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Day trip up the Godley Valley

Updated: Jul 18, 2019

Looking for an adventure that is easy to get to, but feels like you are miles from anywhere?

A 20-minute drive north along Lilybank Road from Lake Tekapo township brings you to the Macaulay River. A trusty 4WD would have you across easily (be careful of quickly rising rivers after rain), but our adventure involved two wheels and human power. Leaving the car behind resulted in wet feet almost immediately, but the warm bluebird day at the start of March meant we didn’t mind a bit.

Following a public-access route through Lilybank Station, we headed up the east side of the Godley valley for approximately 20 kilometres to Red Stag Hut. A day trip meant we had packed lightly, with food and extra merino layers easily fitting into packs on our backs. The endless stream crossings provided plenty of pure, fresh New Zealand H2O to keep us hydrated.

The track is well marked; however, the riverbed makes it an uneven ride, ensuring bike shorts are an essential piece of kit.

With the Maude and Gray glaciers glistening in the sunshine, we decided to carry on for another 20 minutes past the hut (the track is rougher in condition) and have our lunch on a ridge beside the McKinnon Stream. I’m told it’s another half hour bike to Separation stream, then an hour walk to the Godley Hut, situated on the true right of Fitzgerald Stream, but we decided to leave this for another day.

Looking back down the valley with the Southern Alps behind us and not a sole to be seen, made the four-hour trip to get there more than worth it.

Stopping at the Red Stag hut for a look around on our way home we found a well-managed 4-bunk hut, which is owned and maintained by the South Canterbury branch of New Zealand Deerstalkers' Association. Although we decided the lack of chimney or heat source meant this was definitely a hut to be used in the summertime only. Leaving our names in the intentions book, we scanned the previous entries with people coming through every other week. Run on a first in, first served basis, if you did decide to stay it would be wise to get there earlier in the day to guarantee a bed. A recommended donation of $5 pp, per night can be made at the hut or through the NZDA, South Canterbury Branch.

Jumping back on our bikes we enjoyed the slight downhill as we retraced our tracks all the way back to our vehicle. The 50-kilometre round trip took us about 8.5 hours, which included lunch and plenty of stops along the way. I’m super keen to head back into this wild part of the world, although I might take a 4WD to ensure plenty of time to explore it properly.

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