Wednesday, 12 September 2018

Points along the Trail: Pelorous Bridge

A look at the facilities available at the Pelorous Bridge camp-ground

One of the iconic spots you will visit on the Te Araroa Trail is Pelorous Bridge, roughly 20 kms north of Havelock.There is (obviously) a bridge at Pelorous but there is also a camp-ground you will need to stay in as Pelorous Bridge is the gateway to the Richmond Ranges, one of the more difficult sections of the TA.

Pelorous Bridge on SH6 between Havelock and Nelson

Map: Pelorous Bridge and the approaches from Daltons Track and Maungatapu Road

I stopped by recently on the way to Nelson and thought a few photos of the facilities might be useful.

Pelorous Bridge Reserve, Marlborough

There have been four bridges over the Pelorous River between Havelock and Nelson, the current bridge was built in the 1950's and is still going strong. There has also been a camp-ground in this scenic reserve for over 10 years now, this is the last taste of civilisation before starting the 7-10 day crossing of the Richmond Ranges.

Pelorous Bridge Scenic Reserve:from the northern terminus

There is a sizeable car park at Pelorous Bridge it is well sign posted from both directions so it is impossible to miss. There are public toilets and fresh water available near the car park as well as the DOC office and a small cafe I will talk about below.

Pelorous Bridge Scenic Reserve: the car-park off SH6

The Pelorous Bridge cafe and DOC office

There is a handy DOC information kiosk showing the surrounding area located on an island in the middle of the parking area. It has details of all the walks and facilities available here.

Pelorous Bridge Scenic Reserve: map of the scenic reserve and information

Map: Pelorous Bridge Scenic Reserve: detail of the reserve

As you can see there are a lot of nice bush walks in and around the bridge area, Te Araroa trekkers will approach the area using Daltons Track or Maungatapu Road. The camp grounds are scattered around Kahikatea Flat for the most part with a picnic area where the lower camp-site used to occupy. 

The Pelorous Bridge Cafe

There has been a cafe at Pelorous Bridge since I was a child, I remember stopping here on occasion for a swim in the river and an ice cream while transiting between Blenheim and Nelson.

Pelorous Bridge Scenic Reserve: directions to facilities
The cafe building is readily visible as you enter the parking area, the building contains the DOC camp ground office and the attached cafe.

The Pelorous Bridge Cafe, Pelorous Bridge Scenic Reserve

Pelorous Bridge Scenic Reserve: map of the area near the cafe
The ownership of the cafe has recently changed hands (2017), the new owners have carried out a lot of renovations and have improved the food on offer immensely. I had a quick peruse of the wares and they looked top quality and I assume really delicious. 

There is no camp shop at the cafe as in older times, what they sell is your usual cafe fare: cabinet food (pies, sandwiches, rolls, cakes and slices) and a small menu of fresh cooked meals. They also sell ice creams, cold drinks, water and good coffee if you need a fix.

View into the Pelorous Bridge Cafe

There are some nice outdoor seating areas if you want to enjoy your repast El fresco, one area is covered and the other consists of outdoor seats and picnic tables.

Pelorous Bridge Cafe: outdoor seating area

Pelorous Bridge Cafe:the bush comes right up to the door

It is my understanding that the DOC office will accept bounce box packages BUT there is no outgoing mail from here and you would need to pack out any and all packaging if you deposit a resupply box here.

  The Kahikatea Flat camp-ground

The Department of Conservation camp ground is located at Kahikatea Flats which is accessible using a short road way next to the cafe building. It looks like a really nice area and has a wide grassy clearing with about 30 established camp-sites. Over the busy summer period (November-April) the sites need to be booked, it would probably be a good idea to call the camp grounds office while you are in Havelock.

Pelorous Bridge Scenic Reserve: Kahikatea Flat camp ground sign

Pelorous Bridge Scenic Reserve: Kahikatea Flat camp ground sign

Pelorous Bridge Scenic Reserve: Kahikatea Flat camp ground

There are a number of short and medium length tracks which start right next to the camp sites, they range from 30 minutes right up to a four hour tramp. 

Some of the tracks accessible from Kahikatea Flat, Pelorous Bridge Scenic Reserve

It is a very nice looking area, I camped here once in the early 1990's while on the way to Nelson for a summer holiday and the camp-ground is very busy at that time of the year.

Pelorous Bridge Scenic Reserve: Kahikatea Flat camp ground

Pelorous Bridge Scenic Reserve: Kahikatea Flat camp ground

There is a new and nicely appointed coking shelter/toilet block located at the camp-ground.
 It looked like it would hold about 30 odd people at one time. I would imagine the TA hikers spend a bit of time hanging out in the shelter while they are here.

Camp shelter at Pelorous Bridge Scenic Reserve: Kahikatea Flat camp ground

The shelter at Kahikatea Flat camp ground: Pelorous Bridge Scenic Reserve: cold water showers

The shelter at Kahikatea Flat camp ground: Pelorous Bridge Scenic Reserve

The shelter has fresh drinking water inside the shelter and coin feed warm water showers around the back of the building. The shelter also has a couple of gas cook tops with a small selection of pots and pans you can use. 

Inside the Kahikatea Flat camp shelter at Pelorous Bridge
Inside the Kahikatea Flat camp shelter at Pelorous Bridge

Because this is the beginning/end of the Richmond Ranges there is a standard DOC intentions book in the shelter, I had a look and about 80% of the entries are from TA hikers passing through. I recognised a few names from the 2017/18 season...

The DOC intentions book in the Kahikatea camp-ground

In the depth of summer the Pelorous River is a very nice place to swim, the river emerges from native forest so it is not contaminated. There are a number of deep pools both above and below the main bridge.

The Pelorous River, next to the Kahikatea Flat camp-ground

The Pelorous River, next to the Kahikatea Flat camp-ground

The water is often warm as it travels most of the way through the Richmond Ranges warming up as it descends to the bridge area. I have been in the water here and it was lovely on a hot summers day.

Pelorous Bridge Scenic Reserve: downstream of the bridge

Wednesday, 5 September 2018

Resupply point: Hanmer Springs, North Canterbury

Using Hanmer Springs as a Te Araroa resupply point

Hanmer Springs (or just Hanmer as we Cantabrians call it...) is one of the off trail places you will probably visit as part of your Te Araroa experience. The township is situation in North Canterbury, on the mid way point between Nelson Lakes National Park and Arthur's Pass NP. Both SOBO and NOBO trekkers will have cause to visit the township.

Hanmer Springs: the Hanmer Plains, the Heritage Forest and township from Mt Isobel Range

Why visit Hanmer Springs?

You will need to either use a bounce box resupply at Boyle Outdoor Education Centre or take the 50 odd km off trail trip to Hanmer to resupply before the trail sections over Harpers Pass (SOBO) or Waiau Pass (NOBO).

DOC map showing Hanmer in relation to Nelson Lakes NP and the St James Conservation Area

Hanmer sits roughly in the mid point of two 7-10 day continuous trail sections with no people or supply points on or near the trail. 

Hanmer Springs: an aerial view of the township from high on Mt Isobel

Hanmer Springs is a small tourism and farming support township, it has around 200-300 permanent residents and its chief draw card are the famous thermal hot pools. Hanmer makes for the closest thing to a classic trail town you will strike in New Zealand. Most TA trekkers will head here for a couple of zero days to recuperate and sustain for the more remote trail sections ahead. 

Hanmer Springs: the park like area along the main street, hot pools to right

Plenty of other stuff to do in Hanmer apart from the thermal pools: cafes, restaurants, MTB trails (hire bikes available in town), horse-riding, forest walks, golf, 4 W/D operators, bungee jumps and jet boat rides..Hanmer is a real adventure town!

On the Woodland Track in Hanmer Heritage Forest, Hanmer Springs in 2016


Getting to Hanmer from the Te Araroa Trail: three ways to get there

There are three main ways to get to Hanmer from the recognized Te Araroa Trail. These are : 

Map: Hanmer Springs from the Te Araroa Trail; blue is TA trail route, red are alternate routes to Hanmer
  •      From the Te Araroa Trail hitch from either Boyle Settlement or Windy Point along State Highway 7 to Hanmer Springs. This is the way most TA trekkers get there...

The Boyle Outdoor Education Centre, Boyle Settlement, Lewis Pass
  •     From St Arnaud follow the TA route over Travers and Waiau Pass, walk down the Waiau River Valley and take the side tracks over either Maling Pass, Fowlers Pass or Peters Pass and follow the Tophouse Hydro Road thorough to Hanmer via Jacks Pass.  All of these passes are part of the St James Cycleway and would require close logistical planning and suitable maps of the area. It adds 1-2 days to the section but gets you directly to Hanmer.
    DOC map showing the location of Windy Point and Boyle Village near Lewis Pass
  •    From St Arnaud backtrack north towards Blenheim (10 odd kilometres) and then follow the Tophouse Hydro Road through to Hanmer via Jacks Pass. This is a alternate route and not recommended unless the weather is terrible making the crossing of Waiau Pass impossible. This is not an all weather route as there are a couple of fords to cross along the road, potentially dangerous in big rain storms.

The Tophouse Hydro Road near Jacks Pass, Hanmer Springs

Hanmer Springs: the Four Square Supermarket

There is only one supermarket in Hanmer Springs it is a Four Square on Conical Hill Road, located just past the thermal pools. The supermarket is moderately sized, it services both the local community and the many tourists who visit Hanmer Springs while touring the South Island.

Prices are similar to those in Christchurch so it is relatively easy and cheap to resupply in Hanmer for the section of the Te Araroa trail either side of Boyle settlement.

Hanmer Springs Four Square supermarket, Conical Hill Road

There is a Bank of New Zealand money machine located at the supermarket, this is the only location in town where you can get cash as there are no banks or other cash machines in the township. You may be able to draw cash via EFT-POS but I have never tried so I don't know if it is possible. 

Hanmer Four Square, notice the BNZ money machine outside

So, lets take a walk around the inside of the supermarket to see what we can find inside...

Entrance to the Hanmer Springs Supermarket

The first thing you strike as you enter are the produce and alcohol areas. The supermarket has a god representative spread of fresh fruit and vegetables, they have all the trail staples: onions, capsicums, mushrooms, apples, oranges,  carrots, salads, courgettes etc.

Hanmer Four Square: produce section, fruit and vegetables

Hanmer Four Square: more of the produce section...looking down Aisle 1 and 2

Hanmer Four Square:: view down Aisle number one

Hanmer Four Square: a comprehensive selection of vegetables on offer

The area holding the alcohol sales are located right next to the produce section close to the entrance. Supermarkets in New Zealand are allowed to sell beer, wine and ciders...if you are after harder spirits there is a small off license located a short walk further up Conical Hill Road. This is the Hanmer Super Liquor.

Hanmer Springs Super Liquor store...for the hard stuff!

Hanmer Four Square: the cider and beer chiller

Hanmer Four Square: white wines...

They have a really comprehensive spread of alcohol products in the Four Square, Hanmer is a holiday town so they stock a lot more alcohol than your usual country store. Prices are the same as Christchurch...there is very little sales margin in alcohol so they need to keep the prices low to shift stock.

Hanmer Four Square: red wines, ports and sherries

The main part of the supermarket consists of three rows of shelves with additional items located around the interior walls of the building. I will show you what they hold aisle by aisle...

Aisle One: canned/dried products/meat/dairy

The first aisle contains all of the canned, packet and dried meal items...there is also a meat cooler and a dairy section. Again, prices are comparable to any larger NZ town and there is plenty there to supply a good mix of meal additives.

Hanmer Four Square: aisle one...caned and dried food items

They supermarket stocks a limited range of Backcountry meals, they also have Pams (a generic brand) pouch meals, Sun Rice and some Kaweka (I recently found out that Kaweka have gone out of business...). Backcountry are freeze dried meals while the others are boil in the bag meals.

Freeze dried and boil in bag meats at the Hanmer Four Square

They have a comprehensive mix of packet/tinned fish and chicken, as well as tinned corned beef, Spam and luncheon meats

Hanmer Four Square: fish and tinned meat

Plenty of rice/pasta/noodles both easy cook varieties and those that require longer cooking times. Notably they have cous-cous, polenta and ancient grains in stock.

Pasta, rice, noodles at the Hanmer Four Square

There is a full stock of packet meals, ramen noodles and pot noodles to chose from....

Hanmer Four Square: packet meals, noodles, ramen and the such...

On the other side of the aisle is the dairy and meat sections....everything you would need to resupply is there including pre-packaged vacuum packed meat. There is a full range of bacon, salami and packaged meat for lunches...

Dairy and processed meat at the Hanmer Four Square

Extensive meat selection in a chiller...

At the end of the aisle is the bread supplies, they have both commercial and locally produced breads (get there early for fresh still warm bread), bagels, wraps and muffins.

A limited selection of bread at the Hanmer Four Square

...tortillas and wraps near the meat chiller

Aisle two:  dried goods, bakery gods, snack food and spreads

The second Aisle holds cereals, drink powders, snack foods, powder milk, oils, spreads and various cleaning products. This is also the spot for toiletries, toilet paper and sanitary goods. 

Hanmer Four Square: aisle one and two...

There is the usual bewildering display of muesli bars from many different producers...they sell OSM's, Em's power bars, protein/paleo bars and Cliff Bars if that is your thing. 

A multitude of muesli bars...

...protein bars galore!

Cereals are also located on this aisle, they have large packets but also the small individual boxes of cereal. The supermarket sell this individual cereal packets both in packs of eight and singly so you can just buy the amount you will need.  

A good range of cereals in the Hanmer Four Square

Individual cereal packets and god olde porridge!

There is the usual selection of spreads...they sell individual packets of jam, peanut butter, Marmite, Vegemite and honey. I always stock up on these items when I visit Hanmer because I have never seen them on sale anywhere else in New Zealand and they are invaluable for tramping meals.

I love those single serve measures of jam etc.

There is a small but comprehensive selection of over the counter medicines available, there is no chemist/drug store in Hanmer so if you need anything more exotic you are heading for Christchurch...1.5 hours away by car!
Medicine/health selection at the Hanmer Four Square

The chocolate is located at the end of aisle's 1/2 close to the entrance into the supermarket, again it is a representative selection only...i.e. the most common brands.

Chocolate supplies at the  entrance into the Hanmer Four Square

I would go for the Snickers or maybe a Peanut Moro/Picnic bar which are New Zealand versions of the same thing. Also good is any chocolate made by Whitakers which is now the sole fully New Zealand based chocolate manufacturer.


 Aisle three: chips, crackers, biscuits and frozen goods

The last aisle has all of the snack type foods like chips, nuts and biscuits. They also have a bank of deep freezes with a comprehensive selection of frozen foods, finally there is a non alcoholic drinks sections with bottle soft drinks, juice and the like. 

Hanmer Four Square...chips, popcorn and frozen goods

A good selection of crackers at the Hanmer Four Square

....lotsa nuts, Hanmer Four Square

Hanmer Four Square: a good range of biscuits and cakes

When I was there they had a small supply of butane/propane cannisters for screw on stoves near the frozen food section. I have never seen them there before so I don't know if they are a permanently stocked item. Otherwise there is a Hammer Hardware store located about 15 minutes walk from the town who sell cannisters...ask a local where it is as it is not in an obvious spot...

Hanmer Four Square: the frozen food section

Dry goods storage is close to the registers,  Hanmer Four Square

For the trekkers from the United States and Canada, Vitaplan is the closest thing to Carnation Breakfast you will see in New Zealand. I have never seen the real Carnation product in NZ but this breakfast powder is just as good. It but it will be difficult to find outside of the larger population centres but most of the larger supermarkets stock Vitaplan.

Vitaplan: the closest thing to Carnation Breakfast you will find in New Zealand

The last thing of not are the dried meat snacks which they have located next to the checkout area of the supermarket. I recommend the Canterbury it is good stuff but not widely stocked outside of Canterbury...

Some dried meat snacks located at the Hanmer Springs Four Square checkout

Hanmer Four Square: Go for the Canterbury Biltong...yum!
So you can see it would be very simple to resupply just from the supermarket as it has everything you might need.

Other resupply points in Hanmer

There are two convenience stores in the township, both are located near the hot pools, because they are smaller independents the prices are a lot higher. If for some reason the supermarket was closed you could resupply here as they have all the basics for a Spartan trekking menu.

Dairy/Convenience store in Hanmer Springs

Dairy/Convenience store in Hanmer Springs

If you needed to replace some basic tramping gear there are a couple of locations you can try. The first is an outdoor clothing store opposite the hot pools, they don't have a huge range but worth a look if you are average sized and not after anything too technical.

Hanmer Springs: the small outdoor clothing store near the hot pools

Hanmer Springs: close up of the outdoor store on the main street
Another place which sells merino goods is called Fashionworks, it is located past the pools in the complex of shops and cafes opposite the Hanmer Regional council offices on Conical Hill Road. They have leggings, hats, gloves, tops and some jackets...

Fashionworks clothing store on Hanmer's main street

There is also a shop called Hanmer Adventure further up Conical Hill road who supply gear for the MTB fraternity. I noticed that they had a small amount of outdoors gear in the shop as well...jackets, shorts, merino tops etc. This is the place you go to if you want to rent an MTB, there are some good bike trails around Hanmer.

Hanmer Adventure has bikes for hire...

Some of the gear sold by Hanmer Adventure in Hanmer Springs

Finally there is a Wild South chain store in the shopping arcade next to the Hanmer Springs Millennium Hotel. If you need outdoor clothing this would probably be your best bet as the brand has some nice if expensive gear.

The Wild South store in Hanmer

To be quite frank anything you buy from these shops will be stop gap, you really need to go to Christchurch to find some decent outdoor suppliers.

Eateries in Hanmer Spring

There are a wide range of places to eat in Hanmer Springs ranging from Fine Dinning to cafes, pub style meals, restaurants and takeaways. They are usually busy during the New Zealand School holidays and over the weekends but if you go early you will be sure to find somewhere to eat.

I will have a look at a few of them...

Just some of the eateries in Hanmer Springs

At the southern end of town are a group of up market eateries including No. 31 and Fire and Ice. These are all more expensive options but if you wanted to splash out then head for one of these...

No. 31 restaurant in Hanmer Springs, Canterbury

If you are in the mood for burgers, fries and fish and chips then go to The Log Cabin across the road from the hot pools. This is the best place in town for these kind of takeaway meals. 

Right next to the Log Cabin is a group of eateries..there is a pizzeria who have excellent wood fired pizzas, and an Italian style delicatessen (both open until the early evening). Next to them is Flynns Irish Bar who do great cheap pub meals (steaks, sausage and mash, roasts etc.). Lastly there is a Monteiths Ale House with a bar and bistro type meals...this place is usually the busiest restaurant in town. 

The bar/restaurant complex opposite the Hanmer Thermal Pols

Moving further up Conical Hill Road we strike the Robbies Bar and Bistro which is a cheap family style restaurant (they do a mean roast of the day) and in front of it is PJ's takeaway shed who do tasty burgers, fries, fried fish and toasted sandwiches.

Robbies Bar and Bistro Hanmer Springs

Hanmer Springs eateries: PJ's burger shack near the hot pools

There are a group of three cafes next to the Fashionworks store, they all open early and serve big, hearty cooked breakfasts. They also do decent coffee and cafe meals during the daytime but close around 4 pm so no dinner meals.

Hanmer Springs: the cafes clustered around the start of Conical Hill road

Close to the supermarket are a number of eateries including the Thai/Chinese restaurant Mr Yunans. There is also a restaurant at the Alpine Village Inn which you can see at the end of the drive in the photo below. Saints Restaurant, Bar and Pizzeria is also located here, it is to the left and out of view in this photo.

Alpine Village Inn: a bar, off licence and restaurant

Closer view of the Alpine Village Inn Hanmer Springs

There is a very fine bakery located near Hanmer Adventures and Wild South, they make excellent bread, pies, sandwiches, rolls and desserts. I always buy my bread here when staying in the village.

Hanmer Bakery near the Wild South shop on Conical Hill Road

There are a set of new shops and restaurants further up Conical Hill Road, there are a couple of Asian themed restaurants (Thai/Chinese/Indian) a European style cafe, pizzeria and a shop selling chocolate and sweets.

Hanmer Springs eateries: Corianders Restaurant Hanmer Springs is just down this side road

Here is a photo of the Indian Restaurant Malabar, I have dined here before and the food was very nice...great Asian inspired fusion mix.

Malabar Indian Restaurant Hanmer Springs

The Heritage Hotel has an restaurant who concentrate on the higher end of the market, the meals are excellent although pricey. If you wanted a bit of class I would go here for dinner.

Heritage Hotel Hanmer Springs...nice accommodation and fine dining restaurant

These are only some of the restaurants and bars in the township, I counted over 20 eateries the last time I was there so you will always find a good feed regardless of budget!!!

Accommodation options in Hanmer Springs

Because Hanmer Springs is a popular destination for both Kiwis and tourists it has a plethora of different accommodation options. These range from camp-grounds, backpackers and motels right up to the Heritage Hotel which has four star facilities.  

Be aware freedom camping is NOT allowed in Hanmer so if you are staying here it must be at a designated location. There is a maximum $20 000 fine for freedom campers, and people are prosecuted every year for flouting the rules so just don't do it!

No freedom camping allowed within Hanmer Springs township

One thing you will find in Hanmer are holiday homes which can be rented for a single day through to several weeks. There are over 70 holiday homes on offer for groups of 1-15 people, prices vary depending on the size, condition and location within the township. If you arrive in Hanmer as part of a large group these can work out quite cheaply if you all pitch in. 

The two main rental companies are Hanmer Holiday Homes and Alpine Holiday Homes but you can also book on AirBnB, Book a Bach and from individuals. 

A Hanmer Holiday Homes offering, this one holds 6 people at $160 per night!

Interior view of the above Hanmer Holiday Home, the living area...

Most Te Araroa trekkers will stay at one of the two camp-grounds Hanmer Top 10 Holiday Park or Pines Holiday Park. Both of these are within 10 minutes walk of the Hanmer Thermal Pools and feature camp-sites as well as cabins, studios and other accommodation.

Hanmer Springs Top 10 Holiday Park

Entrance to the Pines Holiday Park in Hanmer Springs

Aerial view of the Pines Holiday Park in Hanmer Springs, Canterbury

Another option often used is Kakapo Lodge which is the local YHA hostel in Hanmer. I have stayed here before and it is quite nicely appointed and very close to the centre of town (it is literally two minutes walk to the thermal pools from the lodge). 

Kakapo Lodge Hanmer Springs, the local chapter of the YHA

Kakapo Lodge Hanmer Springs, one of the group rooms

As always check out the trail notes on the main Te Araroa website for more information...

The Hanmer Springs thermal pools

You absolutely must go to the famous thermal pools while you are in Hanmer. It is cheap to enter ($24 for a one off all day visit) and they have towel and swimwear hire if required.

Hanmer Spring Thermal Complex entrance

Hanmer Springs Thermal Resort:entrance to the resort

The pools were originally very simple affairs but they have grown as the number of visitors have increased. There are now over 20 different hot and cold pools as well as water slides and day spa facilities.

Hanmer Springs Thermal Resort: map of the complex

Hanmer Springs Thermal Resort: the price menu...only $24 for a one time visit!

There is simply nothing finer in this world than soaking your aches and pains away for a couple of hours in the pools, I always stop off for a visit if my travels take me past Hanmer.If you are there in summer take a hat and sun screen as you can get a awesome sunburn if you are not careful.

Hanmer Springs Thermal Resort: some of the pools on a lovely summer day.
There is even an excellent cafe on site called the Tea Kiosk Cafe and Grill where you can refuel before jumping back in the hot pools. The food is excellent and relatively cheap, they sell alcohol and make really good coffee. 

You can even enjoy a meal while still in your swimwear...

Hanmer Springs Thermal Resort: the Tea Kiosk Cafe and Grill

Visit the thermal pools, it is an absolutely recommended activity of course!

Hopefully this information will assist you with planning your Te Araroa Experience...