This article was first published in the Tararua Tramper in November 1997
Herepai - Dundas - Cattle Ridge
Wasn't the weather at Easter glorious! With the popularity of family trips ever increasing, the fixture card trip to the Bridge to Nowhere would have had difficulty accommodating the demand, so a second trip was planned for the Northern Tararua region.
On Easter Friday the Whiteford, Vickers and Molineux families headed for the hills from the Putara Road end, meeting up at the Herepai Hut in the early afternoon. The route for the following day could be viewed from the platform built on top of the water tank and the children enjoyed setting the map to identify the peaks. We had purchased a new map for the trip but failed to find the footbridge marked on the ridge immediately before reaching Herepai Hut!
We were away by 5am the following morning climbing up into the sunshine and gazing back at the hut nestled on the ridge far above Ruapae Stream. We made good progress to the top of Herepai Peak and from there to Ruapae Peak where we looked across to view the big dip into the saddle between East Peak and West Peak (the trip was later described as the roller coaster trip). In the distance Pukemoremore could be seen still slightly shrouded in morning cloud - our destination for the day. We made our way along the crumbling ridge to East Peak where we descended into the saddle for lunch.
With our renewed energy West Peak was quickly ascended to the easier travel along the ridge to Walter. The children were enjoying the freedom of route finding along the easily defined ridges, the party becoming more scattered as the older children raced ahead of the more plodding pace of the younger children.
It was 5pm before we were standing on the ridge at the turnoff to descend to Dundas Hut. We could see the three Otago University students who had panted past us mid afternoon arriving at the hut - we were to meet them several times over the next two days as we played hare and tortoise around the same circuit. The evening was beautiful although there was a steady breeze from the south which reduced the temperature. With a tarn located nearby and flat camping sites, we opted to stay and see the last of the setting sun. We pitched our tents as the sun set over the horizon. The gods couldn't have put on a better display of stars that night, complemented by the distant lights of Levin township. What a treat for all of us perched on top of the big dipper ready for the plunge tomorrow.
The sunrise was equally spectacular, the tussock being clothed in red as the sun edged its way above the horizon. We ate our breakfast gazing across to Cattle Ridge and picking out the route we were to ascend later that day. The Ruamahanga River looked far below us shadowed by the surrounding ridges.
Enthusiasm was high as we descended into the depths of the valley, the sun leading the way. We arrived at the river late morning and continued to sidle along the track on the true left above the gorge to have lunch where we crossed to ascend to Cattle Ridge.
Gordon and Jackie with Brittany had trailed behind on the descent but the party was surprised when they still had not appeared after they had consumed lunch. It was 2.00pm and we had the long ascent to get to Cattle Ridge, so the party continued on feeling confident the others couldn't be far behind. It was a steady climb, but we made good progress, climbing for 30 minutes and resting for 5. It was 5.30pm before we reached Cattle Ridge Hut and pitched our tents. Peter and Ray returned to Cattle Ridge with the intention of meeting the others as dusk fell. As darkness set in there was no sign of them.
Peter and Ray headed back to Ruamahanga River early the next morning (6am). The others were camped by the river, having realised they would be unable to reach Cattle Ridge before darkness. 'They had lost time looking for the track when they had first reached the river, as their older map showed the route marked on the true right. With the knowledge the others were fine, Peter and Ray retraced their steps to catch up with the rest of the party who had continued out via Roaring Stag Lodge. They made good time and caught up with them at the junction to Herepai Hut and the roadend. It was a leisurely stroll from here out to the roadend to end a wonderful Easter weekend.
- Members of the party
- Christine & Peter Whiteford, Andrew (11), Arron (7) and friend Stephen (12); Jackie Challis and Gordon Vickers, Julian (11), Brittany (6); Carol (scribe) & Ray Molineux, Anne (11), Stephen (9), Claire (7).