Little River – Birdlings Flat 21 June 2023

                        Leader Mentor Understudy Tail Ender
Standards Wendy Dave B Kate W Cath L
Alternates Ray B Norma Ali Marie-Therese

Distance 16 km, elevation gain 617 m, time 4 hrs 15 mins

Remember when the late Dame Edna Everidge used to describe things as ‘spooky’ – not meaning in a supernatural way, but just a little strange? Well, Possums, today’s tramp had some very spooky elements.

Things started off more or less mundanely, 49 trampers including regular visitor Megan T, on a bus heading towards Little River – unless you include visitations by spectres from the past: Jenny, Les and Kay, whom we hadn’t seen for quite a while.

The first real sign of other worldliness was the eerie fog which enveloped our bus, and it was also just a little creepy passing the spot of that horrific accident we encountered earlier this year heading to Okuti Valley-French Pass. The fog was all encompassing, shutting out the real world and decapitating the hills above Lake Forsyth.

Our 30 Standards fearlessly set off on the tar sealed road near Little River, all the way up to Basso Road. The Alternates however were able to avoid this hard uphill slog, being magically transported up to Basso Road and straight away beginning their descent into the netherworld.

It was odd walking along, with the world below us devoid of landmarks under the dacron fog. It got even weirder after morning tea when we turned a corner to find ourselves suddenly in an alternate universe of blue sky and feeble sunshine. Too soon we were enveloped back into the mist, as we made our way downhill before finding the least chilly spot for lunch. Under the towering pines was best – out of the beastly wind, but no view (not really a problem as we hadn’t seen anything other than ourselves and that blanket of fog all morning!).

Some excellent photographs were taken of eerie figures levitating in the mist, but even better were ones of the myriad of ethereal spider-webs we saw, lovely gossamer threads embellished with delicate droplets.

The Alternates faced an uncanny sight as an apparition floated in the mist towards them, before it transformed itself into the more earthly form of bus driver Victor.

Our Standards group began to stretch out along the shingle road, then the dramatic sight of Birdlings Flat loomed in the distance when moments before there had only been fog. Walking down the last hill did nothing to dispel any notions of unworldliness – let’s face it, Birdlings Flat really is a rather bizarre place. There’s the almost lunar terrain covered in those curiously rounded stones we had to traverse as we made our way towards the quirky little settlement. And as Kate wrote in her trip report in 2020, if she were ever to write a crime novel, then Birdlings Flat would be the perfect setting, with all the fascinating characters who reside there.

We re-entered the real world as we made our way home, and after a stop-off at Tai Tapu, everything was totally normal again. Earlier in the day we had entered a mysterious realm, but none of us had been lost forever in it, and we even made it back to Bishopdale safely before dark. Not so spooky after all.

Text by Shirley