The pipes are calling

The view from atop the pipes. PHOTOS: CLARE FRASER
The view from atop the pipes. PHOTOS: CLARE FRASER
The best volcanoes are the ones that happened a long time ago, leaving their fingerprints for us to discover.

Post-holiday freshness. Energy, enthusiasm, perspective and patience. It seems a shame to go back to work and spoil it all.

A quick fix is to run for the hills. An emergency top-up of nature is just the job to kid oneself that the rejuvenation can be recaptured and carried through the year.

The Organ Pipes walk is close to town, on the back road to Waitati. It’s only about 45 minutes’ walk one-way, but the first bit is really steep. That said, three generations were recently seen doing it, from elderly sprightly grandmother, down to babe literally in arms.

After zigzagging up through bush, the route gently edges around the hillside. A trackside rock bivvy conjures up survivalist fantasises but signs of dampness mean the reality would be grim.

A mountain cedar.
A mountain cedar.
Mist can hug these hills to the degree the resulting vegetation is classed as "cloud forest". Mountain cedar trees thrive in the mist. Their intricate, tight foliage catches cloud and converts it into droplets that drip down onto roots below.

On a sunny day though, the views get good once you reach the rock formation the track’s named after.

Initially you’re confronted with a tantrum of bits and pieces of the stuff. But this is just the detritus that’s fallen down from the main event above. Look up. Basalt columns reach skyward, just like ... well, yes ... the pipes of an organ. Someone nailed the naming.

To overlook the top of the Organ Pipes it’s a short four-limbed scramble over an uphill river of fallen rock.

Sections of the basalt columns help form the track.
Sections of the basalt columns help form the track.
Inch out and enjoy the outlook.

The columns are the exposed remnants of our founding father, the long-extinct Dunedin volcano. From down in its depths, hot lava rose and hit the air, slowly cooled then shrunk and cracked like drying mud. Hence the geometrical shapes rather than a solid slab of rock.

From here an option is to continue along to Mount Cargill, or just head back.

Surface underfoot is mostly even although occasionally you’re actually walking on semi-submerged bits of fallen rock column. Strong steps have been built solidly, using the sponsor’s product.

 - Clare Fraser

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