Saturday, December 20, 2008

2008. Hidden Valley and Larva Flow, Port Hills

I parked my car at the end of Bowenvale Avenue, Christchurch, as I wanted to explore the side of Bowenvale Valley opposite Victoria Park. I also wanted to look at the Scott Scenic Reserve above Summit Road.

At the first gate stile, a young woman and her two big dogs hopped over at the end of their walk. I thought those big dogs were pointless in NZ, as there was little chance of her being assaulted in NZ.

Bowenvale Valley Track was muddy after rain, and it was still cloudy while I walked in the late afternoon. At the information board, four men passed me after clambering down the valleyside, dressed in overalls and boots, carrying tools, either fencers or pylon electricians, not recreational walkers like me. By closed gate two, a man greeted me on his way out of Bowenvale Valley.

Between closed gates four and five, a red black and white sign cautioned:



2008. Hidden Valley Track going left, leaving Bowenvale Valley Track by the sheep grid

By closed gate five, I walked left over a wooden duckboard bridge by the wooden HIDDEN VALLEY TRACK sign, leaving Bowenvale Valley Track on my right.

A dry stream was on my left while I climbed the rocky Hidden Valley Track up steep erosion-stopping wooden steps, interspersed with wooden gutters for runoff into the "stream." Zig-zagging upwards I crossed another soggy, wooden duckboard bridge, and passed woolen mulleins Verbascum thapsus with yellow flower spikes, and low, wire netting bush Corokia cotoneaster, amongst tussock grass.

2008. Looking down the first steep bit of Hidden Valley Track towards Bowenvale Valley Track below & Victoria Park behind

The path was so steep at one corner, a thick rope banister about 15m long enabled me to haul myself up wooden steps. In places along the path, big squares of holey, black plastic had been placed to stop erosion. While I snapped down Hidden Valley towards Christchurch, a male jogger passed me.

2008. From Hidden Valley Track, looking down Bowenvale Valley Track towards Christchurch

On top of the gorge, I passed a fallen pine with bleached trunk overlooking Bowenvale Valley pine forest and Bowenvale Valley Track in the gorge below. Below pylon wires, I crossed a fence stile, and walked on grass and gorse mulch where someone had mown the path. A wooden sign stated:


2008. Looking down Hidden Valley Track towards Christchurch

I thought, "They'd better eradicate all this gorse beside the track to restore this site!" Manuka scent pulled me along, and I came across a white flowering manuka tree buzzing with skinny black flies, bumble bees and exquisite orange butterflies, and Red Admiral butterflies, smaller than Monarch butterflies, and I thought of manuka honey. I sucked a Christmas candy cane I'd carried in my pocket.

2008. Looking up Hidden Valley Track at a flowering manuka & beyond to Hidden Valley head, in Christchurch Port Hills

As Hidden Valley Track went down to join Bowenvale Valley Track again, I left the main path and followed a vague path through wet, thigh-high grass and flowering flax and manuka and lancewood plantings. I crossed a boggy "stream" and slogged up Hidden Valley, till I came to a fence across the valley.

As bush was thick on the other side, I followed the fence and sheep tracks straight up the side of the valley, through tussock, and low, thick, prickly bush-lawyer, and korokia until I reached the rocky crest of Larva Flow ridge, where I found a dead sheep, all bones, no skin.

2008. Looking past a dead sheep on Larva Flow ridge towards Scott Scenic Reserve above Summit Road, Christchurch Port Hills

2008. Looking down Larva Flow ridge towards Christchurch. Hidden Valley Track & Hidden Valley towards the right

Small cairns of stones were on Larva Flow crest. On my right, I looked down on Bowenvale Walkway far below, which I'd walked before. I walked up rocky Larva Flow crest, following sheep tracks on the right and the smell of wet sheep dung, till I came across a wooden sign stating LARVA FLOW below Summit Road. I walked along an MTB track over a sheep grid past another wooden sign stating:


2008. Top of Larva Flow ridge below Summit Road, overlooking Victoria Park left & Christchurch beyond. Below Larva Flow, Hidden Valley lies on the right

It was the top point I'd reached on another walk up Huntsbury Track. I continued along the MTB track over another sheep grid through manuka, lacebark, totora, pittosporum and cabbage tree plantings, till I found a bench above a gully below Summit Road. On the stone base of the bench a metal plaque stated:


Another metal plaque on the wooden bench stated:


Seated on the bench while swigging CocaCola, I enjoyed the view down Bowenvale Valley. Two male MTBs passed by on the track, and two pairs of male MTBs passed by on Summit Road above. As I'd done lots of off-track slogging up Hidden Valley and Larva Flow, it was a 2 hour slog from my car to Summit Road.

2008. Cabbage Trees in Scott Scenic Reserve above Summit Road, looking towards Castle Rock & The Tors

I crossed Summit Road and joined the Crater Rim Walkway for 20 minutes through Scott Scenic Reserve. At the beginning, I looked back and snapped cabbage trees and the back of Mount Vernon and beyond to Castle Rock and The Tors.

I zig-zagged through fluted macrocarpas and pines, interspersed with soggy grassy glades, speckled with purple foxgloves. Through flax I snapped Mt Herbert & Mt Bradley, while a small cloud chased a cloud bank over Port Hills, then I wandered through thick pittosporum and red flowering escallonia shrubs beside the path.

2008. Top of Scott Scenic Reserve, Port Hills, looking through flax towards Mt Herbert & Mt Bradley on Banks Peninsula

2008. Flax at end of Scott Scenic Reserve overlooking Quail Island & Banks Peninsula

Crossing Summit Road again, I sat on a stone wall swigging CocaCola again, before hopping over the fence by a small dam to join Bowenvale Walkway. The trip from Summit Road down to the bottom of Bowenvale Valley took me 20 minutes as gravity pulled: I stopped myself jogging when I passed THE TRACK wooden sign, and avoided The Track as it looped back into Bowenvale Valley.

I quickly descended a steep farm track to a locked gate, hopped over the gate and zig-zagged down the end of Larva Flow Track to three wooden bridges in the valley.

Along the way I brandished a plastic electrical conduit pipe I'd found in Scott Scenic Reserve, and whistled a Strauss waltz while conducting with the pipe, and tinnitus drummed in my ears. Anyone watching would've thought I was mad. As it was late, I had Bowenvale Walkway and Larva Flow Track to myself.

On Bowenvale Valley Track I waltzed over the three wooden bridges, and waltzed through mallow wasteland, and was annoyed by CAUTION MTB, SLOW DOWN signs. In the pine forest I saw two plastic vases with fresh flowers by a concrete bridge, with an Oamaru stone, carved bird, the white bird's wings raised in flight. Behind the bird a wire was stuck in the ground, with a red metal beetle on a spring on top, moving in the wind. A speeding cyclist had died by the bridge.

Two male MTBs sped past, fewer than on another walk, as it was evening: 7 pm.

The walk from Summit Road back to my car took 50 minutes.

Content & pics Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.

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