Equipped with all sorts of new gear, we drove out of Christchurch, keen to get our nature fix after having spent more than a week in the city. We kind of had a look at the weather forecast and there kind of was a good weather window, but to be honest, we were too keen to wait for anything better and decided to just go for it!
The main issue with multi-day hikes for us is often that we don’t feel comfortable leaving our van in a random car park at the start of a hike, as a lot of these places in New Zealand are notorious for break-ins and vandalism. And it sucks to be out for a few days in a beautiful place, away from it all, only to worry about your home still being there when you return. So instead we try and find a safe spot to park up our van, like at the local police station, or – for this particular hike – at a lovely farmstay only a few hundred meters from the start of our hike.
On arrival, we met Jenny the farmstay owner, finished packing our overnight bags, and were shown the shortcut across the farm to pop out on the track where our hike started. Our first day was short but steep, 5km with nearly 1000m elevation. Luckily, it didn’t take long before we popped out of the bush and the weather as well as the views were amazing! After multiple false summits (which is pretty typical of hiking in NZ), we finally saw the real summit of Little Mt Peel as well as the tiny hut in which we would spend the night perched just below. We hung out on the summit with a hot drink while the sun was still around, as we knew it would get VERY cold after sunset. The hut is more of a shelter, with a table and two benches which we used to put our sleeping mats on, but it was perfect for just one night for the two of us.
The next day we had hoped to continue along the tops to Big Mt Peel, but unfortunately after a nice, sunny breakfast, more and more clouds rolled in. We decided to see if we could at least reach Middle Mt Peel (I know, so very Goldilocks). When we were nearly at the top, the low hanging clouds turned into a complete white out, so we ditched our bags, ran to the top to bag the peak, ran back, and huddled close together to make a cup of tea before returning our steps to the shelter. After a nice, warm lunch we decided to walk out instead of staying another night as Thomas his sleeping bag wasn’t quite warm enough for the kind of weather we were having. As expected, once below the clouds, we ended up hiking in the rain and were pretty soaked by the time we got back to the van. We decided to spend the night at the farmstay so we could use the hot showers, which made us feel a hundred times better already.
The next morning it was back to beautiful weather, so we had the ultimate lazy day walking around town and waiting for all of our gear to dry out (yes, a 9 km walk counts as a lazy day in our book 🙂 ). It wasn’t until late afternoon that we finally left the farmstay to drive a whole 10 km to the closest free campsite where we continued to be lazy (this time actually sitting down and reading books on a blanket in the sun).
Of course three days no climbing meant that Thomas was chomping at the bit to go climbing again. We drove via cute town Geraldine to Hanging Rock, but unfortunately this crag is currently closed for biosecurity reasons. The next day we tried again at Raincliff, but once we had finally found the wall, it was pretty clear no climbing would be taking place, as the routes were crazily bolted and started from within the river. Bummer!
We continued on to Timaru, where we went for a random bike ride and discovered the beautiful Centennial Park. After 4 years in Auckland, it’s so nice to have a proper autumn and see all the trees down in the South Island in beautiful colours! While we were in Timaru, Thomas received a phone call that his new glasses were ready for pick up, so back up north we went. The weather was much better than our previous stop in Christchurch and we had some nice days climbing at Cattlestop and Britten Crag, walking around in the Port Hills and chilling out in Lyttelton. We were pretty excited however once we got moving again, as next up was Castle Hill and Arthurs Pass!