The Otago Recreational 4WD Group are so far up Eyre Creek that a chainsaw is more useful than a paddle.
This two-day combination is a favourite trip of mine, with many happy memories of previous trips with the Otago Recreational 4WD Group and family members. But it is definitely a winter trip to escape the worst of the sandflies.
Comfortable accommodation at the Balfour Hotel this time was a step up from freezing nights spent in the Shepherd Creek hut on other winter trips.
Saturday morning was brisk with clear skies and the promise of a great day as we set our sights on Eyre Creek. We met up with a couple from Christchurch who had come down to do the trip, plus two from our club who were staying in Queenstown, giving us seven trucks in the convoy.
The access to the Eyre Creek track is by an easement through private land then into the Taka Ra Haka Conservation Park. The original track followed the left bank of the river, through patches of Beech forest and scrub but a lot of this is now unusable due to slips and erosion by the river. Instead, we had multiple river crossings and a little bit of “where is the track now?”.
An uneventful drive to the hut where we stopped for a late morning tea. The siting of the hut has some history. The original hut fell into disrepair and was replaced in a new position that was argued by some to be unsafe due to its proximity to the river. The river had been in flood sometime recently and there was silt and debris up to the doorstep. Maybe not such a safe place after all!
The toilet, however, was high and dry. Even though it was cold and wintery the sandflies were active and hungry. They really are the only bad feature of the area.
Upstream from the hut, the track deteriorated and there was no evidence of it having been used recently. We cleared one fallen Beech tree; handy things chainsaws, and carried on upstream until the time, and another fallen tree, determined our turn around.
A few enjoyed a bit of a play in the icy snow before an easy drive out. Only one gnarly spot where the track had been severely eroded by the river on one side, with a solid fence on the other, meant care was needed.
I think the fence post may be on a bit of a lean now! It got pushed by more than one vehicle. Dinner for most back at Balfour and a surprisingly early night.
Sunday morning was also clear skies and chilly, as we headed to the access road to Mt Bee.
This road is on private land and we had gained permission earlier in the week. The track to the hut was in good condition and posed no problems.
The hut site itself is a very tidy set up, with two huts, one for cooking etc., and the other divided up for sleeping.
From the huts onward, the snow got deeper, and, while not a huge challenge, it was slow going. We stopped at ‘the ridge’ which is as far as we’ve been on previous trips.
The track from there deteriorates markedly, according to the blurb from the DOC website. The views were stunning. Again, this was to be as far as we ventured, before heading back down the trail to the main road, and lunch by the Oreti River, before setting off for home in various directions.
Words and Pics by Marion Thomas
Extra images from Greg Andrews
Check out more photos from the trip in the gallery below.