Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Lake Daniels Tramp and Maruia Hot Springs

The Alfred River winds through a cool and shady beech forest. Flowing into the Maruia River, the whole watershed is a remnant of the original forest of New Zealand and home to a number of endemic species.

The Lake Daniels tramping track following the river is part of a 45 km long trap line with nearly 500 rat traps. Self-resetting traps in heavy wooden boxes, each baited with an egg, were spaced along the track acting as a barrier for invasive species that threaten the unique bird life of the area.

During our tramp through the woods we felt it getting cooler through the day, sure signs of a Southerly - strong wet winds from Antarctica. When we reached the hut clouds covered the sky and we were glad to have some cover.

The common room of the hut includes a stove, benches, tables and counter space with sinks and running water - the lap of tramping luxury. And in mid-week we had the whole place to ourselves.

Two bunk rooms with comfortable mattresses flanked the common room. We opened the windows and laid out our beds. As I had forgotten the sleeping bags and liners in Christchurch, Andrew and I borrowed a pair of sheets from the genial publican of the Huruni Hotel (the oldest continuously licensed establishment, since 1860, in New Zealand and still a pretty funky place) where we'd over-nighted on our to Lewis Pass.

When we returned the bedding on our way home we also graced the wall of the pub with a Yukon landscape calendar and listened to the manager's stories of television's Gold Rush.

Used to high alpine lakes in the sub-arctic, we were pleasantly surprised to find Lake Daniels was not cold. A refreshing swim took off the layer of sunscreen and introduced us to the variety of fish that made the lake home. A late afternoon thunderstorm produced a lovely set of rainbows that lasted until the sun went down.

The following day we hiked back out to the highway and explored the pass area before checking into the Maruia Hot Springs. Maori use of the springs is well documented. When the Lewis Pass highway was built in the 1930s two Pakeha, sisters from a nearby town, started a popular resort at the springs. Purchased by a Japanese family in the 1990s, the hot springs, or onsen, provide a charming oriental retreat.

The hot springs include a series of outdoor pools with stunning views of the surrounding mountains. When the sand flies get to you a retreat to the indoor pools ensures tranquility.
The hot springs also offers Shiatsu, Japanese traditional therapeutic massage. Both Andrew and I sign up for the hour long full body. For the first half of mine the masseuse brings all my inner knots to the surface and I find it somewhat difficult to relax. But through the second half these melt away and I am back into the pool to enjoy the release of muscle tension.

The dining room offered both a visual and aural sanctuary. The tasty menu of Japanese food and libations eases the way into an evening walk.

At the summit of Lewis Pass the strange colours of the trees offered a contrast to the grey clouds that began closing about us on our last short walk before heading back down to the Canterbury Plain's sunshine.


  1. Is this on the Jan. 2015 blue moon list of things to do in NZ?

    1. The trip is a nice combo of interesting, energetic and totally spoiled. Also a couple more tramps in the area. So a great place to spend some time.