Needle, Haystack, and Squelching Kiwis

Thousand Acre Plateau is an ancient limestone plateau in Kahurangi National Park. The landscape is pretty unique and truly worth the visit.

The track starts from the end of Matiri Valley West Bank Rd. near Murchison. Lake Matiri appears to be a popular weekend spot for the locals.

The track then gets rougher and muddier, followed by steep tree root bound climbs pretty much in one stretch from 343m up to over 1000m. Once reaching Thousand Acre Plateau, we were greeted by a vast tussock land with the Needle and Haystack in the distance. (That’s the pointy little mount and the big one to its right. Quite appropriately named!)

Kiwi Bird and I stayed at the 2-bunk Poor Pete’s Hut, which is newly rebuilt with a deck and a partial sunroom. The hut is very well insulated and warm. We hit the hay early in anticipation for a big day on the second day for climbing the Needle.

We set off early the second morning, getting our pants pretty wet walking through frozen long grass. The plateau was so vast and quiet, except the squelching Kiwis – that’s us squelching our way through the glorious bogland mud!

Much of our morning was spent walking in vast thick fog, hoping the sun would eventually shine through for our climb to the pointy Needle. When the sun started playing peek-a-boo with us, we saw what’s called a “white rainbow” or a “fog rainbow” for the first time in our lives! It was a pretty odd sight, seeing a white arch without the rainbow colours!

And for a short while we could see we were actually heading in the direction of the Needle and Haystack.

A few streams run through the plateau and carve the limestones.

The fog kept hanging around and Kiwi Bird started to doubt if we’ll be rewarded with a view at all. When we walked along the plateau edge, we were treated with a pretty rare and amazing view – our personal rainbow halos!

These “halos” are called “glories”. A person can only see his/her own one. We’ve never seen them before and were really excited! For more info on the physics of it, click here.

Finally, when we approached the Needle, we left the fog behind (or more like below).

Hundred Acre Plateau is below the Needle, and is quite a sight on approach. When we were on the Thousand Acre Plateau, it was hard to really appreciate we were over 1000m  because it was so vast! Coming up to Hundred Acre Plateau really made me appreciate the unique landscape more.

The approach to the Needle’s summit looked like a blade’s edge at places, but was reached rather quickly from the saddle.

Thousand Acre Plateau was still pretty much covered under the fog/cloud. We were more then glad the climb was worth every bit of the effort!

Hundred Acre Plateau in its entirety can be viewed from the summit of the Needle. The photo at the very top of this article shows the summit of Haystack.

We enjoyed our lunch with these great views, then headed all the way back to Poor Pete’s Hut for the night. Rain clouds set in overnight, and we squelched more through the mud in the rain on the way down to the flat on the 3rd day.

A good description of the track can be found here.

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