Just over the brow

Looking northeast towards the harbour heads. Below: The memorial seat above North East Valley....
Looking northeast towards the harbour heads. Below: The memorial seat above North East Valley. PHOTOS: CLARE FRASER
Just above Opoho we’re lucky enough to be able to walk across a working farm while soaking up views of hill and harbour loveliness, writes Clare Fraser.

There’s almost a secret entrance. Heading up Signal Hill Rd, once past the houses go left at the dirt road marked "No Exit".

Opoho Creek starts here, making a delicate trickle downhill through the bush, but for humans it’s time for a direct uphill in the opposite direction. If necessary, distract your thighs by pondering the historic-looking dry stone walls in the distance. Those people knew how to work hard. You might even see hawks gliding high above.

Over the stile, climb to the highest point. At your back, the city seems miles away, receding pleasingly as you leave any misanthropic concerns behind. Escape mentally as the coast takes the eye down towards the Catlins.

Reaching a cluster of telecommunications equipment might seem a bit "meh". To the contrary, excitingly, it marks the point where you say goodbye to one yawning great view and are about to be wowed by a completely different one.

Take the wee track through blandly nondescript broom. It’s Narnia’s wardrobe as, lo and behold, an astoundingly wide view suddenly opens out towards Mount Cargill and up the harbour to the sea.

Broad slopes facing northwest make this a choice spot for a sit and soak in the sun. It’s great fun seeing the Dunedin area from this completely different angle. Round the corner is a bush-clad hill with individual mature podocarps clearly visible.

Now you get a sense of the real privilege of being on this walk, as you cross a scenic saddle through the farm. You might find yourself sharing the path with resting, standing or walking cows. For this naturalised desk-dweller, inching past is an act of adventure, requiring bravery. Do I avoid eye contact? Or should I look them in the eye? What’s the etiquette? Keep left? Indicate?

Turns out they barely bat an eyelid. All is well.

The walk’s closed in spring but as one random stranger said, that’s just like a diet that makes the anticipation of return even sweeter. Gates need to be left as found.

Once you’re ejected onto Cleghorn St there’s still a rural walk down the edge of North Rd back towards Opoho.

For a quieter adventure, go via Clava St’s cornerside World War1 memorial. Locals have recently renovated it and thoughtfully added seats perfect for a musing sit.

Venture home down Norwood St, which, in part, is more of a tiny lane under cavernous cliffs.


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