Bealey Spur is a great day trip or easy overnighter if you are looking for a beginner tramp. We decided to head up to Arthur's Pass and take on the the hill in order to try out the new tent we had just bought. Although an historic musterer's hut lies at the top of the track, it's two bunks and cramped interior leave a little to be desired. There are plenty of places to pitch a tent and with far too much food in our packs we began walking in the early afternoon. The track is timed at around 3-4 hours return but without heavy packs most families could manage that time easily. We left the car just off State Highway 73 (14km south of Arthur's Pass Village) at Cloudesley Road. The track begins at the end of this road and winds gently up through the Beech Forest before opening out into tussock.
With beautiful weather and plenty of traffic on the track we took our time up the first part of the spur and stopped to chat to many of the tourists and locals coming back from a day trip to the hut. We planned to feast that night and both our packs were heavily weighed down by food and drink making for a slower ascent. When we reached the halfway point the landscape opens up into tussock land with tarns scattered across the hillside. These are fun to explore so long as you don't actually fall into the freezing water. From this vantage point you gain sweeping views of the Waimakariri River towards Klondyke Corner in the East and the Hawdon Valley in the West. After satisfying our photographical needs we continued on to Bealey Spur Hut at just over 1200m.
Upon arrival we found that the hut had been taken over (at four in the afternoon) by two anti-social German tourists. We had a quick look and then made our way further on to our camp site for the night. It was finally time to try out the mighty Mannagum Howqua and I jumped straight into setting up poles and ropes with complete disregard for the instructions. The tent was going to be our answer to tramping in areas where bunks in huts cannot always be guaranteed. It's incredibly lightweight at 2.3kg and Jeremy can actually sit up in it without hitting his head on the roof which is a bonus. Once the tent was up we lit a small fire and got the potatoes and bacon cooking for an early dinner. It was a relaxing evening and we managed to draw out the cooking and eating portion for a couple of hours. The night wasn't quite so peaceful with a band of sadistic Kea harassing the boys over at the hut all night. Those birds are incredibly loud on a windless night and we got far less sleep than we had hoped for. The tent proved a winner though with plent of room for both of us and our packs neatly stuffed under the extended portion of the fly on either side. In the morning we made short work of packing up and missioning it down the hill to the car as we had to be back in Christchurch by lunchtime. Take your time on this walk as the scenery is fantastic and feel free to bring along your less active friends as the track is far less challenging than some of the walks closer to Arthur's Pass Village.
In New Zealand we don't go hiking, walking or frolicking in the wilderness - we tramp.