This article was first published in the Tararua Tramper in September 1999 Contrasting 80th Trips 31 July, 1 August 1999 On Saturday 31 July I led a trip up the Smiths Creek waterfalls. The party was John Andrews, Michael Bartlett, Jane Furkert, Syd Moore, Nina Price, Jennifer Roberts, Michael Taylor and myself. This was an excellent party that moved together well in some difficult country.
Our trip started in sunshine up the Puffer track, but by the time we left the track for the cut-over to Smiths Creek it began to rain lightly. The creek was somewhat up and lightly discoloured. The party was given the option to avoid the scrambling creek travel by going up the spur, but they were very keen to carry on. We arrived at the main fall, which is a spectacular vertical drop to a pool, before midday. There was more water in that fall than I have seen before. Deciding to complete the water travel before lunch we by-passed the main fall on the true right and continued up the creek. The second fall which has a lower drop and upper cascade, is climbed first on the true left then crossed at the top of the drop to get up the cascade with the aid, at present, of some big logs from last November's storm. After another cascade the travel improves remarkably and lunch was had at the top forks in cool but not wet conditions.
Ten minutes after starting up the centre spur from lunch however, we first enjoyed hail then snow. Any urge to take off jackets instantly disappeared. We zigzagged through open scrub to begin with, then had good travel in forest to the open top of the spur before dropping straight over onto the Pylon road. At that height it was very cold but soon warmed up as we descended. The final 40 minutes on the Bridle Track to Kiwi Ranch is very overgrown, mainly with toitoi.
On Sunday 1 August I led (if one can lead oneself) a cycling trip. The Saturday cycling trip had postponed to Sunday, my two party members were ill or sought the company of more people; thus I found myself, as we say with a "lack of support". This was also evident in a totally flat back tyre. I threw the gear in the car and drove to Karapoti.
There were some pleasant 4-wheel bikers there. I spoke to them and found out a bit about the area, before pumping up the tyre and setting out up the gorge. In the cold morning shadow I rode through a succession of discoloured puddles till I came to one with some rocks sticking up like shark infested custard. I knew I did not want to ride through it. Suddenly it occurred to me that I didn't have to. If I had been with others I would have, because it would be expected.
The sun came into the valley, it was a perfect day for riding and I could do anything I liked, i.e. a ride I wanted to do because I had not done it before - and a walk past the shark infested custard. And that is what I did. I spoke to a couple of gun cyclists at McGhies Bridge and rode up the hill past the first intersection but soon after that alternately walked and rode on the steeper gradient. Pumping the tyre up again helped and I was riding when I reached the top junction. This impressed a couple of young chaps I met there though I told them I'd only ridden off and on in the last half hour. They were most concerned that I knew where I was going which was very nice. They asked me where I thought I was going and fortunately it coincided with where I was actually going. From this point the riding is easy and soon the old mill site was reached (I was able to give useful route tips to a trail biker here). A long and cool downhill ride then before coming out at the Totara Park bridge. The grass was soft and very heavy going before lunch at the northern end of the reserve. The track through to the Akatarawa Road was excellent and the ride back on the road made very reasonable after some more exercise with the pump. The final 1.5km on the new road in the Karapoti Gorge gave me the chance to appreciate the scenery there. Including lunch (which was brief) the ride took 3hr 40min.