Roberts Ridge

Nelson Lakes, New Zealand

December 11, 2008

Dave and Jill


An unforgettable sunrise on Lake Roitoiti about 100 yards from our campsite.  Sandflies not awake yet.

If it's Roberts Ridge and Nelson Lakes you've come to read about you've come too far - much more memorable were the bugs.  Like Lewis Pass, the mountains of Nelson Lakes were second-rate scenery in comparison to what lay ahead farther south.  Still, we felt like it was necessary to stop an taste test the landscape, much like stopping for a beer in Fresno on your way to Disneyland. 

In the three week period from early December to x-mas the NZ weatherman said December 11 would be best.  Even though summer officially kicked off in a mere 10 days this wouldn't be clear skies, light breezes and 80 degrees.  He just said a slight chance of showers in the morning and evening which gave us at least a few hours in the afternoon to be dry.  During the first half of our time in NZ the weatherman was, unfortunately accurate.  There were no morning showers and to my delight the broiling skies formed one of the finest light shows (another way of saying the sunrise was good) my camera and I had ever shared together. 

Although we didn't have to pay for our campsite at Lake Roitoiti in a traditional manner, we paid much more than a typical campground fee.  Our currency came in sandflies - by the hundreds.  While eating the previous night's dinner we found it difficult to breathe and chew at the same time.  To remedy this unpleasant situation we speed walked around the campground.  Shoveling spoonfulls of dinner into our mouths we hoped the rice kernels would outnumber the flies.  At this point we'd only been bitten a few hundred times, and truthfully, didn't understand sanfly behavior.  That night we learned one of the most distinguishing sandfly behaviors - they like to sleep at night.  This boded well for my greatest sandfly fear: accidentally leaving my hand outside the sleeping bag and awakening the next morning to find my hand chewed off.  No, sleeping sandlfies didn't mean we were out of the woods.  They were replaced, almost on cue, with the more familiar mosquito.

As I stepped out of the wet tent to digitally capture the wondrous sunrise I couldn't help but notice 300 hundred mosquitoes stuck to the tent - most of them dead in the condensation.  After some photo time we packed up the still wet tent, attempted to brush off the mosquito guts, and stuffed it into the car.  Inside the car awaited over 100 awakening sandlfies that would call our camperwagon home for the next week.  While most of our unwanted guests seemed intent on escaping out the windows, others found opportunity - our ankles and feet - as we drove down the highway.  The wet, bug infested scenario would play itself out through the west coast until we reached safety in Wanaka. 

We followed a long ridge on a track that quickly got us above bushline (yeah Nelson Lakes!).  We thought we might follow Roberts Ridge to teh highly regarded Angelus Hut, but within a couple of miles turned around as we had seen what we came to see.  What we saw were long, continuous, connecting ridgelines bordered by deep valley.  The mountains were just high points along the ridgelines, and for this early point in the season were scantily covered with snow.  A lovely scene nonetheless, that brought pleasant reminders of Colorado without the obnoxious jeeps or 14er bagger crowd.

Any thoughts of staying longer to enjoy the area were destroyed when I thought back to all the time I had spent searching on the computerized topo map of New Zealand.  The Nelson Lakes, as I recalled, lacked glaciers or even permanent snow, while to the south lay a wonderland of ice and majestic fiords.  Looking down from Roberts Ridge towards the surrounding valleys and foothills only completed this feeling of treading in second-rate mountains.  There lay, as far as the eye could see, unsitely clearcuts.  Even for someone who grew up in the world's clearcut capital, this eyesore - prevalant in the entire northern region of the South Island - made us not want to linger in the area.  So, we didn't.  We enjoyed the alternate descent and even more so teh drive towards bigger and better things with our new traveling companions draining the blood from our ankles.

- written January 2009


Scenes along the ridge.  Look like Colorado?


A large spider along the trail.  I couldn't convince Jill to stick her finger in the frame for perspective.  While large, this spider may eat your finger but should not be poisonous.  Unlike it's neighbor to the west New Zealand has no large scary animals and no small poisonous critters.
Descending the ridge with Lake Roitoiti and the clearcut scenery beyond.


"Hey Davey, I want to get your picture between those trees."  Here it is.


Looking out from inside the Scepter.  Hundreds of sandflies accompanied us on our journey down the wet coast, gnawing on our ankles and dying in every crevice imaginable - even between the pages of our books.  Photography by Jill