1000 Acre Plateau

Queen’s Birthday Weekend 2014

The Thousand Acre Plateau is an ancient peneplain situated between the Mokihinui and Matiri Rivers, near Murchison. The Late Cretaceous peneplain was formed 70 million years ago as the result of erosion of the land mass to a sea-level plain. The plain was later raised and the Thousand Acre and nearby Hundred Acre Plateaux are rolling tussock landscapes dotted with sinkholes and crossed by limestone creeks.

We headed from Christchurch to the Riverview Holiday Park near Murchison on Friday night with a fabulous weather forecast. On Saturday morning we drove till we were stopped by a large fallen tree close to the Matiri car park. From there we sorted our gear and walked to the West Matiri River which was straight-forward to cross. The day before, this river was impassable. We continued on to Lake Matiri Hut overlooking the tranquil Lake Matiri for our first break.

The track continued to be easy until we reached just beyond Bay Creek where the track climbs abruptly up a spur. After about 40 minutes the track levelled again and lunch was a welcome break. The track continued steeply through a diverse forest of silver and mountain beech, kamahi, rata and mountain totara. Finally we reached the plateau rim and saw a huge expanse of tussock-land dotted with patches of stunted forest. Beyond the rim the marked route took us across the boggy-in-places plateau to Poor Petes Hut. We held a small committee meeting at this hut and a decision was made to go on and look for a camping spot, which we found just on dusk. Tents were pitched with Julie coping much better after it was pointed out that the fly was inside out! We had a roaring fire and enjoyed a venison stew, with Liz’s Pinot Noir followed by apple crumble and custard.

We awoke to a cracking frost and after breakfast headed off to Larrikins Hut following the well-marked track through tussock and beech forest. The mudstone and frosted rocks were extremely slippery. From Larrikins Hut we climbed up to The Needle and had our lunch on the summit with an amazing 360 degree view on a sunny, windless day. From this mudstone peak we could see the 100 Acre Plateau—the Devil’s Dining Table as it is also known. Six of the team decided to go on and have a closer look at The Haystack. This involved a little bit of frozen scree and an interesting descent to make for a little adventure before returning to camp. Again we had a warm fire, a great buffet meal including a triple treat dessert. Bill provided all the hot water for the meals and well-deserved the prize of extra ginger crunch. A special award went to Geoff who went back to pick up a camera which was accidentally left near Larrikins Hut. His reward was to sleep under the stars…

After an overnight low of minus 8ºC we broke camp, put on frozen boots and headed for the sun. The descent down was slippery and seemed very long, making the lunch stop at Matiri Hut most welcome. From there it was back to the vehicles and a stop in Murchison before returning to Christchurch. Milan stayed in Murchison to continue tramping while the weather was fine.

We were: Bill & Wendy Templeton, Raymond Ford, Dan Pryce, Milan Brisnik, Liz Stephenson, Geoff Spearpoint, Penny Webster and Julie Wagner. (JW)