The Lewis Pass


From Hanmer Springs the road starts to lead inland towards the Lewis Pass following the Waiau River along a mostly flat if potholed piece of road. As you can see from the above photo the scenery is very pretty with lots of things to take your eye from the road if you aren’t concentrating especially with the snow on the hills from earlier in the week.

One thing that did surprise us was the number of trucks thundering past us in the other direction with the road to Kaikoura now open we would have thought that they would have been using the coastal road.

Sarah and I both burst out laughing when we waved to a “Wings” camper heading the other way when the lady in the other van held up a large plastic yellow hand and waved it very enthusiastically. It’s great to see people passionate about being members.

You wouldn’t read about it (well actually you are here) but I said to Sarah we will stop at the next rest area so that I could take a panadol for my sore knee and as we pulled in we saw Geoff and Renee who we have now met 4 times on the road since they camped next to us in Marfells Beach. Such a lovely couple who we feel pleased to have had the chance to get to know. That’s one of the great things about the NZMCA is the chance to meet and get to know other members.

The rest area was right next to a local fishing spot. I wish I could have taken a photo that would show how clear the water was, just like glass. We didn’t see any fish in the river but it was obvious that many people had fished this spot given the well worn pathway from the rest area.

Not long after we left the rest area we came across this old bridge and found just enough space to get the motorhome off the road. Although I must admit that we climbed over a locked gate to get to it we decided not to cross the gate at the bridge although it looked like some great photo opportunities gone begging.

From there we started to climb up into the Lewis Pass and with it the white stuff started to appear on the sides of the road. In a couple of areas the grit that they put on the road was really slippery causing the van to have a little slide and my heart to jump! I am glad that the snow fell a few days previously as I don’t think a 9 metre front wheel drive motorhome would be the vehicle of choice in the snow.

Stopping at the top of the pass it was a chance to experience the white stuff with a lot of it still on the ground we even had a semi snowball fight.

We decided that we would stay at the DOC camp Springs Junction – Marble Hill (#6546) which is set back from the road with a large number of spaces to park either out in the open or sheltered by the trees.

The camp is also the site of the “Concrete Wall” built right across the Alpine Fault after the 1964 earthquake. The idea being that they would be able to measure the earth movements by how much each section of the wall moved. But since it was built it hasn’t moved at all and thankfully it also didn’t move on the two nights we spent parked 15 metres from the fault.

Once we had taken stock of the camp ground and convinced ourselves that there would be no earthquake it was time to set off for an explore. At the far end of the camp is a parking area where you can leave your vehicle if you wish to do the walk to Lake Daniels¬† it’s also the starting point of the track were you can either complete the walk to the DOC hut 2 hours up the track or just walk a few minutes up the track to view the “Sluice Box”an area where the river runs through a very narrow marble rock gorge.

Day one we chose the short walk to the sluice box which is just a 5 minute stroll along a decent track so we walked a bit further enjoying the bush walk but as is was now late afternoon we decided that we would return to the Motorhome and then walk to the hut the following day.

The camps are really starting to become emptier with the onset of the colder weather and that night we were joined by one caravan and a couple of tents so a very peaceful night especially as we where far enough back from the road that no traffic noise disturbed us.

The following morning it was up bright and early with the sun shining to do the walk to the hut. I should point out that a major decision in us deciding to do the walk was, having purchased the book 365 short walks of New Zealand, with the book stating 3 hours return this is despite the sign at the start of the walk that states 2 hours each way. For some reason we decided that the book was probably correct. Wrong!

About half an hour into the walk we came across a couple of hunters walking back out of the bush, they had walked in very early that morning to try hunting deer but had been frightened away by hearing another shooter firing in the area and decided that they didn’t want to be mistaken for game so they would hunt elsewhere.

The good news is that, as I stated earlier the path is well formed with boardwalks in place when you have to cross over any really wet spots so it was an easy enough walk that sort of follows the river. It’s funny how when you are walking in the bush that you think you have walked further than you have this was the case for me when we came across Troll Bridge after an hour of walking to discover we had walked less than half way.

From Troll bridge the path follows along the side of a ridge crossing multiple streams providing quite a pleasant aspect to the walk. The track was quite empty on the way to the hut with us only meeting one other tramper who was walking back to the carpark after overnighting in the hut he told us he was the only one there that night.

As the track is easy walking it’s easy to spot things that you might otherwise miss if you where watching your feet all the time. But you could not miss this notice about Illegal Mining for gold nailed to a tree right in the middle of the path. There where also a lot of rat/stoat traps along the way with this box holding a freshly caught example.

Finally after just over a couple of hours walking we reached the lake and the hut. It was a welcome sight knowing that we had made it! Now the chance to have a sit down relax those tired legs to prepare for the return journey. The hut is named the Manson Nicholls Memorial Hut after 3 trampers were killed in a landslide in the 1970’s that wiped out the old hut that was situated on the other side of the lake in those days.

It’s the first time that either of us have been at a DOC hut although we have been to many of their camps. The hut was clean tidy with toilets appearing to be well maintained. Even having basic cooking utensils available. As an added bonus the pot belly was still going with the embers from the night before making the place warm and toasty.

The water in the lake is crystal clear and although we didn’t see any fish swimming under the jetty but later in the day we passed another tramper heading up there with fishing rods stuck out of his pack so must be fish there.

After 20 minutes rest we started the trip back almost immediately coming across another couple of trampers heading for the hut overall we passed around 30 people heading towards the hut on the way back. Not all were going to stay at the hut but at least 20 had full backpacks and indicated they were heading there. The hut sleeps 24 but I doubt it would be very private but maybe thats the idea. Get to know all the other people as you bunk down next to them.


Getting back to the Motorhome the step counter in my phone had a new record of 29000 steps with my feet feeling everyone of them as we sat down to have lunch and a cup of tea after a very good mornings walk.

The camp is as well maintained as the hut with clean and tidy toilets as well as water as long as you boil it. It was also good to see the DOC ranger arriving in the evening to check out the camp and the parking area making sure all was safe and sound. As well as ensuring campers had paid I guess.

From here we move on to Reefton. The subject of the next blog
If you would like to see all the places we have visited click here

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2 thoughts on “The Lewis Pass

  1. Another fascinating blog of an area that I don’t know at all. 29,000 steps sounds impressive. You’ll certainly make it to 30,000 before you get back home, and will be so fit and slim …

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