This article was first published in the Tararua Tramper in December 1997
Sixteen Rampage on Richmond
Labour Weekend 1997
It wasn't a great beginning - we reached the road-end at Top Valley about 11 pm and ten minutes after the bus disappeared into the darkness we had one person (who shall remain nameless) wishing his boots were on his feet instead of in Picton, and another person wishing that their weekend supply of insulin was in their pack instead of still on the bus. Four people set off on a mission to the nearest farmhouse to arrange to retrieve the insulin and the rest of us walked up to a campsite by the river.
Things could only get better - and indeed they did. Next morning we were awoken by the sound of a ute returning the four with the insulin (thanks to Picton Police who intercepted the bus). So it was the whole group - 15 in boots and one in running shoes, that set off up the forestry road to Mt Richmond.
And an interesting group it was - some of us worked out that:
- 1 person (who shall remain nameless) had dated 4 others in the group
- 4 people had dated 2 others in the group
- 3 people had dated 1 person in the group
- 1 couple were married
- 3 couples were currently living together, being seen together, or touching each other in public.
Leaving only two out of 16 who'd never laid a finger on anyone else. A typical reflection of the complexity of TTC social structures?
But I digress - back to the business of tramping - our primary goal of course. It was a brilliant day and we set off on the steady climb up to Richmond Hut on the saddle, reaching the hut about the time we got desperate for lunch. The water tank was a popular spot - and there was a lot of basking in the sun going on - till our leader (soon to be renamed Derek the Bastard) insisted that we get moving up the mountain. Great views of the Kaikouras, the Waiau Valley and the Nelson Lakes area kept us going as we slogged up Mt Richmond to the summit at 1760 metres. From the top, Golden Bay and the rest of Richmond Forest Park were added to the view. Awesome! Tappy was clear and looking good for the TTCers heading up that way.
Derek the Bastard struck again and we were off - down onto a saddle, up a little climb and then along the ridge playing "spot-the-cairn" and looking for a sign of the hut on the bushline. We got to the signpost to the hut around 6pm. The early arrivals had pitched tents just above the bushline as there wasn't much flat space around the hut. Alpine camping with a view of the Waiau and Tappy - great!
The chopping block area just outside the hut door was a popular spot for pre-dinner relaxation - as the cooks crammed into the classic Forest Service 6-bunk hut. The view was good and the presence of a possum carcass and a huge spaniard added to the ambience. It was about this time that the muesli bar belonging to one of the team (who shall remain nameless) ended up on the ground. Applying the 4-second rule, the owner retrieved it and continued eating - but seconds later spat it out rapidly - having quietly contemplated:
a) the spot it hit the ground (about 2 metres in front of the hut door)
b) the nocturnal habits of male trampers seeking relief in the night.
Dinner was a welcome sight except for the member of the team who found fur from our decomposing friend in her bowl - the 4-second rule couldn't be applied this time so the bowl had to be de-contaminated before dinner could proceed. From then on the chopping block diners were more careful what they did with their food and utensils.
For some reason we all went to bed early that night - and we were up and away at about 8.45 on Sunday morning. We climbed back onto the ridge and then up onto Mt Fell. Looking back at Tappy - which was now in clag - we wondered how Hugh's team were doing. As we came down off Mt Fell we met the first of Carol's party doing the trip in reverse direction. And as we dropped down to the fixed wire, things started to look murky back the way we had come. We went down the wire in threes to avoid kicking rocks onto each other and at the bottom found two more of Carol's group waiting to go up. We passed the rest of her group as we set off down through the bush in a rather steep descent to our lunch spot.
While we ate, a lone hunter came over the brow of the hill and was taken aback to see 16 of us sitting around. Lucky for him we were going the other way. Apart from our fellow Tararuas he was the only person we saw on the whole trip.
After lunch it was more downhill - much of it steep and hard on the knees. Derek the B was heard to proclaim several times - "I don t remember authorising a rest break" - but most of us chose to ignore him and adopted the 5-min-break-every-30-minutes routine to stop the legs from shaking. As we descended the sun came out and it got hot and the aqua pools of the Pelorous River were a welcome sight. The pool by Middy hut is superb and the brave (and the smelly) headed in for a dip and a wash. More lying around basking in the sun before dinner. Dinner was impressive and some members of the party (who shall remain nameless) managed to partake of all three food groups meals. Perhaps the gannet should be the mascot For the TTCs??
After dinner conversation turned to alternative healing methods and the subject of auras was raised. We were all fairly certain that the socks of one female member of the group (who shall remain nameless) would definitely exhibit a yellow aura - after a nocturnal emissions directional error made earlier in the trip. You really do have to allow for wind speed.
Labour Day dawned with a light shower - but it was all over and the sun was out again by the time we started walking out along the Pelorous River. The river is a series of deep blue-green pools - very beautiful - and tempting on a hot day. We had a leisurely lunch break by the river and the keen and the mad had a swim.
We got to the road-end early - well - what some of us thought was the road-end - it was a road and there were cars parked there. But did we get to sit down and wait for the bus? Oh no - Derek the B had other ideas. A forced route-march down the road to some mythical "true" road-end. Our leader soon realised that he had been misled by an old map - and did allow us to stop - about 2 minutes before the bus pulled up in front of us.
Back to Picton, where some of us had a few beers. On to the boat, where most of us had a few beers, and a feed of ferry fish and chips. Good to see that our leader was so inspired by the outdoor experience that he bivvied out on the back deck for the whole crossing. The Richmond Range is a great bit of country and amazingly empty of other trampers. Get yourself together a well integrated group and go there!
- We were
- 15 (who shall remain nameless) led by Derek the Bastard.