Onamalutu Christmas Base Camp

24 Dec 16 – 2 Jan 17

For the first time for a number of years the Club ran a Christmas Base Camp this year. The venue was a DOC Campground, inland from Renwick in Marlborough off the Northbank Road of the Wairau River. This gave us access to a large range of tramping options along the eastern side of the Richmond Range. Access to the campground is on sealed roads from State Highway 6.

Four of us; Stan and Sue Wilder, Arif Mathee and myself decided to have Christmas Day here so we arrived on 24 Dec. This day for me was spent in Blenheim doing last minute food shopping for fresh supplies. Tents and flies were erected to set up our base camp. My campervan came in handy for it’s fridge, my portable oven that fits on a stove top and TV for getting the weather report. There was no cell phone or mobile broadband coverage at the campsite, but on most days en route to tramping areas we found a coverage spot about 5km down the road which everyone used for mobile communication.

An organised Christmas dinner was planned, the menu consisting of cooked hot stuffed chicken with gravy, hot glazed ham, hot potatoes with roast vegetables, peas, three different cold salads and garlic bread. Desert consisted of homemade trifle both alcohol and non alcohol options with two jellies, sponge, peaches, grapes, strawberries, custard, fresh whipped cream and hot steamed plum pudding. All prepared on gas stoves and portable oven without use of mains power.

Christmas day dawned cloudy and cool. Stan was keen to check out the road ends for Lake Chalice and Goulter River so all four of us travelled to each of these road ends to determine road condition and times so that Stan and Arif could do the circuit overnighting at Mid Goulter Hut the following day. Although we left in the morning, it took quite a while on narrow winding gravel roads resulting on us returning back to base after 4pm. Our Christmas dinner was therefore an evening affair and being cool it was the only night we used the campervan to have dinner in.

26 Dec dawned with fine weather and the four of us travelled to the Lake Chalice car park at 1200 metres. Lake Chalice and hut is an hour’s descent dropping 400 metres from the car park. From Lake Chalice Stan and Arif continued onto Mid Goulter Hut while Sue and I with the help of a pole climbed back up to the carpark and returned to our base. We still had enough food from yesterdays feast for dinner. The next day Sue and I travelled towards the Goulter road end as far as was possible to travel by car and picked up Stan and Arif.

Lake Chalice Hut

The Onamalutu Domain Campground is a large grassed area with flush toilets and cold water taps in a few places. The campground is beside the Onamalutu River. There is a lovely short bush walk through massive kahikateas taking you down to the river with a number of swimming holes. The bird life here is very prolific and it was a pleasure to hear the birds in the morning and night. There are a few sandflies but nothing to be of concern. The Mt. Riley track was climbed and the odd trip to Renwick and Blenheim was undertaken. Brain and Mary-Jane Bonsell and Geoff Price joined us and we had a great New Years eve.

Campervan and tents at campsite

The campground was never very busy and on some days only had a few people there, The weather remained fine, occasionally cloudy on some days, a few windy days and light rain on only two days. All in all a great time was had by all. It was really great to catch up. Thanks for the company and encouraging me to do the tramp down to Lake Chalice, the first time back there for me in 40 years. Leo Manders