A favourite trip of mine, with many happy memories of previous trips with club and family members. Definitely a winter trip to escape the worst of the sandflies. Comfortable accomodation at the Balfour Hotel was a step up from freezing nights spent in the Shepherd Creek hut on other winter trips.
Saturday morning was brisk with clear skies and the promise of a great day. Met up with a couple from Christchurch who had come down to do the trip, and two from our club who were staying in Queenstown, giving us seven trucks in the convoy. The access to the Eyre Creek track is by an easement through private land then into the Taka Ra Haka Conservation Park. The original track followed the left bank of the river, through patches of beech forest and scrub but a lot of this is now unuseable due to slips and erosion by the river. Instead we had multiple river crossings and a little bit of "where is the track now?".
An uneventful drive to the hut where we stopped for a late morning tea. The siting of the hut has some history. The original hut fell into disrepair and was replaced in a new position that was argued by some to be unsafe due to its proximity to the river. The river had been in flood sometime recently and there was silt and debris up to the doorstep. Maybe not such a safe place after all! The toilet however, was high and dry. Even though it was cold and wintery the sandflies were active and hungry. They are the only really bad feature of the area.
Upstream from the hut the track deteriorated and there was no evidence of it having been used recently. We cleared one fallen beech tree; handy things chainsaws.
We carried on upstream until time, and another fallen tree, determined our turn around. A bit of a play in the icy snow before an easy drive out. Only one knarly spot where the track had been severly eroded by the river, and a solid fence on the other side meant care was needed. I think the fence post may be on a bit of a lean now! It got pushed by more than one vehicle. Dinner for most back at Balfour and a surprisingly early night.
Sunday morning was also clear skies and chilly as we headed to the access road to Mt Bee. This road is on private land and we had gained permission earlier in the week. The track to the hut was in good condition and posed no problems.
A very tidy set up there with two huts. One for cooking etc. and the other divided for sleeping.
From the huts onwards the snow got deeper and while not a huge challenge it was slow going. We stopped at 'the ridge' which is as far as we've been on previous trips.The track from there deteriorates markedly, according to the blurb from the DOC website. The views were stunning. Back down the trail to the main road and lunch by the Oreti River before setting of for home in various directions.