A Southern Crossing with the Children
by Peter Smith
We had wondered for some time when would be an appropriate time to take our children across this classic route. Anniversary weekend seemed suitable. The weather forecast was good and the children were fairly fit after their Christmas trip in the Angelus Basin, climbing Mt Angelus and walking out along the Robert Ridge.
Carol and Trish and the children stayed on Thursday night at Parawai Hut. Claire was surprised that she didn't have to do any tramping before she got to a hut. An old codger staying at Parawai was telling the children accounts of his trips in the hills. His best pair of boots was when someone went off with his old pair leaving another pair behind. "Those boots lasted me for years." he said.
The group left soon after 8.30am next morning. The first part across the open ground was very hot even at this early hour. A game of 'Vegetable, Animal and Mineral' was played to encourage the children, but this didn't work too well when those at the back were fielding the answers and those in front dropped back to listen and the pace slowed. Once in the bush though, the children motored. Nigel and Stephen rushed to claim first arrival at Field Hut.
A lunch break and up along the board-walk which the children enjoyed. It was great to look back at Otaki in the distance. The children's two days supplies of sweets were quickly diminishing. As the mist wafted in and out, it gave the children a new zest of energy - they were playing in a new environment. As the end came in sight the wind picked up. Kime Hut then appeared out of the mist, it was 5pm.
Ray and I left Otaki Forks at 6.30pm after work on the Friday. I twisted my ankle early on and Ray had helped out with some of the load. We reached Field Hut at 9pm. There were four in the hut who were having an early start plus there was Carol and her Middle Crossing group coming in much later. Also we thought it would be good to catch up with the rest of the family. Darkness drew in. On the tops the wind really built up. We had to lie behind the tussock to find our overtrousers, mitts and balaclavas which weren't on the top of our packs and put them on. We hadn't anticipated this wind. We arrived at Kime fairly exhausted at midnight. A quick brew revived us enough to get to bed. It had been a long day for everybody.
The weather next morning didn't look too promising - still quite a lot of wind and mist. We thought we might be staying at Kime for the day and perhaps returning the way we came in. However, the wind dropped a bit and at 10am we decided to go up to Hector and see how we went. Morning tea at Hector and we explained to the children the origins of the cross. The mists were clearing and views of Wellington were coming into sight. Over The Beehives and it was downhill most of the way; we could show the children where we were going. Edelweiss was blooming as usual in abundance. A stop at Atkinson for lunch and around the Dress Circle and up to Alpha for the last climb of the day. Being out on the tops was exhilarating and the zephyr blowing helped to keep the heat away. Back in the bush and to Alpha just before 4pm, the children had done very well. The hut was only half full so we managed to find some bunk room. Some trees near the porch had been cut ready for work on the extension which was starting the next week. Dinner in the setting sun and then it was an early bed.
We left just after 9am and headed to Hells Gate and past the Bull Mound turn-off. We decided to go down Omega to hit the Tauherenikau earlier but although the start was OK the lower part was more overgrown than we expected and slowed the party down considerably. Claire left her stick at a rest place and was in tears, she had lost her friend and tore back up the slope to find it with Carol in hot pursuit. It was after 3pm by the time we reached the river and a welcome cool off. Nigel desperately wanted to go to Cone Hut but that was the wrong direction. We called in at Tutuwai and then down across the swing bridge to the campsite five minutes away.
Some of the children knew the site from a previous trip from Walls Whare via Cone, where they had seen an eel by the riverside. They went off to check on the eel. As I went down to the riverbank, there was a scream and a large boulder had rolled down over Stuart's leg as he was coming up. He couldn't walk. Perhaps it would be better in the morning. The warden at Tutuwai had a radio for a morning sked. This was not the way we wanted to end the trip.
Next morning Carol left at just after 8am with all the children except Stuart who was still in considerable pain when he tried to walk and was rather worried on how he was going to get out of his present predicament. Ray and I went up to Tutuwai to send a message out. Here we came across Bill Stephenson and his family party doing the Holdsworth to Kaitoke trip. They were having a wonderful time. They came down the river and watched as the helicopter arrived. A relieved Stuart was examined and, with Trish, headed off to Masterton. It was 11.30am.
We continued down the valley with the other party and all had lunch in the sun at Smith Creek. Then we pushed on to try and catch up to the children, but they were too far ahead for us. The heat was intense as we pushed up the Puffer listening to the continuous crackling of gorse pods dispersing their seeds. We made Kiwi Ranch by 3.20pm but the children had arrived 40 minutes before having made extremely good time in the heat. At the top of the Puffer the children were met by a couple going the other way, who asked them where they had come from. "The Southern Crossing" they replied. The woman said she had tried to get to Alpha on several occasions. You could see the expressions of pride on the children's faces. At the carpark the children were offered a lift to the van at Kiwi Ranch but "We have to finish the Southern Crossing!" came their reply. Our vehicle had been left there by Allan Holden from the other party. So while I drove to Masterton to pick up Stuart and Trish the others went to Upper Hutt. Finally round to Otaki Forks to pick up the other vehicle.
So in all another great trip and the children agreed too. The weather had been kind to us, the children had learnt a bit more about the club, its huts and the Southern Crossing. Nigel was very keen to come down to the club on Tuesday night and tell the members about his trip. I am sure in years to come they will be able to recall 'When I did my first Southern Crossing'.
Southern Crossing party members: Carol & Ray Molineux, Anne (10), Stephen (8) & Claire (6); Peter Smith, Trish Gardiner, Stuart (11) & Nigel (7).