Mount Cargill, Dunedin

 

Two posts in two days, I’m on a roll! The post will detail our hike up to the summit of Mount Cargill and the detour we did to the Organ Pipes. This has been a walk I’ve wanted to do ever since I moved to Dunedin. From our bedroom window we can see the towering summit of Cargill (granted you have to crane your neck to see it), and it is the biggest component of the Dunedin skyline.

I will start this post by talking about an extraordinary individual named Alfred Hamish Reed. Born in England in 1875, he moved to Dunedin at a young age and worked on gum fields with his family and for some time lived many hardships. When he was a child he injured his knee so severely that he was bed-bound for one year. In his very little spare time he took up the skill of shorthand, and eventually got a job with a typewriter company. In his early 20s he moved to Dunedin to open a branch of the company. From there he established his own publishing company which went on to be hugely successful. He wrote many books about New Zealand and published many religious texts. Due to this, he is regarded as one of the most influential literary figures of New Zealand in the twentieth century. Now, you may be wondering why I am telling you this. Alfred wasn’t just a writer, but he was also an avid walker. Even with all his knee trouble, he still rambled frequently into his ripe old age. At the age of 99, Alfred climbed Mount Cargill. There is meant to be a short track on the Mount dedicated to this remarkable man, but we could not find it.

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Our walk began in Bethune’s Gully which is a great spot near north Dunedin. It has the appearance of a place far from a city centre, and would have been a great place for a BBQ. As you embark on the track you are quickly consumed by the New Zealand Bush. Although there is incline the whole way there, it is a fairly easy going track for the first hour, and the creeks and greenery around you make for a scenic walk. As you start to rise higher all you can see is bush, and much of the track feels like an earthy tunnel. You can see the odd glimpse of the sky, but the summit cannot be seen for most of the walk.

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After an hour you reach the open air and find the steps up to the summit. These can be slippery, but make it much easier to climb than on the mud. Although Mount Cargill is only a mere 676 meters high, it did have the feel of walking on a mountain towards the end.

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Once you reach the top and see the views, I guarantee your jaw will come crashing down to the floor. It. is. incredible. I have seen so many different variations of this scene, and the theory holds true, the higher you go, the better the view. The Peninsula slithers through the land, the hills slalom in-and-out around it, the city sleeps ever-still, and the clouds and land assemble together in a triumphant transition. This is Dunedin’s best view, and one can understand why the aged Alfred Hamish Reed grappled with Cargill to see it.

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On our way back we decided to take the detour to the Organ Pipes. It was a 30 minute walk to the other side of the Mount, and the way down was fairly slippery due to the recent rain. The Organ Pipes are a geological formation, from lava that cooled, contracted, and formed cracks which propagated downwards as the mass cooled. While you can clearly see why it is called such from sight, the pictures I got were not as clear. Therefore, I decided to climb up them as high as I could go. This was to my girlfriends dismay as she thought it ‘was too dangerous.’ If you’re an able climber I would advise to do it. There was an abundance of foot-holes, and it was very fun. I had played a few games in the Tomb Raider series when I was younger, and I felt just like Lara descending an ancient temple. I climbed fairly high and managed to get a few better pictures of the Organ Pipes and descended back down.

The whole hike was around 5 hours in total, with the way up to the summit, the detour to the Organ Pipes, and the way back down.  To say the weather in Dunedin has been pretty miserable lately, this was a walk to brighten up the gloom. I hope that if I get to the age of 99 I can still hike as well as Alfred Hamish Reed, and if I can I’ll certainly return to do this walk.

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The Road to Milford Sound

While I have already written about the natural wonder that is Milford Sound, the journey to it was nearly as magical. With many places to stop, the Fiordland National Park is the perfect place to spend a day exploring the bush. There is a chunky list of things to do en route to the Sound, but alas, we only had time to do a few. The ones we chose at random were The Mirror Lake, another one I can’t remember, and Lake Marian.

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From Te Anau, it is a 120km drive up to Piopiotahi, and the views on the road are quite spectacular. The change in environment as you make your way are noteworthy. You come from open town, through forest and bush, through towering mountain ranges and to the still lakes of the Sound. This route can be fairly treacherous though, and there are a number of reasons why. The snow, ice and possibility of rock slides can cause issues, but I think the biggest issues come from the pesky Kia’s. These large mountain birds are known by many to be extremely peevish. The first one we saw we got out of our cars and had pictures next to. We will never make this mistake again. This crafty little bugger was acting as a decoy while its friends tried to pinch our belongings from the top of our car. I imagined it with the Italian Job or Mission Impossible music going on in the background while they made there great heist. “I only told you to peck the bloody doors off!”, he squawked.

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Our first stop was at the Mirror Lakes. While you can see a mirroring effect on the Sound itself, it wasn’t quite as motionless as this one. It is relatively small, but the gargantuan mountain overhead shown in the lake is a sight to behold. One does wish that the lake was larger to gather a greater image of the mountain, but it is still very cool.

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Next, we stopped at a trail described as a beautiful waterfall. The problem I have here is that I cannot remember what it was called. I have tried and tried to think, but to no avail. It is definitely one of the points between the Mirror Lakes and Lake Marion (but this doesn’t really help because there are quite a lot in the middle of them.) While I cannot remember where it was, I certainly remember that it was indeed beautiful. It offered a picturesque creek and a stunning waterfall. As the water came down it looked like silk on the back of the smooth dark rock. Mixed with the hearty greenery of the bush, it is worth checking out. (Even if this does mean you have to have a guess where it is)

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Our final stop on the journey was Lake Marion. On this occasion I have saved the best for last. What a treat to stumble upon, and we didn’t even walk the whole trail! You first cross a swinging bridge over a creek, and then it is a steady ascent up and then back down to the lake. We were strapped for time, so we only got the chance to walk for around 40 minutes. On the incline, you walk along the running stream and pass waterfall, after waterfall, after waterfall. Each more stunning than the last. There is something very soothing about the noise of falling water as you stroll through the bush. We had to shoot back to the car as we were going to the glow worm caves later that afternoon, but how I long to see the end of that track. It was wonderful.

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All in all the journey to Milford Sound was nearly as delightful as the place itself. While it is great to be ferried around on a boat and leisurely gaze upon the mountains in the Sound, it is another thing to strap on your boots and explore yourself. I think the trip highlighted for me that I am the type of person that enjoys the latter much more. We will be traveling back here soon to visit the other possibilities on the journey to the Sound, and I can’t wait to tell you all about it. (I may even find the name of the forgotten waterfall)

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