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January 2013 Issue
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What could be lost

View from car park to Dunton and Livingstone Ranges. Photo: Dawn Patterson
Kiwi Burn Hut, 12 bunks
From SH94 to Te Anau, turn right into Mavora Lakes Road. Follow the unsealed road for 30km to the sign for the Kiwi Burn Hut

Kiwi Burn Hut, Mavora Lakes Park

Having achieved a gold medal in TV viewing during the Olympics, Jan and I decided to go and try for one in tramping – starting in the easy category to loosen up creaking joints.

Located in the Mavora Lakes Park, an impressive landscape of mountains, lakes, forest and tussock grassland, recognised as part of the Te Wahipounamu/South-West New Zealand World Heritage Area is Kiwi Burn Hut.

Tucked in amongst the lush Snowdon Forest, Kiwi Burn Hut is a little gem and ideal for introducing families and new trampers to the backcountry, as well as being a refuge for those needing a shot in the arm.

This is the area where a monorail has been proposed. If given the go-ahead, it will impact on the tracks available in the forest and park. Giant pillars of carbon-steel and bubble-domed monorail cars would be grotesquely out of place in this natural environment which has given so much simple pleasure to so many people.

From the access point signposted on Mavora Road, we parked the car and crossed the swingbridge over the Mararoa River. The terminal for the proposed monorail would be situated in this area.

Views of the Mararoa River, the Livingstone and Thompson mountains were frequently visible from between the trees. The track was very easy underfoot with a few undulations to keep us from becoming too complacent. The streams were at a low level, making them easier to cross without getting wet feet.

Within an hour the track began to wind away from the river and before too long we arrived at a large clearing and the wonderful Kiwi Burn rambling through the tussock-clad landscape. Just around the next corner sat the hut tucked up amongst the trees. Kiwi Burn Hut is a 12-bunker with pot belly stove and a deeply carved table, heralding the frivolous whiling away of hours when the rain has settled in, or nothing had been brought to read.

I was sadly conscious that this could be one of the last times I could immerse myself in the simplicity of this relatively unspoiled and undeveloped wilderness area free from the clattering machinery of the tourism industry.

Sitting in the sun amongst the tranquility of the surrounding forest and tussock grassland was soul refreshing. Around us was a silence in which only the warm wind played any part. The thought of a monorail flashing past the hut spoiling all this peace is appalling.

Late in the day, excited children’s voices were heard, and James Ure with his young sons Chris and Luke arrived to spend the night. Two happy boys went out on dusk with dad to see if they could spot a deer or two, followed by a game of Memory before tucking up into their bunks for a read and ‘lights out’.

The mournful call of moreporks was the only sound amongst the quiet solitude of the night, until at 12.30am when three enthusiastic guys from Balclutha arrived for a weekend away, planning to simply enjoy the isolation of the area.

Next morning, a great white bank of clouds arose from the horizon, obviously with instructions to deliver the forecasted rain upon us. We decided to forego the round trip on the track that continues north and then swings east and south back to the car park, and returned the same way we came in.

– Dawn Patterson