One of the special charms of tramping in remote areas is that it usually involves the unexpected. On a trip into Clarence Reserve a chance encounter demonstrated the generosity of the human spirit.
Pressing on we make several fords of the stream, the 4WD trail easing our progress toward the Clarence. We have been going less than an hour when a Landcruiser appears behind us, hauls up alongside and the couple of tough looking characters inside offer us a lift. Too good an opportunity to miss, we jump in and bounce on down the riverbed. I can’t help but marvel at the slice of classic Kiwi backcountry culture we’ve chanced upon. The driver and his mate, Stu and Rikki, are shearers, heading to the Clarence to retrieve a vehicle abandoned two weeks earlier when rain made the tracks too slippery to negotiate. So here they are, almost 30km from the highway, in a riverbed, rain threatening, alone, and, as I scan the vehicle, with not a shred of spare clothing, parka, sleeping bag or food to be seen.
But what’s that behind the driver’s seat? A couple of dozen Speights! Good ‘Southern Men’ to a ‘T’.
They seem impressed that we have walked all the way in and still have energy left, so we share a few stories of the hills as we head on. Later, a steep skid pan of a road slides the cruiser out onto the Clarence terraces at Quail Flat and our new friends deposit us beside the old Cob Cottage with a promise to “Pick ya up again if ya on the road on the way back”. We’ll make sure of it.