20 September 2015
We had a surprisingly good turnout for a day where the weather looked rather dodgy. Despite a few cancelling because of the weather we still had 10 trampers turn up for our first trip with members of Avon Tramping Club. In fact the weather forecast was much better inland than for Christchurch and so it turned out to be. After Saturdays cold snap there was light patchy snow on the ground at the start of the track.
In summer you can take a 4WD trough to Lake Emily but I wouldn’t try in winter. We headed off down the track and quickly found ourselves skipping around to avoid the thick claggy mud underfoot. Some climbed slightly above the track (and dodged the scrub) while others persevered through the mud. It didn’t last long however and we soon found ourselves on a solid farm track approaching our next hazard – a very large heard of black cattle. We kept well to one side of the track so as to avoid herding them ahead of us as we went past. They moved along with us for a little but we soon got ahead –or so we thought. A look behind us and we saw the whole heard lined up behind us across the track just metres away, watching silently. In a game of grandma’s footsteps they followed us when we moved on and stopped to watch whenever we paused and looked back. Eventually they dropped off to our left and we thought that was that –but no, as our path also turned left further on we crossed paths again, this time the heard walking across out track in single file. No way round it, one enterprising tramper couldn’t resist taking point and directing traffic – and surprisingly the cows responded!
We soon reached the Lake Emily carpark where some of our party rescued a lamb caught in the carpark cattlestop. It rejoined the flock limping a bit but it seemed OK. As the track took us past the lake and across a wide valley the cloud started to clear a little giving us glimpses of the mountains surrounding us. The tramping track gently climbs a small ridge and heads directly towards the hut while the bike track takes the long way round. The ridge top is a great place to stop and admire the views while taking a bite to eat. It’s a short steep drop down the other side then across the flats again until the turnoff 5 minutes from the hut. It’s an interesting hut but there are signs of it being somewhat overrun with mice at times and it certainly wouldn’t be very warm in winter –plenty of good camping sports though.
After lunch we headed down to Manuka lake just a few minutes beyond the hut (so the leader could say she’d been there) then headed back. Not so warm now starting off into the light wind but we soon warmed up when we reached the climb over the small saddle. On the trip back we noticed that much of the snow on the ground had melted but the mud was still waiting for us. So near the end of the track most of us just ploughed through this time.
We made it to the Staveley Store and 10 trampers descended on them just 15 minutes before closing. They rose to the occasion and 10 hot drinks and 10 happy trampers later they finally got to close up (albeit a bit later than they had expected). Thanks Staveley Store. Returning home we found it had rained all day in Christchurch while we had nary a drop – a reminder to check the weather for the area you’re going to and don’t be put off by rain at home. A great day out - especially chatting with our new friends. We’ll look forward to more combined trips in the future.