Pilgrim Bandits NZ Trip Report

The Team

The Simon Beal Memorial Trek

The Wild West Coast of the South Island new Zealand was the destination for our Simon Beal Memorial Trek over the Labour Day weekend. Setting off from Christchurch we made our way through Arthur’s Pass and eventually to the track that leads into the Dillon Hut. We forged rivers and river beds in our 4 x 4’s.

Donning our packs we embarked on our three day adventure and more somberly to remember Simon Beal who sadly lost his life in or around the Taipo River. The Taipo is a fast moving, dangerous river that will whisk you away with a ferocity seldom seen outside of New Zealand. When crossing the tributaries, a healthy respect is advised!

an hour or so in we hit the cable bridge, three steel cables suspended across the Taipo. A flimsy safety net hanging beneath your feet. as you set off, under the weight of your body and pack the cables slump. Half way across the wind roaring up the valley sends the cable bridge on an angle. There is only one way off and that is forward! On reaching the far side with relief we wait for the last person to cross. Up ahead a near vertical climb through tree roots and loose stone has our legs screaming for flat ground.

After climbing and descending several times we arrive at a river flat, green and grassy, full of deer prints. We erect the hoochies and set about feeding ourselves.

Waking up to sandflys and the rustle of wet hoochies being folded up and stashed in our bergens. It wasn’t long before stiff legs were tramping across the boulder strewn river bed. The lichen growing on the stones gave a rich red hue to the otherwise bland landscape. Pockets of bright green moss with tiny white flowers gave a welcome relief of colour and variety to the view, the constant thundering of the Taipo was never far away reminding us constantly of why we were here.

Simon Beal was a young soldier on an exercise, through no fault of his own and unknown circumstances he never returned. The Taipo had her grip on him and would not let him go. One of our troop was close to Simon and spent time at the river reflecting and remembering him the way he was on that day. R.I.P. Simon.

After a few hours of walking through the bush and across river beds we reached the Mid Taipo Hut, a little oasis with comfy beds and a logburner. Some elected to sleep outside whilst others braved the snorers and settled in for an early night.

As is usually the case, the magic happens around the fire with jokes and stories being told by all. Friendships are formed and the realisation that you are not alone and have support sets in. Whatever you have seen or done in your service to your country and community is ok with us. No judgement, just support. We don’t do sympathy just support.

Waking up early the next day, the sunshine had gone and had been replaced with a thick veil of cloud and drizzle. We said goodbye to Mid Taipo and set our course for home. Retracing our path we made good time to our previous camp crossing a very fast moving tributary, some soggy boots for the less cautious! A few slips and falls on slimy rocks focused the attention of the victims. Eventually arriving at the very steep decent to the cable bridge. Here we go again!!

The thought of getting back to the vehicles and getting the heavy bergens off your back made short work of the cables and the ladder accent at the other end. We checked how much further we had to travel, a few kms and we were there. Crossing the last boulder strewn slip and into the bush again, muddy tracks and getting snagged on “bush lawyer” tried to slow us down but the determination to see it through saw us arrive back at the Dillon hut and our trusty Landcruiser at 15.00. The Land cruiser and our packs departed to RV with the other vehicle and returned across rivers and tracks to pick us up, we were done!

An hour later we stopped at the Springfield pub for a feed fit for Kings and Queens, a welcome relief from Ration packs.

If you would like to take part in one of our trips and experience what it is that makes this so worthwhile to our people, just get in touch!

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