The wind had subsided in downtown Wellington and the sun was making an attempt to peek through the clouds. ‘Maybe this bad run of weather is finally on the way out,’ we optimistically hoped as we made a plan B C and D due to yet another poor weather forecast.
Plan A had been ruled out almost immediately – access to Kahurangi’s 1000 Acre Plateau would be blocked due to high rainfall and flooded rivers. Plan B, exploring the drier seaward Kaikouras, was also off the list – one of the group had memories of long days, high exposure, and forbidding cliffs.
Plan C and D meant an overnight at Mika and Hans’ brand new home in Nelson – it was an easy choice to head over the hill to The Brooke and to some classic Dutch hospitality.
Saturday dawned bright and clear. We did one last scan of the maps and decided on the Tablelands area of the Cobb Valley in Kahurangi. It soon became apparent that the sky over Cobb Valley was more black-grey than the earlier blue of Nelson.
Heading out into the cold on Saturday made us think about Plan D – appealingly named ‘Day Walks from Nelson’. But this was a WTMC trip, we were tough, we had layers, there was no turning back.
Before long we’d climbed 500 meters to the open tops of Peel Range, catching a glimpse of Lake Peel before making a bee-line to the welcome shelter of Balloon Hut. Balloon was characteristic of huts in the area, designed by trampers for trampers, and much better than many of the newer standard DOC huts.
Sunday was forecast to be pretty wild weather, so we took our time with morning ablutions. A break in the sleet motivated action, and we headed south to Salisbury Lodge. We were the only occupants of this normally busy hut, due to a road closure at Flora Saddle (and possibly the atrocious weather forecast for the weekend)!
Before long hut-fever took over, and as soon as we could see our shadows we were out the door to explore. The tablelands have a fascinating history of gold-mining and cattle-grazing. Remnants of these activities remain in the landscape, framed by a network of limestone caves and sink-holes.
We returned to Salisbury Lodge to wait out the afternoon’s sleet, and then headed to our destination for the day, GridIron Rock Shelter. This was an absolute gem of a spot – a towering rock overhang embellished with a sleeping platform, cooking table, and fireplace. We fell asleep to the sound of the nearby river and awoke to a dawn chorus of bellbirds and warblers.