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April 2015 Issue
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What’s in a name?

Pete’s imaginatively named Cataclysm Slip with the Devils Dining Table beyond


Deer cullers called it the Devils Dining Table, but it’s now commonly referred to as the Hundred Acre Plateau. Pete Lusk explains why he prefers the former


One of my favourite areas for tramping is the Thousand Acres Plateau in Kahurangi National Park.

It’s called the Thousand Acres because that’s roughly how large it is and, years ago, sheep were taken up there to graze. At the northern end of the plateau is an absolute gem of a place, a little tableland attached by a thread to the Thousand Acres. It includes Mt Misery and The Needle, and around its rim is what look like huge bite marks – the result of glaciation long ago. It looks like a piece of toast that a giant has been chomping into.

I’ve seen a number of hut book entries and mentions elsewhere of this magical spot being called Hundred Acre Plateau. I really object to this name. Thousand Acres is OK because of its grazing history, but we can do better than another weights-and-measures name for the Hundred Acres.

When I first climbed onto the ‘piece of toast’ 30 years ago, the cloud came down just as I reached the great wall of cliffs that surround it. I knew there was a way up somewhere but wasn’t sure whether to go right or left. I went right for a while and the cloud lifted for a moment to reveal more towering cliffs. They seemed to go on forever. So I retraced my steps, knowing I’d have to do some quick thinking as I was starting to get cold. Again the cloud lifted and it gave me a view of a possible route straight above me. I clambered upwards, hanging onto tussock, moving to stay warm more than anything.

When I got to the top, I was fair shaking, but soon the cloud rolled back and I was struck by the beauty of the place. It was as though I’d climbed up a table leg and arrived at a beautiful ranch.

When I got to nearby Larrikin Creek Hut, I discovered the intentions book was still the original one from when the hut was built. The entries were mostly from government cullers with the number of deer they’d shot for the week. But amongst the jottings was a name for the plateau: the Devils Dining Table.

As the years went by I pretty much forgot this name, but still recalled it had something to do with the Devil. Imagine my pleasure, when earlier this year I was talking to an old friend from Westport and she related how her husband and his hunting mates would trudge up the Mokihinui River from Seddonville, then haul themselves up to a place called the Devils Dining Table.

While on the subject of imaginative names, there’s a valley that drains the southern end of the Thousand Acres that is still full of house-sized boulders from the 1929 Murchison Earthquake. More than 85 years after this cataclysmic event, this valley still has a glacier of huge limestone boulders strewn down its middle. Nothing grows there because there’s still no soil.

Before someone registers the name Boulder Creek or even Big Boulder Creek, I’d like to suggest it be called Catastrophe Creek, Cataclysm Creek, or even Calamity Creek.

Lots of backcountry people before us have come up with wonderful descriptive names. Let’s follow their lead and do the same.