Covid19 restrictions were recently down graded to level 2 in New Zealand. Offering a return to normalcy for most of the population after an extended confinement in their homes.
So what better way to celebrate than heading outdoors for a hike? Located an easy 30 – 40 minutes drive South of Christchurch we arrived to a full parking area.
Getting some time outdoors was not an original thought it seems, so we had to park a bit further up the road. Not sure if the hike is normally this popular, or if it was just the timing of events that had half of the Canterbury keen to escape their houses.
Either way seeing the amount of cars I was initially a bit reluctant about the walk thinking the track would be overcrowded. Thankfully concerns ended up without merit though and once we got underway we didn’t cross paths with too many other people.
The trip to Packhorse Hut is a distance of 5.7 km each way. With the trail from the parking area, starting up a well formed dirt forestry access road. Before diverging off into a proper walking trail beside and then into a Pine plantation.
After a short stint in amongst the Pine trees; the track then crosses a fence into some farm paddocks. Before crossing its way back into the forestry area again for the main trip up the mountain.
The main ascent of track is steep in places and when we walked it the area had just been clear felled. So it wasn’t the prettiest scenery until you got high enough to clear the destruction.
I had limited leg exercise in close to 2 months thanks to the pandemic and the trip up mountain felt a lot harder than it needed to be. A few joggers and mountain bike riders passed and I will admit I felt a twinge of fitness related envy.
How did they manage to keep so fit during to the lock down? Here I am having a small heart attack and these guys are flying past without a care in the world!
Nearing the top of the mountain some amazing volcanic rock formations can be seen toward the summit. The path flattens out a bit ( in relation to the main ascent ) and you continue along for another 15 – 20 minutes before arriving at the hut itself.
Packhorse Hut was built in 1914 as part of a proposed summit route from Christchurch to Akaroa. It’s built of stone, and offers a covered entry way, large sleeping / bunk room and a separate lounge / dining room with a cast iron wood fire.
The views from the hut are nothing short of breathtaking with amazing views down to the valley and Whakaraupō below. My only regret is that we didn’t come prepared to sleep at the hut overnight.
Staying is affordable enough though; $15 / night for adults. But it needs to be booked in advance online at the Department Of Conservation website.
While the original summit route didn’t go ahead the Hut is still part of the Te Ara Pātaka walkway. Offering a longer 35km trail for those looking for a longer trek.
For those with limited time the Gebbies Pass to Packhorse Track is great. At around 4 hours ( we took 3 hours 45 minutes return ) its short enough to enjoy with minimal preparation. While still being long enough at 11.4km return to give you a solid workout.
Easiest way to get there is to drive, the parking area and the start on the track is located on the crest of a hill. Very close to the intersection of Gebbies Pass Rd and Summit Rd.