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April 2017 Issue
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Pastoral allure

A handy campsite on Te Ara Pataka and Christchurch's doorstep. Photo: Dennis Radermacher
Distance
19.7km
Total Ascent
1177m
Time
6-8hr
Grade
Easy
Access
Park at Purau Saddle. Car shuttle required if walking to Hilltop
Map
BX24, BX25
Camping on Te Ara Pataka, Banks Peninsula

The new Te Ara Pataka Track, less than an hour’s drive from Christchurch is the latest addition to an amazing portfolio of outdoor experiences near the city. Several articles in Wilderness had piqued our curiosity. Normally we prefer more difficult missions into the backcountry, but after a series of mishaps we decided we needed a sure winner.

After leaving a car at the Hilltop end of the track, we began our trip from one of Te Ara Pataka’s many tributaries. We had visited the Gebbie’s Pass end of the track many times before, and chose to start from Purau Saddle instead.

Since the track’s two conveniently located huts were added to DOC’s booking system, the area has become a proving ground for aspiring trampers. Unfortunately, all huts along the track were fully booked when we went, so we took our tent.

The well-signed track took us past the iconic Monument and up onto the summit walkway that follows the ridgeline. Most of the distance we had to cover was easily visible in the distance.

The terrain is an unusual mixture of pastoral farmland and regrowing bush. Wide farm-tracks take turns with a few narrow trails, especially on the slippery downhill to Hilltop. Along the way an eerie graveyard of totara stumps that cover the landscape like knocked out teeth waited to be explored. Spin on your heels and the change of perspective drives home the fact that you are on a dormant volcano, surrounded by the Pacific Ocean. This impression of tamed wildness is reinforced whenever Christchurch’s Port Hills become visible on the horizon.

Within four hours we arrived at Mt Fitzgerald and called it a day. We climbed down a narrow outcrop and found a tent-sized spot below an overhang of volcanic rock. It offered shelter and views of a tamed wilderness that is making a slow comeback.

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