Wilberforce wanderingsThe route begins at the end of the Wilberforce Canal Road and follows the riverbed vehicle track to Fanghill Stream. Kiwi Stream enters the Wilberforce River directly opposite Fanghill, on the western side of the valley, and requires a ford of the river to reach, which should not be a problem in normal flow. The Kiwi is a long and narrow valley, like many of the tributaries of the Wilberforce. Though it doesn’t have any real gorges, waterfalls or difficult bluffs to pass, travel is slow, but steady, and numerous shingle flats make for easier travel. We pushed on, barely pausing, climbing higher under the flanks of the Rolleston Range from which the stream drains. The upper valley is mostly tussock terraces and deeply eroded watercourses descend from the high tops above. By late afternoon we were at the head of the valley, climbing steadily toward the pass to Pukeko Stream, a tributary of the Moa. (This pass is incorrectly labelled Excellent Saddle on the map.) Ten minutes later, the broad sweep of the pass looms above – a wide saddle between ominous bluffs. We followed the streambed for a short while longer and then left its familiar confines to head up the loose slopes below the pass. It still seemed a long way off. It was steep, loose, and grunty, notably over the final 250m of ascent. Mist filled Kiwi Stream, but it was starting to clear to the north. Gaining the pass, we were relieved to flop down and savour our achievement.
It was now around 5pm and we still had a long way to go to reach the valley floor.
We considered camping in the attractive basin below the pass, but it was just too steep and wet for a decent camp, so we carried on to the stream, negotiating some small bluffs and a ravine to reach it.
At 1150m, some small lumpy campsites appeared, however, the thought of a wet camp beneath the fly didn’t hold much appeal, so we carried on in the hope we would reach some bush cover in the lower valley. We traversed the streambed, descended rockfalls and easy waterfalls to gain the hoped-for flats.
As we reached the bush edge, a large slip face opened to our right. With daylight fading rapidly, we located a camp, of sorts, beside the stream and on the only bit of flat ground we had seen in the past two hours.
It was a treat to sit back on the river boulders and listen to the sound of the torrent roaring past while the stars began to shimmer above the ragged slash of valley and cliffs. We set a fire and cooked our dinner. We slept well, relishing the knowledge that the hard work was behind us.
The next morning, we walked down the wonderfully scenic and easy Moa Valley, calling in at Moa Stream Hut, which I had last visited six years earlier on a winter excursion through the Alps. We then made tracks for the Wilberforce River, which we could see cutting across the mouth of Moa Stream to the east.
From here, we wandered the expansive grassy flats, enjoying the peace, space, and exceptional grandeur of the Canterbury high country.
- Total Ascent
- Fanghill Stream to Kiwi Stream pass, 5-6hr; Pass to Moa Stream Hut, 3-4hr; Hut to Fanghill Stream, 3-4hr; Fanghill Stream to Canal Rd, 2-3hr (walking), 40min (4WD)
- Wilberforce Canal Road end, north of Lake Coleridge. Use mountain bikes or 4WD to Fanghill Stream. Kiwi Stream is directly opposite
- BW19, BW20
- Kiwi Stream-Pukeko Stream (gpx, 119 KB)
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