Camping Out

Mount Somers Conservation Area, late December

We wanted to squeeze in a short tramp between Christmas and New Years while we were all in Christchurch for the holidays. At around three hours, the walk to Woolshed Creek Hut in the Mount Somers Conservation Area fit the bill. It was summer, the days were long, and we knew it was an easy walk, so we took our time getting out there. The walk itself was leisurely, and we stopped to explore the remnants of the old Blackburn Mine as we went. Our spirits were high, and the weather still warm by the time we reached the hut in the early evening. Unfortunately the welcome we received upon arrival was somewhat cooler.

‘Hut’s full,’ said a man in the doorway.

‘Bit late to get a bed,’ grumbled another tramper, reclining on his bedroll on the veranda.

I was regretting that lazy start and all those breaks along the way, when a piercing scream came from inside. A herd of kids ran by yelling abuse -- part of the group to have colonised the hut. We glanced at each other for just a moment, and my friend spoke for all of us when he said we’d be happy to camp elsewhere for the night.

We only had one two person tent between the four of us, but we weren’t about let that stop us enjoying our short break away. After a couple of minutes of following the creek upstream we came across a small grassy terrace out of sight of the hut and nearby track. The weather was mild and there was no rain expected, so we set up our small tent with the fly extended to one side, and propped it up with a spare pole. This gave us a makeshift second room, just big enough room for two people to sleep under cover. With our shelter sorted, we found a big flat coffee-table-like rock, and we settled down around it to while away the dusk with a few drinks, some snacks, and a game or two of cards in this space we’d made our own. Relaxing in the grass, a creek-chilled beer in my hand, I’d hear the occasional yell or screech coming from the direction of the hut, and think that rarely does it work out so well to be a little late.

A makeshift campsite