We had just missed the flow­er­ing sea­son but its aro­matic scent filled the air.

Colour peeped out as from all places; yel­lows and browns of rock lichens, pinks, blues and or­anges from flow­ers I couldn’t name, and greys and blacks of the schist, sheep and wa­tery tarns. Con­trast­ing against the greens of grasses and crops were the shiny whites of the huge mush­rooms and ro­tund puff­balls.

The quan­tity of the mush­rooms grow­ing had to be seen to be be­lieved. They were the gi­ant horse mush­rooms and the gi­ant puff­balls. Never have I seen them in such sheer num­bers, along with their growth in such huge rings. It just added to the imag­i­na­tion as the size of the fairies in th­ese cir­cles!

Our won­der­ful cater­ers, Lovely Grub Lo­ca­tion Cater­ing ac­cepted boxes full of th­ese din­ner plate sized mush­rooms to add to our break­fast.

Cen­tral Otago is a plethora of ru­ins and re­mains from the 1860s gold min­ing era. Our trail took us past iron relics and along old roads shored up with schist. It went through aban­doned wa­ter races, be­side empty lonely build­ings and along­side the fastest vol­ume of rush­ing wa­ter in the coun­try, namely the Clutha River.

Cen­sus night caught up with us and the de­liv­ery of sev­eral boxes of of­fi­cial pa­pers re­quired much at­ten­tion. The ac­qui­si­tion of pens to fill the boxes in cor­rectly took even longer and as to our ad­dress that night? That was the hard­est ques­tion of all.

Rest day in Roxburgh was a wel­come break to catch up on wash­ing or re­lax­ing. Many en­joyed the retail op­por­tu­ni­ties or ex­plored the lo­cal re­gion by what­ever means of trans­port they could ac­quire.

Lo­cal ‘Jimmy’s Pies’ were sam­pled and the Op Shop did a roar­ing trade. A visit to the Mu­seum was very pop­u­lar and ex­tremely in­ter­est­ing.

Even the his­toric part of the lo­cal ceme­tery showed a fas­ci­nat­ing in­sight into a life long ago.

Day 5 saw us all leav­ing camp again re­sum­ing our ob­jec­tive in get­ting closer to Bluff. The ter­rain had now changed sig­nif­i­cantly from the harsh, rocky, desert-like land­scape to lush, rolling, cul­ti­vated farm­land. Crops of turnips, swedes, kale, lucerne and chou moel-

lier were grow­ing for ex­tra win­ter stock feed.

We could have been in Tus­cany, France. How­ever in Gond­wana times this area was part of an in­land sea, the rolling land once the seabed. That ac­counted for the fos­silized oys­ter shells I dis­cov­ered.

The weather con­tin­ued to be kind to us in a south­ern sort of way. The nights did prove colder, the tops of the hills def­i­nitely cooler, but the sun did still shine and the wet weather gear only came out of its wrap­pers on oc­ca­sions. Gum­boots proved handy around some camp­sites, gloves and bean­ies kept ex­trem­i­ties warm on the chilly morn­ings.

One such cold, foggy morn­ing saw the be­gin­nings of a zumba ex­er­cise class to keep the blood mov­ing. Even the sun strug­gled to make its pres­ence known for some time that day.

Lo­cal busi­nesses along the route wel­comed an in­flux of trekkers sam­pling the wares on of­fer, be that a cold beer, a hot choco­late or a fa­mous south­ern del­i­cacy of a cheese roll. Mean­while back at camp, the hard work­ing vol­un­teer crew had raised the mas­sive mar­quee, erected tents, sited the show­ers and toi­lets, had the bar up and run­ning and checked the cater­ers trucks were level. The Help-X in­ter­na­tional vol­un­teer work­ers proved their worth over and again.

Just out of Lawrence, the small town’s man­i­cured sport’s ground was the lo­ca­tion of our last night’s camp. It came com­plete with a foun­tain af­ter one en­er­getic mar­quee crew mem­ber drove a spike into the wa­ter main!

What started out as one man’s dream has now be­come the ad­ven­ture of a life­time for so many peo­ple. The days be­gin early; they are long and of­ten hard and Mother Na­ture can throw a span­ner in the works at any time. The suc­cess of this event is only pos­si­ble be­cause of so many ded­i­cated peo­ple; from the Trek Trustees to spon­sors, landown­ers, lo­cal Coun­cils, vol­un­teer in­di­vid­u­als, busi­nesses and the trekkers.

So many peo­ple give up their time to make this Great New Zealand Trek ac­tu­ally hap­pen, I would need sev­eral more sheets of paper to name them all, and I would still be in dan­ger of for­get­ting some­one! I dare not try for such a list.

The Malaghan In­sti­tute of Re­search stands to ben­e­fit from monies raised in their search for a cure for Mul­ti­ple Scle­ro­sis. Dr Anne La Flamme, head re­search sci­en­tist from the In­sti­tute, joined in again for a few days bring­ing both daugh­ters this year to taste the ad­ven­ture.

To Hepa Pae­wai we re­mem­ber you on ev­ery hill top. To his fam­ily, Kitty John­son his part­ner, the Trustees and or­ga­niz­ers who all stepped up to fill the breach at such a sad time, we honor, sup­port and salute you all.

Next year sees the cul­mi­na­tion of this odyssey. For ev­ery­one who has been part of this jour­ney from Cape Reinga, it will be a goal well ac­com­plished. Book 16 – 24 March 2019 in your diaries now. Fol­low the Face­book page

Above: A per­fect lunch stop. Be­low left: We could have been walk­ing in Tus­cany! Be­low right: Brid­get takes in the view.

Above: Dis­ap­pear­ing into the mist. Be­low left: A rock ion the shape of Colonel Gadaffi. Be­low right: Frances un­der a gi­ant mush­room.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.