Scott's Saddle and Rhododendrons
Track to Scott's Saddle
I've been hiking in the Canterbury foothills, a delightful spring day trip up to Scott's Saddle. Seduced by the notes on the trip list which clearly stated that 'the rhododendrons should be flowering', I took my camera...
Colourful Flowery Thoughts...
Colourful, flowery thoughts filled my head. Wouldn't it be wonderful to be hiking in the rhododendrons... I know, I know. One needs to be in the great rhododendron forests in Nepal, in the foothills of the Himalayas, not the Southern Alps of New Zealand.
New Zealand's rhododendrons are Johnny-come-lately's. They barged in and settled down quickly in urban front yards and country gardens.
No Rhododendron Forests Here...
Here there aren't any tracks through rhododendron forests - just woodland paths through colourful collections in botanical settings. And no rhododendron has ever misbehaved and escaped to colonise anything (I'm thinking of that pretty lilac Rhododendron ponticum, busy filling up the forests in Scotland).
Rhododendron in New Zealand Bush
Just for a moment I imagined I'd be walking through a forest filled with red flowers. Ahem - back to the reality of green and brown. New Zealand's hiking flora is severely colour-themed - think of green in the forest, and warm rusty brown on the tops above the bush line. There are no deep pinks or reds (unless one searches at exactly the right time of year for the flowering Rata trees).
Colours of New Zealand - Green and Brown
We trudged up steps in the beech forest, past green Astelias and ferns, along some more and then up again... The New Zealand bush may be monochromatic, but it's beautifully monochromatic!
View From Scott's Saddle
Knees creaking, we popped out of the green and onto a rusty brown clearing. This was our destination - Scott's Saddle - not in itself the most shapely of saddles, but the ground was soft with mosses and the views were inspiring. And that sky was pretty blue!
South Canterbury Plains
But there were some rhododendrons, as promised. Many beautiful colourful shrubs were planted in the grassy Te Awa Awa reserve, where we started and ended our trip.
And yes, they were flowering bravely in the bright sun of a New Zealand late-spring day, devoid of anything remotely protective like a mountain mist. I loved seeing all the bright pinks and reds against the background green bush.
Awa Awa Reserve Rhododendrons
Our track up to Scott's Saddle might have been rhodo-less, but hey! One day I may be lucky enough to see the real thing.
Scott's Saddle is in the Awa Awa rata reserve, at the foot of Mount Hutt. As well as rhododendrons in late October there are many walking tracks which start at the reserve, picnic tables, outdoor barbecues, and a loo with purple hand soap. Very colourful!