Exploring the Awa Awa Rata Reserve in Methven

Wendy and Ian really know their stuff. Our hosts at the Mt Hutt Bunkhouse seem to be the only ones who know about a reserve at the bottom of the Mt Hutt Ski Field road with a selection of hikes and a picnic area. A couple of other locals or hostel long-termers we’ve spoken to have had no idea! The place doesn’t even show up on Google Maps and even the Department of Conservation who manage the reserve hardly give it a mention on their website. What the hell?! Looks like we’re following leads and going on a mission today: a mission to find the Awa Awa Rata Reserve!

Awa awa rata reserve

With a paper map in hand, we hit the road with 70km/h headwinds doing everything to hold us back. It’s like Mt Hutt wants to keep its hidden forest walks a secret from us! But the directions to the Awa Awa Rata Reserve from Methven are simple: just head towards the Mt Hutt Ski Field which is extremely well signposted. Instead of turning right to drive up the winding ski field road, you just head straight on down the gravel road until you reach clear signs for the entrance of the Awa Awa Rata Reserve. It’s actually easy as and we get there within 15 minutes, even with the winds slowing us down.

The huge picnic area is filled with the vibrant colours of rhododendrons. Wow! Although the picnic area is super pretty and you’re sure to find a nice little spot to hang out, that is not what we are here for. Ian and Wendy told us that we can find a variety of hikes here.

Black fungus everywhere! Black fungus everywhere!
What you lookin' at, fantail? What you lookin' at, fantail?
A quick water break in the valley A quick water break in the valley
Flower power at the Awa Awa Rata Reserve picnic area Flower power at the Awa Awa Rata Reserve picnic area

Awa Awa Rata Reserve walking Tracks

Sure enough, we find the Department of Conservation sign listing five different hikes to do ranging from 15 minutes to a 2-hour loop! Because there is barely any information out there about these walks, we thought we’d quickly write these down:

  • Te Awa Awa Walk – 15 minutes (one way)
  • Alder Track:
    Ridge Track Junction – 20 minutes (one way)
    Pudding Hill Stream – 30 minutes (one way)
    Loop via Ridge and Opuke Tracks – 1h30min (loop)
    Loop via Ridge and Scotts Saddle Tracks – 2 hours (loop)

You’re welcome, guys!

Did someone say pudding?

We decide to go for something in the middle, the Pudding Hill Stream. So we set off into the forest which is getting hammered by the wind. The first section of native forest with its tree trunks getting engulfed in some sort of black fungus sways in the wind, cracking together when there are collisions at the top of the forest canopy.

The hike briefly goes through a section of pine forest, then as soon as we’re back in the native stuff, we see fantails, yellowheads, riflemen and possibly tomtits hopping around the trees. (We know way too much about New Zealand birds thanks to guided hikes like what we did in the Abel Tasman and on the Routeburn Track). They get so close to us, that it’s like we don’t exist to them!

Fern-filled forest at the Awa Awa Rata Reserve

BEautiful floral valley

A junction with signs points us down the narrow route on the steep mountainsides down to Pudding Hill Stream. As we hit the valley floor (by walking, not falling, we’d just like to point out), we are in a valley of yellow flowers and lupins. Butterflies flutter about and bees are high on life in this field of nectar. The grand finale to our walk is the shallow Pudding Hill Stream creating tiny cascades of rapids. It’s a pretty beautiful place all out here alone with know one really knowing about it.

We return the same way at a much faster pace as we start to get pretty hungry!

Everyone’s gotta eat… And Methven is a great place to do it

As mentioned yesterday, for such a small town Methven is full of cafes and bars! One cafe here was even an NZ Cafe of the Year finalist this year! We go to Arabica to see what all the fuss is about.

We manage to catch the guys after a mad morning of Christmas parade in town and the Farmers Market, where they had sold out of all their food at their stall! Luckily for us, we there was still a cheese and onion puff and breakfast pie still left for lunch to go along with our beautifully decorated flat white and hot chocolate – you know, the type of coffee you don’t want to destroy. Plus, all this talk of pudding today made us give into the temptation of homemade carrot cake and gluten free chocolate cake. Yum!

Robin tries to find the pudding at Pudding Hill Stream Robin tries to find the pudding at Pudding Hill Stream
Treat yo'self at Arabica! Treat yo'self at Arabica!
The colourful and quirky Cinema Paradiso! The colourful and quirky Cinema Paradiso!

 

Cinema Paradiso in Methven

Not only is Methven and place to eat and drink, but we couldn’t help but notice that this quiet town even has a cinema! The new from a series that Robin just happens to be a HUGE fan of just came out, so Cinema Paradiso is where you’re going to find us tonight!

New Zealand’s smallest cinema

Not only is this New Zealand’s smallest cinema, (no, we’re not joking!), it could also be the cinema with the most character! We walk into the ticket and food area with walls decorated with fabrics, huge portraits of famous actors and actresses painted on fabric canvases, colourful lights and streamers hanging from the ceiling… One of the old cinema rooms where art-house movies used to be shown (they are now shown on the main screen) has recently been renovated into an ice cream parlor! Retro film reels and cameras keep the ice cream parlor tied in with the movie theme.

A blockbuster in an art-house environment

We get comfortable in the small cinema showing blockbuster movies with the charms of an art-house cinema. There’s even an interval for ice cream!

For our first full day in a ski resort town that is perceived to have “nothing to do in summer”, we sure have found a hell of a lot to do already. Join us tomorrow, where we are going to make like Robin Hood and go do some archery in the woods. See you then!

Laura and Robin

Getting our popcorn in the funky Cinema Paradiso
Getting our popcorn in the funky Cinema Paradiso Spherical Image - RICOH THETA

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See you tomorrow!

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