Rakaia River - Water and Weeds
There's a delightfully relaxing walkway which meanders high above the Rakaia River, in Canterbury, New Zealand. Gardeners feeling guilty that they should be at home weeding might not feel quite as relaxed, though...
The Upper Rakaia Gorge
Canterbury's braided rivers have very special features - gorges, river terraces carved out millions of years ago by the glaciers, and then a host of watery braids which spread out as they criss-cross the flat Canterbury plains to the sea. Much of this land is now grazed by big farms, running cattle, sheep or even deer.
The Rakaia in Flood
On our walking day the Rakaia River was recovering from earlier flooding, and was running high with swirling brown water. Semi-flooded rivers are not so dreamy close-up, as huge uprooted trees and assorted debris flash past in the current.
The views from our path high above were distant enough to look wonderfully majestic. And many of the hillsides were covered in sunny sweeps of yellow flowering shrubs - gorse and broom. Hmm....
Yellow Broom Flowers - Close-Up
Alas, because the track ran through farmland, the views closer to hand were rather weedy. There was a grand collection of local garden escapees - particularly foxgloves, verbascums, and cotoneasters - growing amongst the ferns, native shrubs and trees.
Weeds - Aargh!
Nearly all my own garden weeds were pathside - dandelions, wild carrots, elderberries, and even potatoes. And out in the open were those beautiful bright yellow swathes of flowering gorse and broom. Aargh!
Oops - this was supposed to be my gardener's day off, and here I was making an inventory of nuisance plants. I felt quite guilty - shouldn't I have been tackling all their weedy friends and relations in the Moosey garden? Potatoes, pleased forgive the bad company I've just placed you in. It's just that self sown versions of you pop up everywhere in my garden...
Cordyline by Stile
Enough about undesirables. I decided to be more botanic, noting many patches of my favourite Astelias, and often spying a single native New Zealand tree - the perfect foreground interest for my many photographs of the Big River below.
Were the ferns which edged the paths natives? I'm not sure. But the smaller native trees were easy to identify - there were many Kowhai, Lancewoods, and Pittosporums - and of course those iconic green Cabbage trees (Cordylines) just kept popping up and posing for my camera!
New Zealand has a large group of divaricated shrubs, with leaves pointing inwards and protective spikes pointing outwards. Matagouri is one such - a scratchy, spiky little shrub which extensively covers grasslands and river flats in the South Island.
We passed through a Matagouri colony, not quite dense enough to force us into a serious detour. Ouch! Matagouri shin scratches are unwelcome marks of initiation for the serious bush walker. This shrub is single-handedly responsible for the high sales of gaiters in outdoor shops. Memo to self - buy some gaiters...
The river was far below, always in view. At one point our path led down to a stream and an old disused coalmine. Further along we descended to a grey stony river beach. There was much muddy, messy evidence of how high the flooded river had been.
Looking Back to the Bridge
Would I like to raft down the Rakaia River? Or kayak, or foolishly float on a rubber tube? No way! I like my big rivers to stay safely in the distance!