Mount Herbert, Almost

On Saturday morning the kids slept in until nearly 9. It was awesome.

It also meant that we didn’t get out of the house (and into our new car!) until about 11 or so. Our sights were set on a 5+ hour hike on the Banks Peninsula. If you do the math, though, you’ll quickly realize that an hour drive + a 5 hour hike with kids + a short rest for lunch adds up to less than the hours of sunlight we had available to us.

Unfortunately for us, we still had not learned that there is no such thing as a quick coffee stop in New Zealand. Unlike cafes and restaurants in the US, New Zealand cafes do not serve drip coffee. This means that a roadside stop for two cups of caffeine cannot be had any faster than about 10 minutes, if you’re lucky. I find the coffee to taste delicious. But you have to be willing to wait for it!

About halfway to the start of our hike we stopped at a coffeeshop, SHE Universe, overlooking the Lyttleton Harbor and Quail Island.

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The kids wandered around the magical secret garden behind the cafe while we waited for our two cups of coffee to go. Hidden amidst the greens were a goldfish pond, lots of elaborate mosaics, statuettes, and fountains.

Finally on our way again, we followed the windy roadway around the inlets and bays to Orton Bradley Park, where the trail started.

The first mile led through shady forests, and the sun shone through the needles and leaves high above us. A gradual uphill wasn’t too challenging, so our first mile only took about 25 minutes. The kids were mewling for lunch (and it was nearly 1) so we paused at a picnic table and ate sandwiches and fruit.

Satisfied by lunch. At least for 30 minutes or so, when the requests for apples and trail mix started up.
Satisfied by lunch. At least for 30 minutes or so, when the requests for apples and trail mix started up.

As we started our hike again, the terrain shifted from woodlands to open pasturelands. In fact, this particular trail is closed from August until October for lambing season. At a couple points we had to climb over barbed wire fences (at appointed spots) to get into or out of a pasture.

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The closest we got to a sheep was when we were descending the trail near dusk. We came around a corner and surprised a half dozen of them who were standing on the trail. (I didn’t get a good photo because of lighting and the speed with which they ran away–Charlotte and Calvin’s rush at them did *not* help my cause with the camera!) In addition, we saw HUGE rabbits and heard lots of beautiful birdsong.

About 1.5 miles into the hike we ran into some trouble. The trail was more of a farm track at that point. A large embankment on the right prevented us from going around a large, deep mud puddle, and the left was closed off by a 3 1/2-foot high barbed wire fence leading down to a drop off. There was no way out but through, as Robert Frost liked to put it.

We gingerly, one at a time, made our way along the right-hand side of the mud, picking from stone to stone. James and I made it through relatively mud-free, but Calvin has yet to learn the skill of dainty and careful walking, so he ended up quite muddy.

The mud pit, round 2.
The mud pit, round 2.

Further up the trail we ran into a swampy patch through which there was no clear passage, and we all ended up with super-squelchy shoes!

From there the trail returned to hilly forest, and then we broke out into a tussock-covered meadow. I’m not sure of the elevation but the views were stunning.

Looking westward across the bay.
Looking westward across the bay.

Charlotte, who is afraid of heights, had her work cut out for her. Not only were we high and still climbing; it was also quite windy. Evelyn and I encouraged her as much as we could, and James kept Calvin safe at the rear.

Near where we had to turn around.
Near where we had to turn around.

We made it as far as we could but James and I had a quick summit about how far we still had to go to reach the saddle and/or the peak. Although we were disappointed not to make it all the way to the top of Mount Herbert, we were pretty proud of how the kids did on the trail.

Heading back down the trail.
Heading back down the trail.

All told, we hiked 5 miles, some of it pretty challenging (muddy, rocky, hilly, tangled), in 3 1/2 hours. Back home with takeout pizza for dinner, Evelyn, Charlotte, and Calvin all declared that it had been a great deal of fun and that we surely could make the summit another day.

We’ll see.

//janel//

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