This article was first published in The Tararua Tramper in June 1997
4-6 October 1996
Map: NZMS 260, Sheet 28 or Infomap 272-04.
- Party members
- Sue (leader) & Lindsay Cuthbertson (writer), Robin & Sue Chesterfield, Ken Mosely, Carolyn Henkel.
During the week prior to the trip Sue spoke to the DoC ranger for the area, Joe Hansen, and booked the Waikuku Lodge. [$8 per night per person. Contact: DoC, Te Kopi Field Centre, RD2, Featherston, ph (06) 856 6808 or (06) 307 8230.]
Friday 4 October: Left Wellington about 6pm, with an excellent weekend weather forecast. The lodge key was picked up at the Pioneer Dairy in Featherston. Excellent fish and chips were enjoyed by most of us. The final 20-30km of road is very winding; care is required. The lodge was reached at about 9.30pm (105km). It is a large older type farmhouse. It sleeps 30 with electric power, fireplaces, good kitchen, showers, toilets, etc. it was clean and tidy.
Saturday 5 October: A beautiful, calm day. With our day packs we were away by 7.30am climbing up the grassy scrubby slopes behind the lodge, making our way to the main ridge towards Mt Ross. Views improved as we got higher and soon we could see across Cook Strait to the snow-covered Kaikouras. A new sight for us looking out towards Martinborough were the tall towers of the wind-powered generators recently installed. About 10am we joined the marked track and paused for a rest near a transmitter. From here until into the bush proper the track was rather scrubby and needs clearing although it has been sparsely re-marked with the new DoC orange triangular markers. By midday we were on the Mt Ross summit at 981m (3226ft). We enjoyed a relaxed lunch nearby in the warm sunshine. Sue and I recalled the last time we had been here about 20 years previously when there was no marked track. All too soon it was time to retrace our steps for about 20 minutes to the junction and start the steep descent. The track was in good condition and easily followed. There is some beautiful bush. Several kakas were heard and seen. We called in at the old Mill or Averils two-bunk hut, still in reasonable condition (2.30pm). From where we joined the old road to Sutherlands Hut (3.30pm) took about 30 minutes. Several people on mountain bikes passed. A small party was in residence (complete with four-wheeler bike and dog). The hut (1951) is large with eight bunks but would sleep more. It was a bit of a slog back up the 'road' to the locked gate (4.30pm). Here and there the surface had deteriorated and there are plenty of potholes and small washouts. Likewise the section of winding road between the locked gate and the saddle car park is bad and grown in. Most people would not take a vehicle beyond the saddle. Shortly after 5pm we were back at the lodge for a most relaxing evening. We had time to read the interesting historical notes - about the timber cutting days and early settlement of the area, about one man shooting over 200 deer in one morning! We adjusted our clocks for daylight saving. All were in bed shortly after 10pm.
Sunday 6 October: Our objective was Bull Hill. The weather, while not quite as good as yesterday was OK. We left the lodge about 9am and drove to the Dry River car park well before 10am. The old NZ Forest Service sign still marks the start of the track. We dropped down the 200-300 metres or so to the river and started travelling upstream, criss-crossing the small waterway for stretches of bank travel in between. The route badly needs clearing with at least two major windfalls and numerous small ones. Stinging nettle has to be carefully avoided. Again new DoC markers are in place but are a bit far and few between in the upper section of the river travel. Only strong tramping parties would enjoy it! About 11.30am we reached the forest park boundary and paused for a good rest. The ascent of Bull Hill is remarkably steep and took about one and a half hours. A rather chilly wind blew about the upper section. A sign on the unusual 2-3 metre high viewing platform stated 893 metres. The map and track notice give a different figure! Somewhat to my surprise there was no DoC sign advising how many people could stand on the structure safely - it looked sound enough for twelve! While the party enjoyed a longer lunch I departed as soon as possible as I had my little fold-up saw with me and wanted to cut through as many of the smaller windfalls as I could on my way out - which I did. We departed for home again about 5pm, returning the key en route. It had been a very pleasant trip for us all whether tramping it for the first time or renewing our acquaintance. Thanks again to DoC for the comfortable accommodation.