A Quiet Walk in the Forest at St Arnaud and a Convivial Dinner

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September 30th 2020
Published: October 2nd 2020
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It must have been overcast during the night as there was no frost on the ground outside our cottage at Tophouse,near St Arnaud but it was still decidedly chilly.

The rising sun on the Mt Robert just across the lake from the DOC office down in the village was stunning and the forecast for the day was promising now that the 'weather bomb' was spinning off to the east far to the south of the country allowing an approaching high pressure to drape itself over New Zealand from the Tasman Sea for a day or two, bringing calm and clear conditions.

I felt like I was still recovering after my brush with hypothermia a couple of days ago on the Heaphy Track so I 'booked' myself in for just the morning walk around the Honeydew Track which would take around an hour inclusive of the Bellbird Track loop.The rest of the party including Gretchen will take on the Moraine Track after lunch while I head back to the cottage to put my feet up and have a reviver ready for them when they return.

The village had seemed quite deserted of people as we drove through to the DOC centre to pick up brochures for the Park but all that changed when we then drove on down to the lake front to park the vehicles and prepare to head off into the forest.

The peace and quiet of the village certainly wasn't on the lake front where people were milling around,out on the small wharf watching the very large eels in the water and a group of teenagers who seemed to be on some outing jumping as a group off the end of the wharf into what must have been the frigid lake!! None of them had wetsuits or anything like that to protect their bodies from the cold and none stayed in the water longer than it took them to swim the 10 metres back to shore.

A fascinating fact about the protected long finned eels is that they start their life in the ocean in and around Tonga ,swim all the way down to New Zealand as larvae,taking some15 months plus to reach rivers such as the Buller River,then swim all the way up to Lake Rotoiti,live there for around 90 years and then swim all the way back to Tonga,lay eggs and die leaving their eggs to turn into larvae and recommence the cycle all over again.Ain't nature wonderful !!

The Honeydew Track so named because of the multitude of trees along the path that were black with the stuff that insects which had burrowed into the tree and then 'excreted poo' had created.Apparently, although the trees look like they might be decaying and being overcome by this black morass,live through it OK and then in the late spring,summer and early autumn the local wasps(mostly of the imported German variety)feed on it and become a plague on people walking the tracks.DOC are doing their utmost to get rid of the wasps but I somehow think it is a lost cause and the best they possibly achieve is keep the numbers down.There are plenty of bait stations in the forest which are laced with a concoction called Vespex which the wasps are supposed to take back to the nest and kill off all the inhabitants.However New Zealand has one of the highest densities of the imported German wasp and common wasp in the world and we have a way to go to get to eradication.

Along the track there were numerous traps for the nasty animals such as possums,stoats and rats(all imported to New Zealand when the country was first settled by the Europeans) that attack and destroy our native birds and it seems as though this battle will be ongoing for a long time as the predators seem to thrive in our forests.

However,besides all this rather sad news,the bellbirds,tuis and grey warblers were in great numbers up in the trees and their singing was almost uninterupted as we strolled along the easy,relatively flat path in weather conditions 150% better than the last forest walk we took north of Karamea.

Along with the great variety of trees along the track there were numerous types of ferns and on fallen trees several different types of fungi all worthy of close inspection.

The one hour walk was just enough for me and at the end of the trail we climbed back into the vehicles and drove off in search of the local tavern for a light lunch so that the five that would be taking the afternoon walk could replenlish their reserves.

At the end of lunch I drove back to the cottage while the others all started out on the Moraine Walk which should have followed rock formations from the ice age days when glaciers covered the area.

However this turned out to be a bit of a non event and the party gave up that walk part way round and split into two and went on other walks before joining up again and returning back to the cottages just in time for a reviver before dinner.

We had taken up the owners invitation to have a fixed menu dinner in the old coach house and not cook for ourselves tonight.

The chef,Sebastion,a very pleasant and chatty Polish gentleman from Gdansk,had trained and worked under a Michelin star chef in a restaurant near Glasgow, Scotland.Sebastion now lived with his Kiwi wife in St Arnaud and had an arrangement to cook for groups that would like to try his recipes.

We were joined by another couple from Paremata,near Wellington and the food and conversation made for a very pleasant evening.The boys weren't over impressed with their main course of gnocchi,chicken and broccoli but while the adults enjoyed their meal they played with toys by the roaring fire in the voluminous fireplace interspersed with time watching the political debate on television in the lounge across the hallway.

As a matter of interest our menu was a soup made from swedes with herbs from Sebastion's home garden,a choice of lamb rump on couscous or smoked terakihi or venision(the lamb rump was cooked to perfection and very tasty) and to finish sticky date pudding with a small serving of ice cream(also delicious)

All the while we had an enjoyable conversation with our fellow dinners and every so often Sebastion would come and add to the convivial conversation.

And a bottle of wine consumed it was time to head off for bed as tomorrow the Hoofs head north to the Marlborough Sounds(we meet again on Sunday for a train ride at Weka Pass,North Cantebury before we fly home to Tauranga and they to Auckland) while we have another night at Tophouse.


3rd October 2020

Lots of interesting info
Gosh you would make a good tour guide Grahame- lots of interesting things learnt reading this blog thank you! Hadn’t realised that it was the honeydew that caused the wasp issue in the area.
3rd October 2020

St Arnaud
Pleased you enjoy my jottings.If it wasn't for the honeydew I think the wasp problem could be eradicated with the traps or at least substanially reduced.

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