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November 2011 Issue
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More dubious than not

Looking upstream to Dubious Biv
Dubious Biv (2 bunks)
4WD access from the Inland Kaikoura Road to Dubious Stream takes 3hr and is accessed just after Kahutara River when driving from Kaikoura. The road is locked though DOC holds several open weekends during the summer months

Dubious Bivouac, Clarence Reserve

Clarence Reserve in Marlborough is a popular place during open weekends, particularly for 4WD drivers. However, not so many people decide to take on the challenging hills and valleys by foot. On previous trips to the area I’ve been up the Palmer and Alfred Streams and down to Kahutara Biv, all of which carry the Clarence Reserve trademarks of briar and matagouri.

This open weekend we decided to go up Dubious Stream from the north eastern end of the 4WD road. It took three hours to drive from the Inland Kaikoura Road to the start of the route.

The view while pulling on our woollen socks gave us a taste of reality, big dry hills, big valleys, big trip. The cloud was rolling back from the ranges as we left the busy road and started to head up the wide, deserted valley. The first of the trademarks – briar – was present in good numbers. Eventually the valley starts to narrow down into a small stream which winds its way towards the Seaward Kaikoura Range.

After making good time on the open flats we lost time crossing the murky Dubious Stream backwards and forwards. It was running high after overnight rain and the normally clear stream was milky, forcing slow crossings.

After navigating several stream junctions we turned to the true left for the last time into an area which the map showed as opening out, however in this kind of country that means nice pretty terraces of briar and matagouri.

The biv’s terrace is easy to spot from the stream using the map, but the route up to it isn’t so obvious. After a bit of searching we found a faint trail leading up the side stream north of the biv, it then left the stream, and popped out onto the biv’s terrace.

Dubious Biv is located in the centre of a large river terrace, about 20-30m above the stream. The terrace is open with plenty of space for tents. There is a good view of the surrounding mountains, and views of Dubious Stream from the side of the terrace.

The biv itself was in good condition except for the recent blood stains on the mattresses from the previous visitors, which the house elf we brought along tended to. The hut book suggested that the biv is manly used by helicopter hunters and researchers.

The next morning we had planned to go out via Limestone Hill where one of us would ride the bike we’d left there back to the car. But a wall of briar at the base of the first climb and the fear of more to come with limited time meant we decided to head back via Dubious Stream.

The water in the stream was now crystal clear and had dropped a bit, making for an easier and faster journey out.  

The walk out took less than six hours, considerably better than the way up. Once at the vehicle, we wasted no time getting started on the drive out to the DOC ranger at the Inland Kaikoura Road turn-off. We just managed to get there by 5pm before the gates were locked.

We cooked up pasta and sauce on the Kaikoura coast, then headed home wondering what the next weekend would bring.

– Kerry Clapham