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Published: April 17th 2008
This little weekend getaway is an excellent trip to... get away! Without going too far.
Silverpeaks is a 40min drive from Dunedin central, so it definitely wins on the petrol/travel-time front. It also has some amazing views, and although from surprisingly much of the track you can see Mosgiel... and 4WD tracks... you still feel like you're in relative wilderness. Which is probably also helped by the fact that you're carrying your temporary home on your back.
So Saturday morning dawned bright and shiny, and I drove down to Hitomi's to help her pack for her first tramp ever. She'd really gone to town on all the goodies she could eat because she'd be tramping it all off - so I had to try and convince her to leave half of it behind, as I don't think she had really considered the fact that whatever she didn't eat she'd have to carry (one huge bag of nuts did make it back untouched, oh dear!). So we set out with not little excitement, drove the short drive to the roadend, an started up the rather unkindly hill that is always a bit of a shock with an unaccustomed pack on one's
We carried along slowly climbing the ridge, views starting not too-excitingly of Mosgiel, but getting increasingly more astounding. After a while we could see the sea out Waitati way, it was beautiful. Very quickly it seemed, we passed Pulpit Rock, and then carried on a little way to our lunch spot at Silverpeak No. 3, now more commonly known as 'the' Silverpeak. We had just sat down right at the top rock and put jerseys on against the gusting wind when we heard voices, and found the group of outc'ers we had been catching glimpses and hearing snippets in the later morning lunching just down from us out of the wind (smart) so we quickly joined them.
After a rather dry lunch (oops sorry Hitomi!) and a rest we set off, leaving the club group in our wake. From here the track got much more fun. We sidled along the ridge for a bit before coming out over a new valley, and the top of Devil's Staircase. Amazing views of the hills and cool rock formations from here, and also, had we looked at our map, a view of where we were planning to go. We could
also see the roof of Jubilee hut glinting at us from a hillside near the valley floor ('is that a truck? oh, right, its the hut' - what was I thinking?!!! haha).
So down the Devil's staircase we went, grabbing on to clumps of cutty grass as we went to stop us slipping on the thick layer of slippery dry grass on the track and going 'skiing' off the very steep mountainside (Hitomi did a lot better here than I as she had shoulder-length gloves to combat sun-pigmentation - not to mention a HUUUUUGE hat, but the gloves came in pretty handy as cutty-grass-protectors too!). A good exercise in balance and a few awful clumps of gorse later, we reached a cool campside on the valley floor. Hitomi loved the stream tinkling along next to us. Along the valley floor and over a few patches of oily (!!!!) rainbow-shiny-mud and then a short climb up to Jubilee hut to refill water and decide whether to continue on to the cave or not. The hut was rather tempting, as it was only built last year, and was very flash, even had a light! But we were all excited by the
prospect of sleeping in a cave, so we set out for the rather less-well-marked track to the cave. Luckily, just before we left, the tramping club turned up, and wonderfully had picked up Hitomi's bedroll which had been lost unnoticed somewhere in the long cutty grass. Although we had heard there were mattresses at the cave, we were still glad to have it back (and even more glad when we finally reached the mattress-less cave!).
Back down the hill, across the river, and up to the old Jubilee hut site and then... where's the track??? We followed a reasonably obvious track to...
A hole in the ground - right, so that's obviously the old toilet site. Hmmm, other track - this cooooould be it maybe?...
Turns out it was, and that was actually about the best part of the track, it became less and less obvious as we went on. But, being able to see the new hut and knowing we could backtrack if need be we carried on up the hill, a few detours, but despite basically being unsure almost the whole time that we were on a track, we made it up fairly easily to the top
of the hill, and found the 4WD track we were to join. Phew, a proper track! At this point Hitomi realised she'd lost her sunglasses on the 'track'. (Next time I'll make sure she's got everything tied on!)
We carried along the ridge, climbing slowly up, and then began to drop down. After a bit we saw what looked like a path heading off from the 4WD track up to some rocks, and we were convinced we could see the cave... but no! So, backtracking, we read the map, and carried on a bit along the 4WD, unfortuitously passing a gate without noticing, even though we were looking for a fork in the 4WD track. Down a very steep hill, we crossed over a wee stream... oh dear that doesnt seem right. So aaaaaaall the way back up that very steep hill to the overgrown gate. After some dilly-dallying, panicking (on my part) about the approaching nightfall and the lack of enough time to get back to the hut along that hard-to-see 'path' in the dusk light (I was about ready to sit down and have a good cry, with the stress of it all, responsibility for two lives
and all those overdramatics!), we decided (thanks Hitomi) to carry on through the gate, and hope that it would lead to the 4WD track we could see in the distance but which didn't seem to join the one we were on, but if it did, was heading in the right direction (aaaah maps are great!). Luckily, it turned out to be the right one (some more gorse-squeezing later), and soon we came to a blessed sign reading 'ABC cave' next to a scrap of plastic bag tied to some gorse. A quick hop up the hill, and we were there!
The cave is awesome, it has a little platform built in the 70's to fit 4 (luckily, sleeping on the actual cave floor would be quite a slope - you'd be almost standing up), a cave book (as opposed to a hut book), candleholders on the walls, and even a bong! Reading through the book reassured me that I'm not completely useless as a navigator, as just about every entry mentioned it taking quite a while to find. It was also quite interesting to see that people turn up in the cave about every 2 weeks - I wouldn't
have thought it would be that well-used! Although now I know where it is I'll definitely be going back - and know where to find it without getting all in a tizz!
So we settled in for the night with some good dehy food (thanks for the dehydrator ma, real food, yum!), mulled wine, and shadow-puppet entertainment. Popped out later on to witness the million-and-one stars and a cool shadow-peak, and were amazed by the fast moving clouds that changed our view of the stars constantly.
No sunrise in the morning, the valley was facing the wrong way, but the day dawned bright and shiny again. A quick hop back up to the ridge and along and down (we managed to get off the track down the hill even MORE times, despite having walked it just the day before), we went back up to the hut to refill our water (and have a HUGE drink, phew, not used to not staying at a hut and having plenty of water!) and returned back along the way we had come the day before. Only this time as we got further and further away from the cave we could see where
we had been, which is quite a surprising sight - you never realise how far you can come in such a short time!
So, that's that trip, stay tuned for next developments (I'm off on another tramp on Sat, this one's going to be a hard-out!)
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