No sooner than my new toy arrived, it was stuffed into a pack and on the move. Aaron and myself had just bought a 2018 Alpacka Gnu each and we keen to test them out! Enlisted on this trip was the hunters/second paddlers, Matt and Russell (Aaron’s Dad). Saturday Morning, we headed by bike, all loaded up, to Aaron’s place. It probably would have been a good idea to add some more air to my shocks because it was a pretty saggy ride around the corner with all that extra weight and gear on my back.
We drove up to Woodstock and stashed the bikes ready for the shuttle back, then it was on to the View Hill car park. After a quick repack, it was time to start walking, we loaded up and headed along the Wharfedale track up to Black Hill hut. It was a decent sized hike along the track, then finally up a pretty steep hill slope to get to the hut. Unfortunately for us 4 others had arrived at the Hut just 20 mins before us, and it was going to be a squeeze for us to fit into the other two bunks. We didn’t really have any room for a tent, let alone a sleeping mat either…
It turned out to be a bit of a long night as it wasn’t exactly warm, even in cramped conditions and there was one or two snorers disturbing the peace too! Getting up early was more of a relief rather than an effort. We were on the go not ridiculously early but early enough that we might possibly spot some deer. The sight of snow from the top of Black Hill in the direction of Chest Peak was enough for us to alter the original plan, and instead of the other option of heading down into a cold Salmon creek we headed along the ridge in search of the best hunting terrain.
The ridge travel was great, there was even signs of an old trail in there which we followed for a while until the hunters were able to spot some deer on the next ridge. I, for the life of me couldn’t see a thing, but I was happy enough that we were onto something. The next hour or so involved some quiet movement and some slow stalking. We split at the top of ridge in the open where we could see some deer feeding below. The wind was just in the right direction to keep us hidden. Matt went round to the right and Russell, followed by Aaron and myself to the left and down.
After some anticipation, finally a shot rang out, then in close succession two more shots were fired and just like that it was all over. Quiet rang out for a bit and then there was some shouting, we then moved into see what had gone down. It looked like it was possible that 3 deer had been shot! As we covered the rough terrain we first spotted a blood trail and then the body of a hind, and it all became very real and a little bit sad at the same time. Matt down below had got a Spiker, but the remains of a third animal were nowhere to be found. Unfortunately in the process of dying both animals had rough landings in some rough terrain, so it was a bit tricky getting to them to get the meat off them.
Later we established that it was likely that Russell had shot the first deer, then Matt also shot at it on the move and then Matt managed to reload and get the second one on the move as well, so probably no third animal…. which was just as well as our packs were pretty heavy now with an extra 40 odd kg of meat added in. We siddled out of the valley and back around to a ridge looking down on the Waimakariri river and had some lunch and a bit of a sit down.
After our lunch and only a few spots of the rain that was supposedly forecast we made our way down the ridge into the river. We had to pick our way carefully as there was many cliff faces we needed to avoid, and plenty of scrub to bash our way through to get to the river. There was a heap of pig and deer trails which helped quite a bit, but it was steep going downhill, and as expected the closer we got to the river the rougher it got. Eventually we punched out onto a gravel flat of the Waimakariri just south of Salmon Creek and got to work packing the rafts and hit the water.
Being still the tail end of winter and knowing that “Waimakariri” means “Cold Water” we had plenty of warm gear for the paddle down the river. The rain that was forecast never really came and it was a pleasant paddle down in some great conditions. The lack of any recent floods meant that the river was low-ish and quite void of any features that were too exciting or too difficult. The boats made good progress down the river and we even held off Sam and Kate for a while, who eventually passed us in their kayaks about mid way. We were both initially a little bit surprised to see each other there, but then again not surprised at all! At that time of the year it’s quite likely that you are going to know anyone that you see out there.
For all the walking we had done it turned out to be quite a short little two and a half hour paddle. It was heaps of fun though and now with the fading light it was time to make a call on how we were going to get back to the car. Carrying all the gear, plus the meat was going to make for a very uncomfortable ride so in the end Russell volunteered to stand guard with the Meat and gear while Matt, Aaron and I rode back to get car. We made a quick turn around and were back to pick Russell up just before dark. Mission complete!