I am a newbie on the tramping club circuit, this being my very first tramp with the club. This did not  disappoint. We hit Flora Hut carpark at about 10.30am and Ray Salisbury took us on a very extensive tour around the Tableland circuit. We arrived at Flora Hut, then enjoyed the creative teenage inscribings on the bedposts of the very traditional mens’ and womens’ quarters.

We then continued along to the Gridiron lodgings, the first being a tiny, 3-bunk hut cut into a 45-degree rock face with a swinging bed and fire pit outside; an easy-to-miss treat if you have your head down. The second Gridiron hotspot in a Lost Boys-style was ideal for families to spend the night. There’s a bunch of cascades running under and around jutting rocks, forming a well-made shelter complete with outdoor kitchen, and a wooden ladder leading to a sleeping platform fit for three, and  the remnants of an old chain-swing hanging from the upper riggings.

Our company numbered eight, and a great mix of experienced folk (Debbie, Ray and Annette) mixed with some of us new ones, with some visitors from the Waikato Tramping Club, Maureen and Jim, who intended to walk the Queen Charlotte Track after this adventure.

We arrived at Salisbury Lodge by 4pm, had a cup of tea and then went off bush bashing beyond Sphinx Rock towards Pillar Cave, following Ray’s pink tape markers. My absolute favourite moment was sitting back in the darkness of this stalactite cave watching folk analyse scribings dating back to the 1880s. We then proceeded on to Richards Cave before retracing our sodden steps along the tussock plateau.

Ray spent much of the trip narrating the history of our surroundings. We were taken to many historical points of interest, such as Bishops Cave, but also to some lesse- known places, such as an old blacksmith shop that you would never, ever find; being hidden amongst a copse of trees in Cundy Creek. The stories of local sheep drivers, make-shift engineers of water flumes and rugged butchers never ended. We arrived back in Nelson at the very end of the weekend with souls refreshed and bodies aching. Thanks Ray – we won’t forget this one.

Greg Hornsby