Clarence Reserve, November 25-28, 2011

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Dean (Trip Leader), Phil, Bert and Noelene, Don, Roman and myself met up at Kaikoura train station at 2pm on Friday 25th November. After a quick briefing from Dean we set off, leaving Dean and Phil behind to find a polling station in Kaikoura so they could cast their vote in the general election

The rest of us set off inland to the start of the access track into the reserve, after a look at the map and after Bert aired down his tyres we set off up the steep and dusty mountainside track to the Blind Saddle (elevation 1190 meters) where Dean and Phil caught up with us and Dean then took over as Trip Leader.

We proceeded down to Bushy Saddle and followed the Seymour Stream down the valley bouncing over a river bead and numerous stream crossings. We then headed over a couple of hills on a clay track (would be interesting if the track was wet) into the next valley and came across the historic Quail Flat Cob House, we all had a poke around the house and surrounding buildings with plenty of photos taken.

We the set off for Seymour Hut which was our planned first night’s accommodation, but as we approached the hut we noticed there were vehicles and people, after a brief talk and deciding there wasn’t enough room for both groups, Dean made the decision to head back up the Seymour Stream to the Warden Hut 9km away where we made camp for the first night. After we were all set up, Bert got to cooking up some venison supplied by Don for us all. While we were settling into a few drinks Brett (Deans friend from ChCh in his Zebra VW) and his girlfriend turned up to join us. It all ended up a bit of a late night with the odd drink or three. I was rudely woken at some stage due to some obnoxious snoring, but we won’t mention that.

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It was an early wake up call in the morning with the hunters that were in Seymour Hut driving past Warden Hut where we were staying yelling out that they were leaving and the hut was free. Yeah, thanks guys for the early wake up call. After some breakfast we packed the trucks up, tidied up the hut and set off down the Seymour Stream then turned off up another gully to the historic Black Spur Hut, had a good look around then it was off to Seymour Hut to drop our gear off and a quick cup of tea. Dean gave us a quick briefing of the day’s plan which was to travel the 22kms or so to Palmer Hut which was up river from our location. Don decided to jump in my truck as it was pointless running his petrol hungry 80 series all the way there and back.

We set off for the hut passing some amazing scenery up and down steep tracks bulldozed on the sides of mountains, down to the river bed then up another saddle. We rounded the corner to find Dean and Phil with the VW bogged in a muddy part of the track. After a quick snatch out from the Prado we were back on track and came across the Old Willows Historic Hut where we had another poke around, then off to Palmer Hut which overlooks the Clarence for lunch.

After we all had a bite to eat we set off down a steep rutted bank down to the river bed which we drove up a couple of kms until we got sick of being bounced around so we headed back, everyone negotiated the steep bank all ok, so we headed back the same way. Dean decided he would get stuck in the same place but in the opposite direction, and Brett also thought he would have a go at getting stuck which he also achieved. After all that was sorted out and Phil repaired a puncture on the mountain bike we all made our way back to Seymour hut for the evening.

Bert was hunting around for his gas bottle and then realised he had left it at  Palmer hut where we had lunch, so he took off back to the hut (about 50kms return) to retrieve his gas bottle, We had a less boozy night and early to bed.

After a noisy, but good nights sleep, we set off down river for Goose Flat Hut. We didn’t get very far and came across a big slip that took out the track, Phil went exploring on the mountain bike but we were unable to carry on in the trucks due to the slip, so it was off back to the hut  to pack and clean up. Now  it was time to head back out to civilization back over the blind saddle, we stopped for a bite to eat, then back down to the locked gate. Unfortunately Bert couldn’t remember the combination so we had to wait for Dean to catch up with us to let us out of the gate, and that was the end of the Clarence Reserve trip, We said our goodbyes and headed off on our Road trip of the Top of the South Island

Thanks Dean for organising such a great trip!

Cheers Nick

Photos of the Clarence Reserve Trip here