asbestos cottage

there really is a place called asbestos cottage.  it’s in the cobb valley, in the kahurangi national park, near golden bay, and its interesting history includes a pair of rather unusual hermits.  there’s even a book about them.

this quirky little hut, nestled up in the hills, is about ninety minutes’ walk from the nearest road, and we made it our goal for a sunday hike.  upon arriving and parking the car, however, we weren’t sure whether we’d actually make it, or whether we would have to abort and carry out a rescue mission instead – an elderly woman arrived alone as we were getting ready to go, changed into hiking boots but kept her flowered muumuu, and wandered off into the bush.  after some quiet consternation, we agreed to note her license plate number and the time we’d seen her, and check again when we returned.

the walk up took us along a surprisingly broad shady avenue, thick with leaf-litter but well maintained; over small babbling streams and on a steep, rooty detour; and ultimately across several narrow paths and ridges, with lovely views back down the valley, but baking in the direct sun.

after about an hour we reached the frontier of asbestos country.

the mine itself was a curiosity, a kind of giant open weal of greenish-grey crumbly, surprisingly soft rock (that we were careful not to disturb much, for obvious reasons).  rusted and decaying tubs and hunks of machinery lay sparsely scattered around the area, and we didn’t linger.

the cottage itself perches in a little grassy clearing about a half hour further on.  its main room has been maintained in its nearly original configuration, while the back room has been converted to a four-bunk cubby where trampers can sleep.  (we’d like to return overnight sometime.)  the surrounding tall grass hides the remains of some garden plants gone to seed, a small brook trickles merrily within earshot, there are views back down the valley, and the air hums with lazy afternoon insect songs.  it is a beautiful spot, and while forty years of complete seclusion seems a little extreme, we all agreed there would be worse spots for a hermitage.

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