Blackball - Croesus Track
December 12-16, 2006  
  • On the bucolic veranda of (Formerly) the Blackball Hilton.
  • Miners Dark Ale, reputedly laced with coal dust . . .
  • . . . is served within!
  • Mary avails of the house cat.
  • Breakfast at the Hilton -- a week's worth of protein . . . and cholesterol.
  • On the not-so-bustling streets of Blackball: 'Retail Therapy Open!"
  • 'Take-a-Ride on the Wild Side'
  • Bill in quest of his working class roots?
  • An intriguing concept, the sign was rather weather worn.
  • Our crew of slightly dodgy trampers at the Croesus Track roadend.
  • Alice surges up the track through fabulous subalpine scrub.
  • Lunch stop at an old miners' hut near Lake Margaret.
  • Left by aliens? A bizarre remnant of the cableway once used to convey gold ore down from Croesus Knob.
  • Cec Clarke hut, named for the forest ranger who revived the old miners' track for recreational use.
  • The hut is nicely poised and designed for the view.
  • Mary seems to be oblivous to the challenge arrayed before her, as she peruses the hut book.
  • Two days later. The party proved equal to the challenge.
  • Near Croesus Knob, overlooking the Tasman Sea.
  • Ourisia flower.
  • Ourisia again...
  • And again.
  • See the fernbird?
  • There it is!
  • Bob spots another small greenhood orchid (<em>Pterostylis</em>).
  • Hebe in flower.
  • A coprosma?
  • Sunset from the hut. Peaks of the Southern Alps penetrate the clouds.
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Blackball and the Croesus Track

This was a getaway trip to the “Wild West Coast” with friends Bill, Maryann, Bob and Mary. A tramp up the Croesus Track in the southern Paparoa Range was packaged with stays before and after in the legendary Formerly the Blackball Hilton Hotel. Blackball was once a roistering gold mining town of thousands, which morphed into a coal mining town, and is now a rather quiet, but quirky, wraith of its former self. Blackball is noted as a birthplace of radical left-wing politics in New Zealand (both the Labour and Communist parties have roots there), and also was a stronghold of “League” football (Bill’s game as a youth, the “working class” code which in New Zealand operates in the shadow of Rugby Union – the All Blacks and all that – but which reigns supreme in Yorkshire, Australia, and “the Coast.” The rambling old Blackball Hilton hotel and pub gained a measure of fame when the global chain attempted to force a name change. The Blackball Hilton won that David and Goliath battle by simply putting “Formerly” in front of their name.

The Croesus Track, like many in the New Zealand mountains, had its origins as a pack track to support gold mining a century or more ago. After falling into disuse, it was restore some 30 years ago to provide trampers with relatively easy access to the spectacular views from the open mountain tops, some 1,200m above the nearby seacoast. The government built a nice 20-bunk hut, subsequently named for the ranger who spearheaded the new recreational phase of the track, Cec Clarke. There we spent a couple of celebratory nights there while exploring the area for interesting plants, birds, and remnants of old mining operations.