St James Walkway

This track had been recommended to me.  On further investigation it turned out to be a track a lot of families do with children.  However I happened to be nearby and needed to fill in the time so I did it.  You could take up to 5 days to do it if you want, but I did it in 3 days.  If you’re fit you can reduce the DOC times by 1/4 or even 1/3.  A map is here.

I started at the end nearest Springs Junction.

And duck!

And duck!

The well-maintained nature of the track was immediately apparent.P1090336 P1090337The track descends quickly down to a stream.P1090338The track was very pretty at this point.  The track then crossed some stones.P1090339After an easy climb the track came to Cannibal Stream!P1090341This was the only point on the track with an interpretation panel.  If this track is intended for families with children then they really need to add a few more.

P1090371

On the other side

On the other side of the stream the track was reasonable, but no paved highway.P1090346 P1090350The track contours around the gorge for several km and crosses several streams.P1090352 P1090356The vegetation changes from beech to . . . not entirely beech.P1090360The track then descends and comes out at the stream level.P1090365After that you go in and out of bush on a fairly flat track.  Then there’s a bit of an ascent.  When you get to the swing bridge you’re close to the hut.P1090369

On the other side

On the other side

The hut. And look at that view!

Cannibal Gorge Hut. And look at that view!

I reached the hut after 2 hr 20 min.  There were about 20 towels hanging outside and the sound of teenagers so I pushed on at speed!

P1090380

That view

The track continues in and out of bush following the stream.P1090376

That view

That view

Some variation

Some variation

Looking back down the stream

Looking back down the stream

After a while it breaks out in to a large open areaP1090387One hour after leaving Cannibal Gorge Hut I reached Ada Pass Hut.

Spiffy

Spiffy

View from the hut

View from the hut

There was one woman sitting outside with a fire.  I left her to make dinner inside.  However something was wrong with my white spirit stove.  It just let liquid fuel out and wouldn’t light.  I thought perhaps if I applied a burning taper to a pool of fuel it would light and warm up the generator.  One fireball later (solved by a dixie over the top of the flaming stove) I decided cold dinner would be the best option.

For some reason the woman outside decided to stay outside that night.  Well, whatever.  I had only packed a woobie rather than a full sleeping bag in anticipation of summer temperatures.  It was cold.  Then at 3.30am the woman came in from trying to sleep on the deck.

The next day I set off to cross Ada Pass!

Not as impressive as it sounds.

Not as impressive as it sounds.

After a vertical gain of about 1m I crossed the pass!

This is the only way you know you're on the pass.

This is the only way you know you’re on the pass.

Then the track crosses through beech for a while.

Track condition

Track condition

It comes out through several large open areas.P1090398

Boardwalk

Boardwalk

View to the side

View to the side

Stream crossing

Stream crossing

Impending doom

Impending doom

After remarking how well-maintained the track was I came across a patch with a LOT of VERY LARGE deadfall.

Like this.

Like this.

Then it’s back out in to the open.P1090406

Ada River

Ada River

P1090409After a bit of an ascent the surrounds change a bit to old paddocks covered in matagouri.P1090417

Looking back towards cloud of impending doom

Looking back towards cloud of impending doom.

About 2 1/2 hours after leaving Ada Pass hut I came to Christopher Cullers Hut.

2 bunks, no stove.

2 bunks, no stove.

The track continues through the open.  30 min on from the tin biv I reached Christopher Hut.P1090423I stopped for lunch here and decided to take my boots off.  This was a mistake as I was immediately covered in sandflies and had to eat with one hand (the other trying vainly to keep them away).

There are horses here.  This is as close as I went.

Too many chromosomes

Too many chromosomes

The track is very similar until the next hut.  This track may be easy but the scenery doesn’t change much so it does get a bit boring.  I brought a mp3 player in anticipation of this and started using it here.P1090427It contours around next to the Ada River for a while.P1090429At some points the track is quite narrow while it crosses a slope.P1090431Then back to this.P1090435While crossing this section there are several buildings on the eastern side.  They’re Ada Homestead.  An interpretation panel or two would help here as I’m guessing people would like to know something about the house they’re looking at for an hour.

Ada Homestead

Ada Homestead

The view on the other side

The view on the other side

Then the track comes around to head south west.  More grass!P1090440This is basically the view for the next hour.

Slight variation

Slight variation

It started raining exactly not quite enough to put on a raincoat, but enough to be wet, for maximum annoyance.  The track marries up with Waiau Pass Track, which is a 4WD track.  Then it continues on until it crosses the Henry River.

Just before the crossing. The river is in that valley.

Just before the crossing. The river is in that valley.

Henry River

Henry River

The crossing

The crossing

Now if you can’t see where the track continues on the other side that’s because it scales the cliff face for a bit.  Fortunately there are cables to hold on to.

On the other side

On the other side

A rare sight in my photos – people!  These were two idiot teachers who were walking about 2 hours IN FRONT of their students.  They hadn’t briefed the children on how to contact them in an emergency, they were carrying the group’s PLB, and they hadn’t read the students’ risk management, if indeed they had made the students write a RAMS in the first place.  When we arrived at the hut the students were further behind than they expected and they were wondering when they should be worried, and only then started thinking about what the students would do in an emergency.

‘One of the fit students will run ahead, I guess.  It’s all part of the fun.’

How would that sound in front of the coroner?

(I spent 7 years as a qualified outdoor instructor and secondary teacher so blase people like this make me very angry).

The track goes up to a plateau.

With a hut that takes FOREVER to reach

With a hut that takes FOREVER to reach

3hr 30 min after leaving Christopher Hut I reached Anne Hut.

Modern, 2 bunk rooms, has stove

Modern, 2 bunk rooms, has stove

As well as the teenagers (who arrived very hobbly) there were 2 old men and 3 Te Araroa Trail walkers.  What is it with TA walkers that they never wash?!  They STANK.  And I have spent a month with soldiers who didn’t have a shower the whole time.  Everyone else in the hut washed that afternoon.  Have some consideration for your fellow hut users!  And also protect yourself from fungal infections and prickly heat.

The 2 old men decided to SET ALARMS for 5.30am the next morning.  After waking everyone else in the hut up they were on the track by 6.30am.  Why???  They were only walking to the next hut so would have arrived by midday.  So then they would just be sitting around all afternoon.  Why?  WHY??

Meanwhile the teachers decided to push their students to finish the rest of the track that day so they didn’t have to spend another night out.P1090460

This was all reminding me why I do real backcountry tracks where noone else goes.

The next morning the weather was still all hazy and wet without raining properly.

It was too warm to put on a rain coat

It was too warm to put on a rain coat

The Anne River

The Anne River

There is a cullers’ hut marked on the map here but I couldn’t see it.

The track then follows Anne River up to the saddle.

Note 2 idiots setting out at BET pace in front of their students

Note 2 idiots setting out at BET pace in front of their students

P1090460

Tiny bit of a climb

Tiny bit of a climb

The other side

The other side

More grass

More grass

Then there is a sign pointing to Anne Saddle.  Why?  It’s not like there are any other saddles around.

Climbing up to the saddle

Climbing up to the saddle

Helpfully labelled

Helpfully labelled

The descent

The descent

Near the bottom of this I came across some rather interesting fungi

About 1.5 cm across

About 1.5 cm across

The track then follows the Boyle River.  There isn’t much variation.

But I will mention the mud

But I will mention the mud

There is actually quite a bit of mud on this track.  Gaiters are necessary.  But this was the first time I took a photo.

The Boyle River

The Boyle River

This again

This again

Side view while crossing a footbridge

Side view while crossing a footbridge

Slightly more rocks

Slightly more rocks

3hr 40 min after leaving Anne Saddle I reached Rokeby Hut.

3 canvas bunks, stove, no long drop

1955 tin biv.  3 canvas bunks, stove, no long drop

After lunch here (SO MANY SANDFLIES) I continued on.

More mud

More mud

Cool rocks

Cool rocks

Track goes through matagouri

Track goes through matagouri

over a stream

over a stream

Then more of this

Then more of this

This is near Boyle Hut

This is near Boyle Hut

50 min after leaving Roby Hut I reached Boyle Hut.

This is as close as I went

This is as close as I went

I pushed on to Magdalen Hut.P1090497The track ascends and goes in to the bush.

Still quick travel

Still quick travel

Looking back the other way

Looking back the other way

1 hour after Boyle Hut I came to the track junction leading to Magdalen Hut.

Looking towards the Poplars Range

Looking towards the Poplars Range

Track condition.  Evidently cattle sometimes go here.

Track condition. Evidently cattle sometimes go here.

Bit further on.

Bit further on.

When you can see the hut the track markers direct you off to the east.  This is why

Someone has put in a handy plank

Someone has put in a handy plank

As you can see you could just cross the stream, but I had dry boots so I used the plank.

Magdalen Hut!  6 bunks and stove

Magdalen Hut! 6 bunks and stove

This hut is much less used and is very neat.  But the long drop had a wasp nest in it!  After sitting down a huge wasp came out and I discovered you can’t really avoid one inside a 1m x 1m building.

Longdrop OF DANGER!

Longdrop OF DANGER!

I was alone in the hut so after 2 nights with cold food I cranked the stove up to heat my dinner.  Given the outside temperature was about 24°C with the stove going the temperature inside the hut was like a furnace but it was still better than another cold dinner.  1 meat pack, 1 cake of noodles and some scrambled eggs later I collapsed on my bunk with a surfeit.

The next morning I went back to the track junction then headed towards Boyle Village.

More beech

More beech

Some mud

Some mud

After a while the track comes out in to the open.P1090527

Looking back

Looking back

It crosses several side streams

It crosses several side streams

View across the Boyle River

View across the Boyle River

Back in the bush

Back in the bush

The weather started closing in a bit and I didn’t want to get caught by rain.P1090539About 2.5 km out from the village there’s a swingbridge.

On the other side

On the other side

This area is used for school groups a lot so the track is more developed.P1090541P10905432hr 45 min from the intersection I reached Boyle Village.

Unless you have a bach or are on a camp this is the only feature

Unless you have a bach or are on a camp this is the only feature

There is a dong drop, a nature trail and a bus stop right next to the road.

Overall I would say this would be a good first ‘proper’ tramp for a child – it definitely warrants boots, but isn’t too demanding.  It could also make a good first tramp for an adult who hasn’t been tramping before.  The large number of huts mean you can have long or short days depending on your preference.  As an adult I found the track rather boring as the walks are quite long (about 20km per day) without the scenery changing very much.  Added to that is the annoyance of the track ends being so far apart.

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