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January 2012 Issue
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Up, up to whale views at Kaikoura

Excellent views from the summit include Kaikoura. Photo: Sharyn Laing
Patutu 7hr return; Batty-Balance Rock 9-19hr round trip
Okiwi Bay picnic area, 30min drive north of Kaikoura on SH1
Mt Patutu Track, Blue Duck Scientific Reserve

If you are unable to have a whale of a time in Kaikoura, you can still enjoy a local walk. You may even be able to see whales from a lofty mountain perch.

The Kaikoura area provides many tramping challenges from simple coastal or bush tracks through to much harder hill and mountain climbs.

The track on Mt Patutu has a lot to offer and on a recent trip I saw enough flowers to give the bush a bit of pizzazz which is a quality our sombre New Zealand vegetation doesn’t have most of the time.

Adjacent to the track were three types of clematis including the yellow flowered species whose blooms were draped over a large coprosma. Alongside the track we could smell the kawhiria (native jasmine) while showy kaikomako trees were competing in the white flower division.

The Mt Patutu Track starts at Okiwi Bay and follows an old 4WD farm road that initially climbs a low ridge before crossing the lower Mororimu Stream en route to a major ridge. The hut marked on the map isn’t visible from the track. Higher up, the track zigzags steadily to within a few hundred meters of the summit.

Local hunters still maintain the track for their 4WD quad bikes so you don’t have to push through vegetation anywhere on this trip. However, don’t be deceived into thinking it’s a piece of cake. There is 1100m of altitude to conquer before reaching the summit and if the weather is hot, remember to take lots of water.

The forest in the reserve has been badly knocked about by fires, farming, possums and other wild animals. But since the removal of stock some impressive regeneration has started under a kanuka canopy. Unfortunately, the wellbeing of the understory is still threatened by a large number of wild goats even though their numbers are being whittled back by hunters.

The trip to the top of the mountain is hard enough to knock the wind out of most people but there is an additional round trip which links up with the Ohau Stream Track for the more enthusiastic tramper. To make this round trip, continue over the top of Mt Patutu and follow the west ridge about a kilometer until the low point on that ridge. From there, sidle south under Batty through mountain flax and scrub towards an obvious saddle. Don’t gain too much altitude on the traverse because there are a couple of guts that are difficult to negotiate higher up.

Once the main Batty Ridge is reached, follow it south either all the way past Balance Rock to meet up with the Ohau Stream Track or choose an eastern ridge to drop down to that track. People on quad bikes also use this track so it’s easy going and eventually leads to the Mt Patutu Track. The Mt Batty-Balance Rock Ridge is a bit of a scramble through regenerating scrub and rocky outcrops. The fence remnants along the ridge are the legacy of some hard work by earlier settlers.

The ridge route provides great views of the Kaikoura Peninsula, Mt Alexander, the Seaward Kaikouras and the mouth of the Clarence River to the north.

– Sharyn Laing