Holidaying Little Owl Gully Style: Part Three
Another one bites the dust
Another one bites the dust
And another one gone and another one gone
Another one bites the dust(from the chorus of a song by Queen)
“Another one bites the dust.” Get Queen’s sound going round and round in your head and you’ll know what I mean.
Not us biting the dust! We kept our footing for the entire jaunt.
“Another one bites the dust,” June would say of the bellbird’s song that we often heard within earshot of our campsite. It really did sound like that.
Have you got the tune going round in your head now? Sorry! After that, it’d be hard for you to give the bird’s fixation on a few notes the considered attention it deserves.
It’s a territorial thing – the tune of a bellbird in one area quite distinct from one in another.
A couple of rock wrens visited camp in the evenings, looking for insects in bark crevices as they did bouncy little hops up a full-grown mountain beech trunk. We saw one tomtit and heard the call of a solitary kea,
The Ahuriri Valley didn’t seem to have a lot of native wildlife. The fact that we didn’t see a single predator trap another sign that possums, stoats, rats, mice and hedgehogs were in abundance.
Still, it was good to hear a DOC (Department of Conservation) officer tell us that they’re about to begin a major predator blitz in the Hopkins and Huxley valleys just across from the Ahuriri. We really enjoy tramping up there too and look forward to, one day, experiencing a biodiversity bonanza in the area.
Starved of variety, I got a bit carried away photographing common copper butterflies. On our day tramp up the valley to the dramatic canyon and its namesake creek, I got so engrossed that I left my trekking pole at one or other pause for a photo opportunity.
June has a knack for spotting things lost in obscure places and didn’t disappoint. She found it on our way back, near a yellow-flowering clump of what I think was king-devil hawkweed. Its nectar had sure entranced the small copper butterflies.
The pole would have been useful once we left the valley floor to climb up to the bush line and then down the far side of the canyon. Still, I was carrying only a light daypack, and the track was dry and stable, so I managed fine.
Down the other side of the canyon, we sat by Canyon Creek, eating a handful of freeze-dried, chocolate coated blueberries and sipping water from our drink bottles. It feels so right to cup your hands and drink from mountain streams, but they say the giardia parasite is in most of them – a sure ticket to a gastric meltdown.
A clear view as far as Mt Barth allowed us to speculate on the approximate location, on glacial remains below it, of a Rock Bivvy. On tramps, we’ve either camped in tents or used the huts. We daydreamed about coming back sometime and spending a night in the bivvy.
It was well past our usual six o’clock meal hour by the time we got back to the campsite. Daylight saving, long summer days, and a homemade stir fry that only needed to be heated through, saved the day: dinner, dishes, hot drinks and night lights all sorted before nine o’clock saw dusk darken.
Dragonflies, not butterflies, got my attention on the following day’s tramp. We’d seen plenty of a smaller species flying over the Ben Avon wetlands and lake that we had stopped at for lunch on the car journey in. They’d pause briefly on a grass stalk, but spent most of their time shooting forward at arrow speed or helicoptering up. So hyper – they can get close to 60 km/h – that I didn’t get a single photo.
Their aerial acrobatics and sudden stops were fun to watch. Hard to believe, till you actually see it, that they can fly backwards.
Frustrated at not getting a photo, I was especially pleased that on the following fine, windless day, their big mumma couzies were staying put for ages.
Can’t blame the dragonfly for not being in the shot of the moth it was devouring. It stayed put while I tried all sorts of contortions to get it in focus, only flying off when I was breathing down its neck – a giant predatory shadow. Still learning how to drive the camera on my new phone – seemed to focus on anything but what I wanted.
Got a couple of good pics of another one later. Perhaps happily sunning itself as it digested a moth.
Saw the bush giant dragonflies as we walked the valley floor track we’d traversed the previous day. We changed course at Canyon Creek, crossing it so that we could go east till we got near the Ahuriri river, and then veering in a northerly direction to get to the upper valley.
Entertained by more dragonflies as we ate our lunch outside the vacant, two bunk Shamrock Hut. DOC gives an estimate of 2 hours from the carpark below our campsite. Our pace would be regarded as on the slow side by more pumped up trampers, but we did get to the hut in an hour and a half. A metal panel was nailed to the outside of the door:
Shamrock Hut Built 1958 (NZ Forest Service -wild animal control) Alt.823m
I’m always curious as to what you’ll find in back country huts. What a teaser this time – a brandy bottle with a couple of inches still in it. I took a deep inhale – yep brandy not kero.
“Get a whiff of this!” I said to June. Even without the label we would have thought ‘St Remy – Authentic’.
Not that we know much about brandy. It’s just that three years ago, brother Paul and family stayed with us – he gave us two 1 litre bottles of ‘Authentic’ brandy he’d picked up duty free. As if all other brandies are non-authentic.
June got a real taste for it, briefly warmed on the woodstove’s plate rack, and sipped and savoured as we watched a movie of a Saturday night.
I’ve tried in vain to track one down since. There’s a ton of St Remy around, just none sporting the label add-on ‘Authentic’. Brandy’s now pretty much back to where it was ‘pre-authentic’: dousing Xmas cakes, and added to Xmas puddings and the accompanying brandy sauce.
Neither of us took a swig – go figure. I screwed on the cap and put it back in the cupboard where I’d found it.
We swigged down water instead as we ate home baked buns, home grown tomatoes and cucumbers, hard boiled eggs, and store bought cheddar cheese. We had June’s Xmas cake with us. Yep I thought as I munched down on it – non-authentic brandy works just fine in that!
Lunch over, we went some distance in the direction of the next hut – Hagen’s – before turning back.
The following day was our last full day, and as I said in my last post, a chance to rest up. We read books (you wouldn’t be surprised to learn that my one was about blogging!) and I did the writing exercise our local writing group had come up with the last time we met.
And a walk of a couple of hours late afternoon: a bee line down from camp, across river and shingle flats, up a grassed slope, down the side of a steep, bush-lined gully, to a gushing stream below a hidden waterfall.
The pinprick view, on backward glance, of where we’d set up camp, against the backdrop of bush, mountains and sky, a reminder of my place in the scheme of things. The unimaginably powerful forces below, on and above the land and the water are in the driving seat – not us.
We don’t bite the dust; the dust bites into us. We are stardust.*
... I'm going to camp out on the land I'm going to try an' get my soul free ... We are stardust Billion year old carbon We are golden ... (from the song 'Woodstock' by Joni Mitchell)
*Are we really made of stardust? “It is totally 100% true: nearly all the elements in the human body were made in a star …” See:
That’s all on modern-day homesteading at Little Owl Gully till next Monday. Thanks for your company. Bye for now.