December 30, 2023 Flora & Mt. Arthur (Day 94)

A beautiful day weatherwise is predicted today. We’re going to explore close to home, at the edge of Kahurangi National Park, the 2nd largest New Zealand National Park! A 30 minute drive on country roads, then a gravel road up into the mountains got us to the Flora carpark and the trailhead for a loop track to 2 of the over 900 huts that comprise the best, most organized hiking shelter system in the world!

A country road from our B&B to the edge of the National Park.

We were glad we didn’t encounter any cars coming down the narrow gravel road as we drove uphill to the car park which was almost full! It is holiday season here and there were hikers of all ages returning and heading out! We got our daypacks organized and headed out on the track towards Flora hut which follows the Flora stream. It was an easy, wide gravel road through a beech forest, but it must be silver beech because there was no black sooty mould or hairy insect anal tubes on the tree trunks. There also was no scent, fragrant or otherwise, maybe because of the recent rain. We were heading downhill and encountered only one couple on the way up. We did encounter another couple, a bird couple down along the stream.

A pair of ducks were busy preening at the edge of the stream (bottom, middle of picture). They have light colored bills and dark plumage, are they the rare whio? The NZ blue duck?

We reached the Flora hut and found an information sign about the whio.

Yes, based on the habitat they are in and the light colored bills, they are probably one of the 5 pairs along the stream!

The hut itself is a well kept, well stocked with firewood, basic shelter. We met a couple having their lunch at the picnic table provided and had a conversation. They are locals and the man is traveling around measuring several huts that he then builds 1:20 scale models of! They showed us some photos on their phone of some of the models he has done, very realistic! He also explained that some of the huts were built to house hunters that were hired to cull the introduced deer species that were over-running the countryside, damaging crops and forest land, leading to erosion and decimation of native plants and animals. New Zealand Hut History-Hut2Hut explains the history and significance of the hut hiking system in Kiwi culture very well. The hut system was not officially organized under one entity until 1987 when several departments of the government were combined into the Department of Conservation.

The Flora hut, outside, inside and from above as we continued our hike.

The trail to the Mt. Arthur hut went uphill from here, through the ‘old growth’ beech forest. This forest pretty much escaped the blow of the axe, saw and fire in the 1800-1900’s, mainly because the soil is unsuitable for agriculture, in other words, nobody could make money on exploiting the natural resources easily!

This old beech is well buttressed on the slope of the mountain.

As we reached what we thought would be the summit the vegetation changed from the beech forest to a more open tussock and stunted tree environment and this bird came down the trail to check me out!

This weka (in Maori, the English call it a woodhen) was curious about me, looking me up and down, then walking away to get a drink in a puddle and peck through the duff.

We now think that way back in October when we were in Russell and thought we saw kiwi at 9:30 in the morning, we actually saw weka, another flightless NZ bird species in the rail family, which have been reintroduced in the Russell area.

As we rounded a corner and emerged from the trees we got this fantastic view!

As we hiked around the ridge we glimpsed the true summit of Mt. Arthur, hidden in the cloud! A cold wind picked up, making us grateful for cooling the intensity of the sunshine!

We passed the trail leading up to the summit and headed to the Mt. Arthur hut, just a few hundred meters ahead. We also marveled that from up here we are looking out at Tasman Bay and the estuaries and farmland around Nelson!

The Mt. Arthur hut was crowded with hikers. Apparently the trail up to this hut from the carpark is a lot easier than the route we took past Flora hut! That’s okay, we were pretty much by ourselves out on the trail, here there were families from grandma to baby! We had an easier hike down the wide pathway and arrived at the carpark, even more full of cars than when we first arrived! We decided to head down the road to find a quieter place for our lunch.

And we found the perfect spot, at a ford on a tributary creek with clear, cold water to soak our tired feet and a scenic spot to put out our chairs and enjoy our lunch!

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