This article was first published in the Tararua Tramper in August 1998
Solstice Trail of '98
24 June 1998
My dictionary gives a delightfully vague explanation of Solstice - "Either of the two points in the ecliptic where the sun then appears to be".
We Tararua trampers have long known it as something special to celebrate on the first Wednesday after the shortest day. For fifteen years Edith Gates has led an annual tramp through to the Orongorongo to mark the solstice. The Fixture Card scheduled it for 24 June - a gem of a day. Intense blue sky, shafts of low angled winter sun slanted across the bush track, no wind and only a faint trace of frost.
Colourful signs at the Catchpool carpark informed it was the TTC Solstice Tramp and pointed the way to the Five Mile Track (or is it 5km these days).
The advance group stand aside for the "flying squad" to pass, keen to hang a bag of jelly beans on branches beside the path to energise the laggards. The custodians of a box, carry carefully - delectable pavlovas to make the midday celebration memorable at Waerenga.
A procession of trampers idles along in group discussion. Club veterans telling of trips and tramps to younger members as they walked along; of the flying fox cradle that once spanned the Orongorongo providing a safe crossing dry shod. Today we wade the river. They zig-zagged down where once Jacob's Ladder descended almost vertically to the riverside.
Representatives from other clubs had been invited; some seniors had travelled down from the Kapiti Coast to join the outing. Late arrivals trekked in through the morning till space on the "lawn" beside the hut was crowded. There were past Club Presidents (and their Vices), Life Members, ex-Chief Guides and the "Club Patriarch" Greig Royle who had just managed to make yet another tramp before visiting America. Gone are the days when Waerenga Hut was renowned for its warm log fire, steaming billies of tea on the stone hearth, "buckets of stodgy rice and kerosene tins of stew". Over sixty trampers enjoyed a special lunch with pavlova, instant coffee, good company and great camaraderie.
Thanks again Edith for such a wonderful gathering - roll on the next solstice.