The Perfect Work Week

I glance at the clock in the corner of my computer screen; the small white numbers read ‘3:05pm’. I look over to my cell phone on my desk, hoping to see a green, flashing light, indicating that I have received a message, but the phone sits there lifelessly. I return back to the Excel sheet I have open and attempt to concentrate on work. Minutes pass as I resist the urge to check the time or signs of a blinking light. I finally cave, and check the time again… 3:06pm. God damn it!

So far every day this week had been like this; initial excitement, followed by nervous anticipation, quickly followed by disappointment. Friday was shaping up to be no different. The green light suddenly bursts into life. I fumble with the phone to view the message ‘we’re on!’. I smile to myself and quickly start packing up my things. What had started out as an innocent idea several weeks ago, had steadily evolved, over multiple lunchtime conversations, into what had now become known as ‘The Perfect Work Week’.

Christchurch has the convenient geographical properties of a surfable coast line and a long stretch of 400 meter high volcanic hill tops, offering all manner of outdoor activities (it also has endless, uneventful flat plains that need at least an hour’s worth of driving to get anywhere interesting, but the less said about that the better). A plan had formed that involved completing an activity each evening, taking advantage of all the possibilities that Christchurch has to offer. At the time of its inception, there was probably a well-meaning intention for doing it, such as raising awareness for a particular charity, or showcasing all of Christchurch’s potential to a wider audience. But as the week drew closer, it became more about doing it because it was interesting and fun, as opposed to anything noble or useful.

Matt was the driving force behind the logistical side of things, and had put together the following itinerary:

Monday – Paragliding

Tuesday – Rock Climbing

Wednesday – Mountain Biking

Thursday – Surfing

Friday – Tubing

It may be apparent that all the activities are outdoor based, presenting a bit of a challenge when, say, a weather bomb is forecast for the same week. However, as we were about to find out, forecasts and reality exist in two different dimensions.

As paragliding was the most weather dependant, it was decided to make it Plan A for each evening. Plan B was another activity if it wasn’t going to go ahead. The call would be made at 3pm via Facebook, resulting in lots of phone checking and finger crossing from around 2:30pm each day.


First day, first activity. There was excitement over the social media group as 3:00pm neared and the skies were clear. That initial buzz lasted until about 3:01pm, when we got the message that paragliding was cancelled due to strong winds up on the Port Hills. Not to worry, our Plan B for high winds on the Port Hills was… rock climbing on the Port Hills. Admittedly not the best option, but seeing as rock climbing was the only activity we couldn’t do in the rain, and it wasn’t raining, it was selected by default. And besides, how bad can 30km/h winds be?

‘Worse than expected’ was the agreed upon answer as one by one we reached the top of the climb, to be greeted with howling, gale force winds. We were climbing at a location known as Cattlestop. Perched up on the Port Hills, it consists of a number of smaller crags that snake their way down to the Christchurch suburbs below. Being north facing, the spot provided panoramic views of Christchurch and the Canterbury Plains stretching all the way to the Kaikoura’s and Torlesse Range, with the deep blue of the ocean gently caressing the East coast. However, also being north facing, meant that the crag provided zero shelter from the Nor’ West wind that was currently raging through Canterbury.

We had opted to climb at the Footware crag, due to its selection of easier climbing grades, with names such as ‘Flip Flop’, ‘High Heels’ and ‘Jandals’, implying their ease. Evidently the grades hadn’t factored in the potential wind element and with a roaring in my ears, and loose chalk from my chalk bag covering my face, I battled with the rope to secure an anchor to allow others to climb.

I abseiled to the bottom of the crag, and with a rearranged hair style and wild, open eyes, I muttered something about the climb being fine, and took myself to the side to take a moment to gather myself after the shock of climbing in a wind tunnel. I watched several members of the group ascend the ropes that had been set up, resembling the storming of a castle. This seemed an apt metaphor judging by the far away stare they all came back down with, looking like they had come back from battle.

Strangely, after the one climb, most people seemed content with cowering amongst the local vegetation out of the wind, having a beer and enjoying the view, thus bringing the first day of activity to a close. Considering the circumstances, we decided to chalk the evening up as a success (clever climbing based pun intended).


Tuesday afternoon started with hope, but ended in dismay, as we were once again forced into our Plan B, due to continued high winds. As far as Plan B’s go, this wasn’t a complete disaster as it involved mountain biking at the newly built Adventure Park. Opened in December 2016, the park provides Christchurch with 50 kilometres of mountain bike trails, several kilometres of of zip line action and the fastest chair lift in the Southern Hemisphere, at least according to the marketing information on the web site. What it actually offers is a very lazy, convenient way of riding downhill, to the point that the concept of cycling uphill becomes almost folklore. Unfortunately the same high winds that had cancelled the paragliding had also resulted in the chair lift being temporarily closed.

As we discussed possible Plan C’s, none of which involved cycling the uphill track to the top and all of which involved going to the pub instead, word spread that the winds had died down and the chair lift had been reopened. It’s not very often I click my heels together in a Marry Poppins-esque kind of way, but I felt the occasion called for it as we boarded the chair lift to success.

One of the Adventure Parks selling points is its notorious 6km long jump track, known as Airtearoa. The track twists and turns its way down through the pine forest and is liberally peppered with large, imposing jumps and drops to be negotiated. The most suitable description I can think of for it is ‘terrifyingly exciting’. There is a genuine feeling of relief when you make it down to the end in one piece, especially when you consider the amount of recent ACC claims that have been lodged due to the new trail. Sweating and shaking, as the fear is replaced with an endorphin high, there was normally a good 30 seconds recovering at the end of the track before someone casually suggested ‘so… Airteroa again?’ – which is generally how the evening panned out.


It was around this time that reports of the impending weather bomb (the technical term for bastard high 100km/h winds and shit loads of rain) starting to appear.  The forecast was predicting apocalyptic like conditions for the evening, so we didn’t even bother entertaining the notion that paragliding would be going ahead. We did however need a Plan B. Anything aquatic based seemed a little ambitious seeing as we would need something resembling an Ark to safely take to the water. So we opted for the safer option of a walk. Not the most thrilling of activities I’ll admit, but a weather warning is a weather warning.

Slightly apprehensively, we arrived at Taylors Mistake, a small bay nestled towards the end of the Port Hills, equipped with waterproof gear, emergency rations and holy water, to be greeted with glorious sunshine. How a forecast can be so spectacularly wrong I’m not entirely sure, but in any case, it meant that we were to have lovely conditions for a walk along the Godley Head track. The walk starts in Taylors Mistake and follows the rugged coastline around the head of the Port Hills, providing various nuggets of history along the way. Remains of WWII gun placements still exist, a reminder that even in the depths of the southern hemisphere they were preparing for the worst.  The sun and no rain continued to beat down on us, as we circled around the Port Hills to view into Diamond Harbour, surrounded by steep hill sides slipping into the sea. The charm of the area is that it is so close to Christchurch, yet completely disconnected from it, providing a small sense of exploration and isolation. What should have been at best an average evening, and at worst a write-off, became instead an unexpected highlight of the week.  There’s a lot to be said for lowering expectations.


Another day, another paragliding cancellation. Although this time it wasn’t a massive surprise, seeing as the ridiculously named ‘Weather Bomb’ was still lurking, with the hooves of the four horsemen just audible in the wind. More importantly however, was that we were now running out of activity options, with only surfing and tubing left. Videos were emerging of a flooded Waimakariri River, so currently that was out. So what better activity to do when high winds and rain is predicted? Well that would be surfing, but only because we had already climbed earlier in the week.

And what a surf it was too! The waves were a few feet high, clean and breaking nicely, ideal for a group of novices trying their hand at surfing. We monopolised a small area of the surf and cheered each other on as one by one we clambered onto our boards and wobbly surfed for all of about two and a half seconds. If a load of beginners in the water wasn’t annoying enough for the local surfers, then the appearance of one of our mates bobbing about in a giant, inflatable swan probably was. Still, we are all out there to have a good time, and plenty of waves for everyone, I kept repeating to myself, as another long boarder careered through the middle of us.

The weather held for an hour or so, before the clouds darkened and big rain drops began to fall from the sky. Thus signalling that it was time to retreat to the pub to toast to another evening of success, and discuss at length whether it really matters that it’s raining when you’re already surfing?


‘We’re on for paragliding’. I was not expecting this. I’d come accustomed to my 3pm disappointment and felt slightly confused with this new, excited emotion. As I cycled home against a stiff head wind, it did seem surprising that it was going ahead. It appeared that the paragliding people also thought this too, as by the time I got home at 4pm, an update had gone out informing us that paragliding had now been cancelled. Thank god for that I thought, as I was now able to return to my familiar, disappointed state.

One problem remained, how would we make the tubing work? Matt set out scouting a number of options. Tubing the Waimakariri River was out, based on the fact that the car park we were meant to meet at was currently under record levels of water, which therefore didn’t bode overly well for tubing the river.

Plan B was the famously polluted Avon River. Again, not overly ideal I’ll agree, but we had run out of options. And so it was that a number of dog walkers and tourists armed with video cameras got the pleasure of witnessing 14 idiots in wet suits slowly riding inflatables down the Avon.


The river casually meanders through Christchurch at a leisurely rate of knots, passing through the city centre and the Botanical Gardens, which is where we had decided to set sail from. The sun attempted to force its way through the cloudy sky, resulting in the average temperature being maintained at a just about tolerable level for a good time. As inflatable sofas, dinghy’s, tyres, a ball pit complete with slide, a desert island complete with palm tree, and the swan again, gradually got ushered along by a gentle current, the inhabitants of said inflatables laughed and joked their way downstream.

It was only a matter of time before disaster struck, as one by one the inflatables began to fall apart. No doubt a result of the cocktail of pollutants that are present in the Avon and absolutely nothing to do with the misuse and overloading they were subjected to.

The evening was spent wrapped up in down jackets and scarfs as we enjoyed a chilly summer nights BBQ, which neatly provided an overall summary for the week – even in a week of predicted weather bombs,  good times can still be had.


The Mega Multi Sport Day

When thinking up new adventures, I find it hard not to over indulge in how the experience will look several months later, when the GoPro edit is finally completed. There are always blue skies, the most epic camera angles and only the most talented, witty and attractive of my mates, showcased on screen. This played on my mind as I sat in the truck, staring out the windscreen, watching the rain bounce off the steamed up glass. Out of the seven adventure sports we had planned to do that day, I had so far done one out of three, and was about to pass on the fourth. This wasn’t in the script.

It all started on a chilly, star filled Friday night at the Craigieburn camp ground. We had arrived in several 4×4’s, laden with camping, skiing, bouldering and caving equipment. Back in Christchurch was a garage full of rock climbing, mountain biking, surfing and barbecuing equipment for the Saturday afternoon’s activities. Our plan, which wasn’t much simpler on paper, was as follows; hike to the top of the ski field then ski down, do some bouldering at Castle Hill, followed by some caving at Cave Stream. We would then drive back to Christchurch, complete a quick and faff-less gear swap, and head up to Godley Head on the Port Hills. Here we would climb at Farm Terrace Crag, mountain bike down the Anaconda trail to Taylors Mistake, and end the day surfing, followed by a barbecue. The intention was simple; put together a badass video, have some adventurous fun, and spread some good karma by raising awareness for a friends new testicular charity ‘Team Lumpy Bumpy’.

I had spent Friday packing up the truck and getting increasingly anxious over worsening weather reports for Saturday. With overnight snow predicted and a front on its way, it was likely that access to the ski field would be restricted until the avalanche risk over the access road was cleared. Not being able to get up to the ski field would massively impact on the ‘epicness’ of the day. I had envisioned us hiking up the ski field, crunching through fresh snow, as traces of purples and yellows streaked across the horizon behind us, warning of an imminent sun rise. Arriving at the summit in time for the sun to make its first appearance, we would be surrounded by blue from a cloudless morning. We would then ski down, high fiving and smiling as the GoPro, attached to a selfie stick, was waved around, catching all the unfolding action. I fell asleep that night, in the cold, uncomfortable tent at the Craigieburn camp ground, running these images through my head while trying to work out a suitable backing track for the movie; ‘Simply the Best’ by Tina Turner was probably a little too egotistical, good sax solo mind.

Waking at 4:45 the following morning, I gingerly stuck my head out of the tent to assess the sky. The blackness was littered with pin pricks of light, more vivid and numerous than what I was accustomed to in Christchurch. ‘We’re on!’ I thought to myself, excitingly getting dressed and wondering if perhaps the predicted front got held up in Arthur’s Pass, or wasn’t going to come at all.

sunrise cropped

Several weeks earlier, we had completed a dry run of the day to get an idea of time requirements and distances between various points. We had to keep to a tight schedule to ensure that we weren’t finishing the day biking and surfing in the dark. Add to this my slightly obsessive time paranoia, a group of ten, and leaving the camp site ten minutes later than agreed, I was already starting to get agitated. Driving in convoy along the empty, bleak highway for several kilometers, we turned off onto the ski field access track and continued up the gravel road, stones crunching under the wheels and dust being kicked up, reflecting the beams of our headlights back onto us.

It wasn’t long before snow and ice was started to appear on the access track and we eventually had to pull over to fit chains. I had allowed a bit of time for this in the itinerary, and having practised the day before, was able to fit them relatively quickly. I looked across to the other 4x4s, which had several people crouched round each wheel, wrestling to get the chains on. Head torches lit up the struggling exhales of breath, as the chains, too small for the wheels, refused to go on. We battled with them for 15 minutes, attempting various methods and techniques to get them fitted. We literally needed millimetres to connect the ends together, and finally, after much rearranging and brute force, managed to link the two ends. I was mindful that it was too soon for celebration, as we still didn’t know if the access gate would be open. We continued on up the dark access track, following two red dots, embodying the rear lights of the car ahead of us.

Leaving the safety of the forest as we broke through the tree line, I started to get an indication of how windy it was becoming. The earlier dust that had been caught in the headlights had now been replaced with snow, almost giving the wind form, as it whipped across the track in front of us. We turned the final corner before the gate, to see an open road ahead of us. Finally some good news I thought, as the truck wobbled in the wind. Considering all we had done so far was essentially wake up and drive to a ski field, it had been surprisingly stressful 45 minutes. Unfortunately, things weren’t about to get much better.


Arriving at the ski field car park and climbing out of the truck, it was instantly apparent how strong the wind actually was, as it attempted to blow the car doors off. The blasts of wind arrived in intervals, seemingly awaiting the most opportune moment, normally when stood on one leg trying to put on a ski boot, or while removing the skis from the roof of the car. When it blew strong enough to lift my snowboard off the ground and slam it painfully into my knee, I decided I wasn’t going up the mountain. The news didn’t go down overly well with the rest of the group, which was understandable, seeing as this was originally my idea and now I was backing out almost immediately. But as far as I was concerned, it wasn’t safe enough to go up, which the rest of the group respected, and then headed up anyway.

As a compromise to myself, I decided to walk up some of the way. Partly to get some video shots, but in retrospect, more because I felt I was missing out. Once we had started walking, the wind had noticeably dropped and I really started regretting my initial, slightly rash decision. I was becoming more annoyed that I hadn’t brought my snowboard with me on the off chance that the weather would improve, as it was now doing. The one positive was that the horizon was starting to fill with morning colour, and I was able to get some of the hiking shots I’d visualised the night before in the tent.

It was only a matter of time before the inevitable happened, and we reached the point where I had to stop, and watch the rest of the group continue up the mountain. I was kicking myself for prematurely deciding not to ski down and missing out on the experience, but then again, it did look as though a large cloud had crept in from nowhere. It didn’t take long for the group to disappear into the milky nebula, as I watched them hike away. I turned and headed back down to wait at the cars, telling myself not to miss out on an opportunity again. It would take about an hour and a half before I had already broken this promise.

DSC_0078It was fifteen minutes before shadows started appearing, moving within the cloud and snow that had now enveloped everything. The wind, now seeing that I was within the heated comfort of the car, had changed tactics, and now just blew constantly and fiercely, reminding us not to leave the 4×4 fortress. As the shadows ambled closer, their shapes took on familiar form, with matching smiles. From the hurried debrief, as the group frantically tried to get out of their gear and out of the wind into the safety of the cars, the weather wasn’t much better at the peak. Visibility had been minimal, thanks to a horrendous combination of cloud, wind and spindrift, making the ski down disorienting, confusing, but totally awesome. I was happy everyone was down in one piece, and that they had had a good time, but I didn’t want to hear any more about it. We were behind schedule, I’d missed out on the skiing (by my own doing), and with it now snowing on the mountain, this would no doubt translate to rain at our next activity, bouldering. We drove off the mountain in blizzard conditions, which at least felt a little bit epic.

For those of you that haven’t been to Castle Hill, it’s difficult to describe exactly what makes it such a special place. It is the final resting place of hundreds of limestone rocks, each one unique in size and shape, all interacting with each other, forming familiar shapes for the more imaginatively inclined. Between the rocks and the sky are the mountains, encircling the rocky graveyard, stubbornly bearing down from above. Lush, green grass spreads itself between the base of the rocky features, making the area feel as if you’re walking through a sculptor’s garden, appreciating the contemporary, limestone works of art. And best of all, it’s only a five minute walk from the car park.crop


With a scene as incredible as just described, I had grand plans for this activity. I had allowed an hour, more in the hope of getting some spectacular panoramic shots, rather than an allowance for ample bouldering. These contrived shots I had planned in my head the night before, were quickly becoming washed away as snow began to fall, while we marched towards Castle Hill. Unable to do any bouldering in the wet, although that’s not to discredit some of the braver souls of the group who still gave it a go (in some cases dressed in a mankini – but that’s another story), I knew deep down this was over before it began. I put away my mental director’s chair and stood shivering in thermals and waterproofs, angled against the snow that was quickly turning to sleet, as we launched the drone to at least get some aerial shots of this spectacular place. It could be the end of the world, fire and death everywhere, and Castle Hill would still look good. With the small consolation that’s it’s never a wasted trip to Castle Hill, we shuffled back to the sanctuary of the car heaters.

As we drove the ten minutes to the next activity, I stared glumly out the car windscreen. Watching as the wipers frantically attempted to clear the pouring rain, I couldn’t help dwelling on the fact that bouldering was another failed activity, and the caving we were about to attempt wasn’t looking too promising either. I started mentally scripting my director’s commentary for the DVD extras, which would inevitably result in losing our PG rating due to offensive and inappropriate language.


Activity number four involved negotiating Cave Stream, a 600 meter long, underground cave system with a steady torrent of water running through it. Under normal circumstances, it’s an exciting walk / climb in the pitch black, as the cave system weaves its way through smooth corners, ledges and mini-water falls. Arriving at the car park, it seemed that my pessimistic attitude had spread and was now infecting some of the others in the group. With the rain continuing to pour down, I ran between the parked cars, trying to gauge everyone’s feelings. Although I was mindful of not breaking the earlier promise I made to myself regarding not passing on opportunities, it quickly became apparent that my promises aren’t worth a great deal. It was hard to get excited, when stood in the cold and wet, about getting intentionally cold and wet. To his credit, Steve turned this argument around to his advantage – ‘we’re cold and wet anyway. May as well be cold and wet doing something interesting’. At that point I should have replied with ‘you’re absolutely right’, high fived him, and followed Steve, Jackie and Caitlin into the cave. Instead I just nodded, wished them good luck and returned back to the relative safety of the car. Instead of the freezing, shadowy depths of Cave Stream, the rest of us opted for sugary, tasty coffee and cake at Darfield, on our way back to Christchurch.

Sat in the cosy coffee shop, looking out at the blue skies that we had escaped to since leaving the Craigieburn area, morale was definitely  improving. As we chatted and laughed amongst ourselves, I started to mentally write off the morning’s activities and toy with the idea of revising the title of the movie to ‘Mega Multi-Sport Afternoon’.

We had arrived back in Christchurch around the time I had originally planned, and I had again allowed some time for the gear swap.  Within minutes, equipment had been strewn everywhere, with all available floor space covered with bike gear, surf gear, ski gear and climbing gear. But instead of quickly packing up the trucks and moving out again, we ended up sitting around drinking tea. My time paranoia generally resides just below the surface, so it doesn’t take much provocation for me to start getting stressed. Knowing that we were back on track just meant that we were now had the ability to be late, and I was desperately trying not to be that guy ordering everyone around and killing the good time. Resisting the urge to sit in the truck and rev it loudly, I was able to drop enough hints to get people assembled and moving onto the second part of the day.
Climbing2Earlier in the week, Steve and I had gone exploring to find the most suitable crag to climb on. The last two activities, biking and surfing, naturally flowed into each other, with the bike trail ending at the beach. We needed to find a crag that ticked a number of boxes; proximity to the bike track, video worthy scenery and an easy route, allowing everyone the opportunity to climb. Amphitheatre Crag was well located, with epic, 30 metre high routes and requiring an abseil in, but would absorb too much time. Godley Head Crag had easy routes, a nice view over the harbour, but it’s location would have extended the bike ride by at least 30 minutes. Farm Terrace Crag was right at the start of the bike trail, had equally nice views as the Godley Head Crag, but we’d never climbed there before. So on an overcast, grey Thursday evening, with the light rapidly fading and no guide book, Steve and I discussed how difficult one of the routes looked from the ground. Anyone who has tried doing this will know how deceptive a route can look when viewed from below, and it’s usually not long before the first ascent ends in shouts of frustration and abandoned gear. Scouting the crag, it was apparent that this was a spot still recovering from the quakes, with large sections of the cliff missing and boulders strewn everywhere. Unlike Castle Hill however, where the scattered rocks added a unique charm to the area, these boulders just served as a constant reminder of how temperamental the rock face could be.

Slightly limited with our options, we essentially settled on the only route that looked climbable. A few metres off the ground, and at a new vantage point, it appeared that the route was slightly more technical than expected. A slight overhang now made an appearance, and as is always the way with new routes, the crux was the last move. It required locating a secret crack and faith that it would hold your entire weight, as you frantically snatched for the safety of the summit ledge.

‘This’ll have to do’ I muttered to myself, slightly out of breath and sweating, as I threaded the rope at the top, allowing me to descend after the climb. The route wasn’t as straightforward as I had hoped, but on the plus side, the location was perfect and would provide some great climbing shots as the camera panned out to the view over the harbour.

We arrived in convoy on the Saturday afternoon, refuelled on tea, and in high spirits. The route was led by Caitlin, who started by immediately pulling off a chunk of rock that was masquerading as a hand hold. This served as another reminder of the slightly dubious rock quality at the crag. Despite my struggles leading the route a few days previously, Caitlin shot up it having never seen it before. I looked on in relief that someone else was able to put the rope up, and therefore I could enjoy a leisurely top rope climb. With views across Diamond Harbour and over onto Banks Peninsula, it was an excellent spot for hanging out, climbing and cheering people on as they made it to the top of the route. Finally an activity was going to plan. We got the drone launched, took some lovely photos, and I was even starting to reconsider the Tina Turner sound track.

Climbing 1

As was the theme of the day, we couldn’t stay for long. The light was starting to fade and drops of water were starting to materialise from above. A short scramble from the crag led us to where we had left the cars and our awaiting bikes. Climbing gear was replaced with biking gear, which essentially amounted to taking harnesses off and sitting on a bike.

We then set off down the Anaconda. Aptly named, the bike track contorts itself down the hillside towards Taylors Mistake, our final destination. The previous drops of rain were starting to organise themselves into something more threatening, and we needed to get down to the surf boards quickly. However, with Taylors Mistake coming into view, we didn’t want to miss the opportunity of launching the drone to take what would have been an epic shot of all of us rattling down the track, with the sea in the background. If only Tom had remembered to press the record button. Moving on…

We were almost there. Arriving at Taylors Mistake, the earlier Craigieburn weather, that had been chasing us all afternoon, had finally caught up. Getting changed into our wet suits in the hammering rain, it should have been a miserable affair. But we had survived the day. In spite of the weather, the faffing, the weather again and more weather, we were stood in the dark, the cold, the wet, eager to get even colder and even wetter. How things had changed since the Cave Stream incident earlier.

Running onto the empty beach, surf boards under our arms, my heart sank again, as we were greeted with zero surf. Typical. Some of the more competent surfers in the group attempted to get up on the boards, but I basically bobbed about a bit, got cold, and came ashore. Not quite the epic, hanging ten end to the day I had hoped for.

There was no barbecue.

Instead we went to the Indian Sumner curry house to refuel on spicy food and reflect on the day’s adventure. While the team laughed and joked, I sat at the end of the table, slightly distracted as I dwelled on whether the day could be considered a success. I had completed about half of the activities, got very limited GoPro shots, and spent a large portion of the day clock watching. Technically, only the climbing went to plan, not being affected by weather or participation. This had been far from the grand adventure I had envisioned at the Craigieburn camp site the night before.


Several weeks had passed since the Mega Multi-Sport Day, and enough procrastination had occurred for me to finally be able to start putting together a video. Anyone who has attempted to edit a video based solely on GoPro footage will know that it’s a monotonous task. Most of the footage consists of two people having a debate over whether the GoPro is actually turned on, followed by mostly unusable material due to the camera pointing the wrong way.

Three things transpired while I spent several evenings staring at the computer monitor;

  1. We would have been lucky to have done one activity, let alone seven, based on how terrible the weather was.
  2. Even though the day didn’t go as planned, it was still an epic adventure and upon reflection, brilliant fun. We had a great team, with everyone intent on having a good time, despite the weather’s best efforts to literally put a damper on things.
  3. I am a terrible director. Having good weather, sticking to an itinerary, and capturing nice GoPro shots that aren’t shaky, low quality and blurry is just a bonus, and a reason to attempt it again next year.

To find out more on the testicular cancer charity we were supporting, visit www.teamlumpybumpy

For the finished montage of the day’s events, check out ‘MEGA MULTI SPORT DAY – VOL 1‘ on Youtube

4(x2)x4 at Macaulay Hut

The plan for the weekend, on paper at least, was simple enough. Meet in Tekapo on Friday night and drive the 4×4 track to Macaulay Hut. Spend Saturday walking up something. Drive back Sunday afternoon. On reflection… Saturday went well.

But before we get ahead of ourselves, there is a small amount of back story and scene setting required.

Macaulay Hut is located in the Sibbald Mountain Range, north of Tekapo in the Mackenzie region of the South Island, New Zealand. Access to the hut is via an 18km, 4×4 track involving several river crossings and some boulder avoiding manoeuvres. Seeing as none of us had been to the hut or driven the track, we thought it only responsible to drive it at night, after several hours of driving from Christchurch after a full day’s work. There was nine of us in total, split into four cars, or to put another way:

Team ‘Let’s Just Give It A Go And See What Happens’ consisting of life partners (who insist of being referred to as that for some reason) Steve and Jackie, piloting a Land Rover Discovery. The most capable of the 4×4 armada, which, as you’re about to find out from the other teams, didn’t take that much. As you can probably gather from their team name, this trip was their idea.

Team ‘I Borrowed My Work Mate’s 4×4’ consisted of Ben and Blair, at the helm of a… Black 4×4 thing. I’m fairly sure that wasn’t the make or model of the 4×4, but seeing as I forgot to take any notes while we were on the trip, it’s the most accurate description I can come up with. Which from now on shall be known as the ‘Black Thing’. Ben had borrowed the 4×4 from a work colleague, who when asked what the terrain was going to be like, Ben Google imaged ‘4×4 Macaulay Hut’ and the first image to come up was a 4×4 being washed away by a river. The second image was a 4×4 that had rolled onto its side. Thankfully the third image was a nice grassy paddock on a fine summers day, so naturally this was the image that he sent over.

Team ‘Wild Card’ consisted of Rob and Tom who were crewing a rear wheel drive, flat bed work truck. Originally the truck wasn’t going to be brought along but after a few beers the 4×4 track was downgraded to a ‘can’t be that bad’ status which lasted about 200 meters until the first river crossing where they had to be towed out.

And finally Team ‘Wee Dinky’ consisting of myself and the other life partners of the group (who also, for some unknown reason, insist on referring to themselves as such) Matt and Kat. Together we were commanding a Toyota Rav 4, affectionately known as ‘Wee Dinky’ and the general butt of many jokes – much like the owner – who unfortunately, was me.

So now we’re all up to speed, let us now head over to the beginning of the adventure at the start of the 4×4 track at 10:30pm on a chilly Friday night. Due to my limited 4×4 driving experience, mainly consisting of driving up ski field access roads and accidently knocking the diff-lock engage button when reversing into parking spaces, I was a little apprehensive as we stood in the dark preparing to embark. A discussion ensued over some beers regarding how the track would be ‘fine’ and ‘let’s just give it a go’, to which I found myself being persuaded and at ease, once I had considered these well thought out and balanced arguments.

And so we set off, down a steep slope and straight through some knee deep large puddles / small lakes / modest swimming pools, depending on which terminology you prefer as I can’t think of the right term for that particular volume of water. We had been warned beforehand that the track started with a river crossing, and naively thinking we’d just cruised through it with ease, spirits were high and confidence grew with each swig of beer and missed gear change. However, this was to last for all of about a minute when we arrived at the actual river crossing. My initial cockiness rapidly receded at about the same speed of the fast flowing river that we were expected to cross. After some discussion regarding the most suitable route and driving technique to achieve a successful river crossing, to which I just stared blankly and nodded a lot, the Land Rover was first to go. And go it did. Taking a slightly unconventional route i.e. not the one I had nodded in agreement to, it powered up the other side of the river to a cheer and relief from the rest of the group, as we now knew that if we didn’t make it, the Land Rover could always tow us out. The Black Thing was next to take up the challenge and was steered to victory without too much drama. The same couldn’t be said for Team Wildcard however, as they fell at the last hurdle and got the rear of the truck stuck on the outlet of the crossing and needed towing from the Land Rover. That event had a mixed effect on me as it was nice to know that we could get towed out without too much fuss, but I was worried about what effect several litres of river water pouring into my petrol driven engine would have on the overall trip. It was about here in the expedition, approximately 200 meters from the start of the track, where I first showcased my preferred river crossing technique – hard and fast while revving the shit out of the engine. Which for the most part worked pretty well up until we approached the exit of the river where we appeared to be drifting uncontrollably to the left, in the direction of the river’s flow. Some more revving and frantic turning of the steering wheel seemed to sort this out as we clambered onto dry land to the sounds of whooping, high fives and the sizzling of cold river water on a hot engine. Only 17,800 meters to go and we were smashing it.

For the next few kilometres the 4×4 track took on a much more agreeable nature and we were able to relax a bit and started to enjoy the drive. Heading out in convoy, it was exciting driving into the unknown with the unexpected sounds of Parov Stelar providing some electro-swing music, keeping us in a good mood as we picked our way through small boulder fields and tried our best not to lose the path. A common occurrence was to head down what we thought was the correct route, for the path to then just fizzle out, and it transpiring that the leaders had missed some obscure pile of stones or tyre tracks that would lead us in the right direction. As the cars were reshuffled, a different team took the lead and inevitably lost the track within 20 minutes or so. This did however lead to a nice mix of teams taking it in turns and the blame of losing the path evenly distributed amongst the group.

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After picking our way through some more rocks we came to our second testing river crossing of the night and as it transpired, a repeat of the earlier attempt. No issues for the Land Rover. No dramas for the borrowed Black Thing. A fall at the last hurdle for the truck and a tow from the Land Rover. And a revved up, hard and fast river crossing from Wee Dinky… to everyone’s surprise and relief.

Time was getting on and we knew that the track normally takes about 2.5hrs to complete. Around midnight Steve informed the group with enthusiasm that we were almost half way there! Which I don’t think was greeted with the whoops and cheers he was expecting. The continued toilet stops I was having to take due to my combination of beer intake and minute bladder, meant that I’d decided to stop drinking, which in turn meant that I was starting to come down from my initial electro-swing, alcohol fuelled high. The continued loss of the track and picking our way around car damaging rocks was slowing progress and sapping the morale of the group.

We approached what was thought to be the final river crossing of the evening at around 1:30am. Although this crossing seemed more challenging than the previous, with strict instructions to avoid certain areas and control the entry speed, each team just ploughed through, with no towing required, such was the want to get to the hut. 20 minutes later we arrived at the hut sign, and within 10 minutes we were parked outside the hut basking in our own smugness for making it with no mechanicals or lost souls in only a brief 3.5 hours.

Blair was first to enter the hut and we watched from the outside as his head torch darted about the building. A few moments later he emerged at the door and walked over to us to explain the situation:

‘So there are three hunters already in the hut. Their stuff is everywhere. What I think we should do is get in and make our presence known…’

Before any of us had a chance to respond, Blair stormed back into the hut and started banging about the place, presumably making his presence known. We opted for the more subtle, yet probably just as annoying approach of standing outside the hut talking loudly about the previous 4×4 adventure we’d just survived. One of the hunters who was evidently a very light sleeper turned out to be very chatty, and after some discussion regarding the vehicles we’d chosen to drive here (Wee Dinky was jokingly described as ‘inappropriate’… at least I assumed he was joking) we climbed into bed at 3am. The last thing I heard before putting my headphones on was the hunter enquiring ‘So whereabouts are you all from?’ as I rolled over and pretended not to hear.

Four hours later the inconsiderate hunters were all up, ready to take on the day and eager to kill something. I was going to make a sarcastic comment along the lines of ‘could you keep it down’, but they didn’t seem to be in an overly good mood – can’t imagine why – and they had guns. So I just opted for a tut and a wink… which I think none of them saw, but unfortunately all of them heard.

In spite of the large risks driving a 4×4 track at night, not knowing where you’re going and being out of mobile phone coverage, the up side is that arriving at night means you wake up the following morning with no idea what the view is going to be like. Granted, this could backfire and it turns out we took a wrong turn and ended up in an industrial estate, but this time it was epic. The hut is situated on the side of the valley where it is possible to look several kilometres down the track that we drove up the night before. Being above the tree line at 1100 meters means that the surrounding mountains have this epic rock / scree surface that adds to the dramatic atmosphere of the location. Basically, It’s awesome.

As far as huts go, Macaulay Hut is possibly the nicest one I’ve ever been to. The hut was constructed by the McKenzie Alpine Trust, and man they did a good job of it. The construction is better than many of the homes I’ve stayed at in Christchurch and the use of large stone sections for the walls gives the place an excellent charm. The hut is surprisingly well stocked too, with an oven, outside bath and solar lights. Tom had brought some chocolate mousse for dessert and after some piss taking from me along the lines of ‘bet you wished you’d bought a whisk’ (admittedly not the wittiest of piss takes), he went and found himself a whisk amongst the many utensils available at the hut; such is the way Tom deals with piss taking.

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After a bit of a drawn out breakfast the plan was to head in the opposite direction of the hunters, as apparently at a distance, a person carrying a blue rucksack walking on two legs may be mistaken for a deer (?), and head up the nearby ridge to the reach the Tindill Basin – a turquoise pool that, from the photos, looked incredibly inviting. Unfortunately there wasn’t a formal path so for the most part, the walk / scramble consisted of wading through thick, spiky vegetation at an angle of about 60 degrees. A few hours and fake summits later we were above the Tindill Basin, where from our elevated vantage point, the glacial, turquoise blue of the pool resembled something closer to pond algae and wasn’t as inviting for a cheeky dip as we’d hoped. Instead we opted to climb the next summit in front of us for the novelty of being above 2000 metres. Sufficient photos taken, victory whisky consumed and a run down a 700 metre scree slope, we were back at the hut and I was fighting off the need for a nap as I waited for an acceptable time to go to bed.


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Sunday morning rolled around and after a short morning walk up the valley, we loaded up the wagons and embarked upon the drive back to civilisation. The sun was still shining, and it was a beautiful day for a casual drive where we could take in all the sights we missed on the way in. As it happened, we had ample time to take in the views of the surrounding area, as 2 hours later, with a distance of about 1.5km travelled (we could still see the hut) we only had one working car – which I’d like to point out, was Wee Dinky.

Which would make such an amazing cliff hanger / interlude for a movie or the end of a chapter in a book. So in an attempt to create that sense of anticipation, I’ve added a larger amount of line breaks than normal between paragraphs.




Welcome back. So I guess you’re dying to know what happened, so here we go…

As it turns out negotiating the first few kilometers of the 4×4 track from the hut in the day isn’t a great deal easier than at night. Due to the river that runs through the valley being of the ‘braided’ type, its route changes every year when the water levels rise. Therefore there is no defined track and it’s easy to get disorientated as you navigate your way via cairns (piles of stones), waratahs (metal bars with orange tops dug into the ground) and old tyre tracks (i.e. old tyre tracks. That one should be fairly self-explanatory). Wee Dinky was leading the charge out of the hut and we were at such an intersection, discussing whether we’d gone the right way, when we noticed that Team I Borrowed My Mate’s 4×4 wasn’t moving. More worryingly, they had gotten out and were looking under the car. It turned out that they had hit a rock on the underside of the engine and damaged the oil manifold that did something important (I’m not a car person) and their car was designated KIA. More worryingly was a trail of fluid that led back to Team Let’s Just Give It A Go And See What Happens. Upon closer inspection it appeared the power steering fluid pipe had burst and would need on the spot repairing. Thankfully Team Wildcard came armed with a mechanic, in the shape of Tom, who set to work trying to fix the Land Rover. With at least a 2 hour wait on our hands and a predominately British group, we got the camping chairs out and put on a brew. It was actually quite civilised sat in the sun with our tea and biscuits, while the more useful and mechanically minded of the group set to work improving our situation. It’s probably not worth noting that I’m a mechanical engineer and my only contribution was to suggest putting the kettle on.

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From the one angle it seems like quite a civilised stop for a spot of afternoon tea

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From another… less so










As repairs on the Land Rover were coming to an end, it was mooted that we make a start on towing the Black Thing into position and get it set up for when we’d be on our way. Team Wildcard began to manoeuvre the truck into a towing position, when all of the sudden the rear wheels began to spin and dig themselves into the stony ground, rendering the truck immobile. Horror slowly spread across the group’s collective face at the realisation that the only working vehicle was now the Rav 4, and past jokes of Wee Dinky towing out all of the cars was becoming a terrifying reality. As an aside, I also realised my place within the group – providing a means of salvation to the Wee Dinky non-believers. I quickly slung my cape on, climbed atop of Wee Dinky, raised my hand into the air and was about to announce ‘ALL BOW TO THE POWER OF WEE DINKY!’ when I was interrupted by the sound of the truck gaining traction and towing out the Black Thing. This thankfully drew the attention away from me and gave me time to climb down, remove my cape and give a polite applause to acknowledge the improvement of our situation.

But the main thing was, we had progress. The Black Thing was in position, being towed by the truck. The Land Rover had been bodged to a decent enough extent for it to be drive-able, and Wee Dinky continued to be solid as a rock, steady and true.

And so we set off, slowly at first, as Tom got used towing several tons of 4×4 behind him; and Blair, at the wheel of the Black Thing, adjusted to having approximately half a second of reaction time before he had to slam on the brakes or turn hard to avoid colliding with either the tow truck or another rock. In the back of everyone’s mind were the river crossings we’d need to negotiate. Considering that the truck was the tow-ee for 2 out of 3 river crossings on the way in, it wasn’t looking overly optimistic that it would be able to be the tow-er on the way out. The first river crossing was upon us soon enough and after much discussion of the best route, the Land Rover negotiated a way through, leading the way. We all waited with baited breath (which I’m sure is the correct term but I have no idea what it means) as the truck pulled the Black Thing through the fast flowing water. The truck’s wheels were spinning in places and it looked like it was all going wrong, but with a final tug the rear wheels of the truck made it onto dry land and hauling along with it, the towed cargo. I thought the cheers on the Friday night were impressive, but we had nothing to lose going in. Now we, or maybe more accurately Ben, had everything to lose going out and the cheers were a product of a genuine sense of relief as both cars made it through the river. Wee Dinky was last through. No issues. Standard.

An additional benefit of driving out during the day time, aside from the lovely surrounding views of the valley, was that we were able to actually follow the 4×4 track. After a short while things began to settle down and it actually became quite enjoyable, smugly driving at the back of the pack, listening to some more electro-swing and soaking up the sunshine. It was becoming fairly obvious that on the Friday night, we had pretty much just driven our own route in. Blissfully unaware that a decent, well formed 4×4 track was several meters to our left, we had just soldiered on, finding our own way.

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As the sun began to set, and with it the fading light, we made it to the final river crossing that metaphorically and physically stood between us and our salvation, and a nice, solid, gravel road. Tom edged the truck into the river and then floored it through the subsequent bow wave as Blair frantically attempted to keep the Black Thing following the same line. More wheel spinning and tension later, the truck was through, with the Black Thing in tow, and Tom and Blair became the first people in history to tow a 4-wheel drive with a 2-wheel drive along a 4-wheel drive track.


After a well-earned victory beer at the end of the 4×4 track, in the same place we had stood on the Friday evening, we headed back into Tekapo for dinner, hoping to get there before the restaurant kitchen shut. This time of the night seemed to also coincide with the suicidal rabbit time, as endless rabbits kept hurling themselves in front of Wee Dinky. Thankfully there was only the one casualty, as a result of me having to make the executive decision to not dangerously swerve and brake to avoid the bunnies and just plough on forward. The car felt a little wobbly once we were on the tar-sealed road, however I just put that down to some 4×4 damage over the weekend and we continued on. We regrouped in Tekapo for dinner and then set off in our respective teams back to either Christchurch or Queenstown – aside from Team I Borrowed My Mates 4×4 who had to spend the night in Tekapo and attempt to get the car fixed and ‘professionally’ towed back to Christchurch.

As we were driving back we noticed that Wee Dinky was feeling increasingly twitchy, but seeing as that disappeared once we got up to about 60km in speed, we just dismissed it as superficial 4×4 damage and would deal with it once we were back in Christchurch. An approach that worked for, coincidentally, about 60km, before the front left wheel exploded. Thankfully we weren’t going that fast at the time and were able to pull over safely and change the tyre. A sound that was less audible than the large bang of the bursting tyre, was the evaporation of my smugness of having the only vehicle that didn’t suffer a mechanical failure or require towing for the entire trip.


The following account is from Ben, providing his perspective from behind the wheel of the Black Thing…

My gut feel was that lending a friends 4×4 for the trip was going to end badly, but I carried on regardless for the adventure of it. Surely it couldn’t be that bad. I’ve been in some pretty interesting situations before… friends falling and breaking their ankle and back… abseiling down waterfalls after 16 hours in the mountains as a storm rolls in… but this trip certainly took me to a level of uncomforting worry that I could not handle.

We rolled down an embankment and a certain large bang filled me with fear. Blair jumped out and gave the well know sign for ‘cut it off’ by passing his hand in front of his throat. The look on his face and the swearing from his mouth told me this was bad. The 18km back to the road already had my nerves in tatters, but now this was a special kind of devastation. I glanced at the hut, which I could of thrown a rock at, and felt nothing but worry. What the hell happens now?

Very kindly and with outstanding manners, Tom let me know that the Black Thing was essentially irreparable in our current location, and would have to be towed. He also noticed another issue and leakage not associated with mine. So he went off to investigate that problem instead, leaving me to my deep, deep worry.

Blair saw it as a challenge to get the Black Thing out. I had already decided that towing was not possible. Especially over the route we had driven in. We wouldn’t be able to carry the speed, and the 6 meter, 2 tonne, Soft Strop that I had ‘borrowed’ from work was going to be interesting to tow with for a start.

I had already assumed that the Land Rover Discovery would tow me out so when I saw the bonnet up and Tom and Steve elbows deep in its oily engine, it was not a good sight to be seen. My worry grew somewhat deeper.

Obviously a pot of tea was required. Definitely some biscuits. Some glances at the hut which we had only just left, and a lot of feeling rather numb about the whole situation, ensued. I couldn’t sit down for long without thinking of the disaster, so I busied myself in taking the Black Thing’s spoiler and sports kit off in case it got in the way of towing. It was decided by group decision to use the 2wd work truck and get the towing started. Everyone knew it was going to be a long afternoon. The 2wd truck then got stuck. Leaving the Rav 4, which could have probably parked itself in the Black Thing’s boot, as a unlikely candidate for the towing. A conscious effort was made to free the 2wd and after getting it in to position and rigging everything up, we started to tow.

I was essentially crippled with worry and fear. If we can’t tow it out what the hell do I do? Helicopter to collect it? See if some of dudes I know from work are up for a 4×4 challenge? Tell my mate we left his car as a feature on the trail? None of these options I wanted to pursue any further. We had to give it a go. Plus as the group had already collaboratively started the towing process for me anyway, I might as well go along with it. Just try not to think about the trail ahead or the river crossings. Try not to think about any of that.

We started well and the effort from the team was powerful. Tom drove the 2wd. Blair drove the Black Thing. Rob and Jackie ran off as scouts for the trail ahead. Steve used the Land Rover to break trail. Matt and Kat took their place in the tray of the 2wd, jumping up and down in the softer ground to keep the traction. Ian cruised in Wee Dinky at the back, seemingly happy as could be. I took a more nervous role of scouting, residing in the 2wd tray, taking some photos and generally trying to avoid thinking about anything that laid ahead. Especially the river crossings.

The first river crossing came and with good speed we cruised on through. It went well. Much better than expected. Maybe we can get this Black Thing back to town. Just don’t think about the final river crossing. Or the rest of the trail ahead.

We rolled on and the Black Thing kept going surprisingly well. Easily through the big mud puddle and easily along the nice and smooth 4wd track that I was adamant was right next to our rugged river route. A perfect 4wd track for towing and moving swiftly on. The sky was becoming a lovely shade of pink, and we were surely going to get this car back to solid ground. Just the final river crossing to get through.

As soon as the river crossing came in to view I was beyond scared. Beyond worry. Beyond fear. I just wanted it to be over. Could I watch the Black Thing go through? Did I want to be inside the car as it went through? All I could think of is Blairs single slip in his upbeat and good natured view on the situation “we don’t want to lose the car to the river. That would be real bad”. Yes. Yes it would.

I jumped in with Tom. The coolest and calmest person I know and without much more than a murmur he slowly tipped the 2wd in to the river. We quickly lost our good speed. The wheels started spinning. Lights started flashing on the dash. We started to drift. Tom held his grip, held his foot in place and simply said ‘…..cooome on’. I was silently in pieces.

The stones flicking back at the Black Thing hadn’t even crossed my mind. The tow rope slipping off the tow ball hadn’t even crossed my mind, but slowly I realised we were going to make it. We were so close to the other side. I could have silently exploded there and then. We had made it. I jumped out the 2wd and let out some expletives. We had made it through the last hurdle. Horns were honked. Howls of joy were let out. Just have to watch Wee Dinky sail through and we were on the home straight. Or so I thought. We had to roll further forwards and get out of the way for Wee Dinky’s crossing.

Still full of joy and putting any further unknowns about the state of the car to the back of my mind, we started to roll up the next hill. Which suddenly became much steeper than the ones we had been up before. The wheels started to slip and with no weight in the tray we were losing traction. We had come so far! Tom kept his cool and silence was upon me again. This was ridiculous. We slowed to a snail’s pace and with the lights flashing and stones flying, I again expected the absolute worse. I was desperate for a drink. Desperate to get back to town. Desperate for the next couple days to be over and done with. We’ve got to get back to Christchurch yet! I felt like exploding. Again!

We crested the hill and assumed a waiting position. We had done it. We had made it back to the road. I found a drink. We cracked open some beers and recounted a great effort all round. What a team. It was awesome.

We drank our beers and decided to swiftly move on. Tekapo was a little way away yet and it was getting dark. We had been towing for a good 5 hours and the strain was showing. We set off at good speed. Probably too much speed as the tow rope jerked and dust flew from the 2wd temporarily blocking our view. Then the Black Thing started to give up the ghost. The alarm started going off. The power steering cutting out. The radio going berserk. The lights dwindling. The battery was dead.

We stopped once more to assess the situation, and without much more than a decision that I would hold my hand out the window with a headtorch instead of us using headlights, we pushed on, slowly. The easy bit was going to be testing as well.

Nearly 7 hours after starting the journey back to town we rolled in to Tekapo. My arm frozen. My hand clenched around the torch. Tom and Blair in a state you can only really achieve after becoming the first people ever to tow a 4wd with a 2wd, through rivers and negotiating boulders, no lights and no power steering for the final bit. We had made it to Tekapo. In time to get food. I was overwhelmed to say the least. It was a solid effort by the whole team. We feasted and bid our farewells. I returned to my worry and thoughts of uncertainty at getting back to Christchurch.


The following day, Blair jumped off the bus in Dunsandel with a buzz of an adventure, astounded that the English had decided to make some tea in the middle of a crisis, and some specially made Caesar salad plans to make it up to his wife. I jumped off the bus in Christchurch at 5pm on Monday night. Ian came to pick me up and decided to have a wee nap in his car without telling me where he was parked. Meaning I didn’t feel completely at ease till about 6pm when I eventually got a ride home. Within a couple of weeks the Black Thing was fixed. My mate’s misses could drive herself to work and their son to school in their 4×4 again. One hell of an adventure under our belts and a story to be told. That trip was a spectacular kind of awesome! Definitely doing it all again for sure. Next time though, I don’t think I’ll drive.



Braving the Gorse on Mt. Bradley

Mt. Bradley is the slightly neglected (some may say rightly so) peak that sits next to the more favourable Mt. Herbert on the Diamond Harbour side of the Banks Peninsular. Similar in stature to Mt. Herbert, but with a much more mountain feel (whereas Mt. Herbert gives the impression of a large hill with straight forward path that leads gradually to the top, Mt. Bradley has a summit that is neatly lined with cliffs, giving it a ‘top tier of a wedding cake’ look. Which I feel you just don’t see enough of these days). We opted to take a more DIY approach to getting to the summit, mainly consisting of a straight line to the top. The intention of the walk was to get a bit of scrambling experience and, if necessary, whip out the rope and practice some skills to set us up for some more challenging routes over the summer.

Starting out in Orton Bradley Park – which it should be said, is a very cool, tucked away little place – it has the feel of a remote camp site, disconnected from the city, but it is still within 30 minutes’ drive of Christchurch. There is a wealth of activities going on there such as walking, climbing, biking, golfing etc. and is essentially an ideal holidaying spot for anyone from Christchurch who gets car sick on long drives.

We parked up and began our walk through the park and out onto some fields where we could get a good view of Mt. Bradley, which, as is typical in straight line paths, was right in front of us.

The Mt. Bradley expedition team walked their own road….in a straight line

The Mt. Bradley expedition team walked their own road… in a straight line


As we arrived at the base of the mountain, two things happened. Firstly, it got steeper, which shouldn’t have really come as a surprise seeing as we were standing at the bottom. Secondly, and possibly more worryingly, we started to notice a gradual thickening of gorse bushes. This was more of a concern for three of us as we had opted to wear shorts for the walk in anticipation of summer arriving. Now, I don’t want to sound too melodramatic when discussing the thorny, prickly, spikey nature of gorse, but man it stings as you force your way through it due to a lack of an actual path.

We were aiming for a sheer rock face up ahead of us (the base of the wedding cake if you will) and getting there involved scrambling over a mixture of fallen rock and thorny bastard vegetation. The gradient of the slope wasn’t overly steep and stingy shins aside, it was a fairly straight forward scramble to the face.

The first taste of the cake

The first taste of the cake


Arriving at the rock face, we quickly noticed that up close the cliff took on a distinctly more overhanging, overbearing, less tasty nature than how it looked from a distance. Mindful of the regions recent experience in tectonic plate activity, and looking around at all the large fallen rocks about the place, we decided to continue up between a break in the cliff face that would eventually take us to the top. The vegetation at this stage was getting all the more dense and with it the amount of ‘oh’s’ and ‘ah’s’ and aggressively sounding ‘HMMM’s’ as we waded through more thorns. Sticking to the rock face as much as possible, so at least only 50% of your body was in contact with the bastard thorns, we began to notice how precarious the rock face was put together. There were numerous gaps and missing bits and chunks that had fallen off and various other ways of saying ‘the wall wasn’t all there’. Up close, it seemed as if the cliff had been built in a similar fashion to those stone walls that are so ubiquitous in the English countryside. Granted, the centuries old stone walls are still standing today, but they’re not tens of meters tall and built in a seismically lively area of the world. In a general sense all this would have been fine except that we were using the wall for hand holds and were in danger of accidentally pulling out the one bit of rock that was holding this entire cliff together… in fairness, that probably wouldn’t happen. But seeing as I didn’t get a photo of the cliff up close, it’s better if I hype it up a little so that you can knock it back down a few pegs and we can meet somewhere in the middle with what it was actually like.

It became harder and harder to force our way through to the top as the vegetation became more and more dense. At times it felt like we were climbing through that prickly side of Velcro or towels that had been washed without fabric softener and left out to dry for a really long time. Needless to say, which evidently I still am, things were getting tough!

Nearing the top of the mountain, legs and hands stinging, we eventually made it to the summit and to our delight and then immediate regret, we were confronted by a sea of gorse bushes. I think our response when we got to the top was something along the lines of ‘Yeahhhh-Ahhhhhh-Nooooo!’. As far as we could see was thick gorse smiling sarcastically back at us (yes, by this point I had actually given the gorse a personality as it gave me a target to wave my fist at). ‘This wedding cake ain’t so sweet’ I said out loud. Then immediately wished I hadn’t as I realised that I hadn’t explained the wedding cake metaphor to the rest of the group.

Odd comments, a lack of a path and thorny bastard gorse aside, the top of Mt. Bradley is actually quite interesting. It’s a large plateau with three sheer sides. The light cloud that had begun to move in on us provided a surreal feel that for some reason reminded me of the movie Jurassic Park. As amazing as the theme tune is, it was little consolation as it repeated round and round in my head as we trudged through more and more gorse on our retreat off the mountain. We did consider abseiling off to try and save some time, but unsure what we would be actually abseiling into, more gorse no doubt, we opted to walk off the back of the mountain and then double back on ourselves to eventually come down through Orton Bradley Park. Finally finding a path on the way back to the park, we were greeted with a site that suddenly made the bleeding shins and constant bitching all seem worthwhile. For the entire walk we had Diamond Harbour and the Port Hill behind us with and with numerous challenges we had to overcome to get to the summit, we hadn’t really stopped and taken in the view. Now that the weather had cleared and we were on more established ground, we were able to take in our gorseless surroundings, wonder at the view and appreciate how terrible the wedding cake metaphor really was.

The wedding cake mountain on the left, diamond harbour in the back ground

The wedding cake mountain on the left, Diamond Harbour in the back ground