Saturday 13 November 1999
This is one of the classic fit day trips traversing the Rimutaka Range over Papatahi (902 Metres) the second highest peak in the range. I decided to plan this trip from east to west as the previous trip some years ago was west to east thus allowing a different perspective. As it turned out some torrential rain on Friday 12th meant we did not have to face the five crossings of the Orongorongo River until well after 3pm on Saturday.
The proposed route was Onoke, Papatahi, Orongorongo River and back along the Whakanui Track to Sunny Grove. This required a shuttle from Sunny Grove in Wainuiomata to the Onoke Farm Settlement on the Western Lake Road from Featherston. Saturday started out brilliantly fine and remained that way until about 5pm. A shuttle picked us up at 7am from Sunny Grove and deposited us at the Onoke road end about 8.35am.
The Onoke Road access is not clearly signposted though there is a DoC sign which is not highly visible from the road about 1/2 km before the Onoke bridge. The access road is the first on the right after the Onoke bridge crossing Boundary Stream. It is possible for the shuttle to easily turn around.
The track then heads off between a paddock and irrigation channel in a NW direction heading towards a bushy bank and four-wheel drive track. Once in the bush and on a four-wheel drive track DoC markers commence. There are still a few fences and farm gates which have to be negotiated before getting to the true tramping track. Once over Battery Stream there is a steady climb up to a low saddle at 320 metres. The track in the lead-up to this saddle has become overgrown, in addition to big patches of nettle that take time to negotiate if you don't have PVC gloves and over trousers. Once over the saddle there is a short sidle down to Joe's Hut on the banks of the Wharapapa River where we arrived about 11am for a morning tea break.
The track to Papatahi starts up-river on the true right of the Wharapapa River several hundred metres from Joe's Hut. The crossing of the Wharapapa River is marked with a large cairn on the true left of the river bank. We departed the Wharapapa River about 11.20am and began the 720 metre climb to Papatahi. The climb is fairly straightforward though it is steep for about 300 metres from the 300 metre contour. From about 600 metres it flattens out and we were able to enjoy the occasional views of the southern Wairarapa coast and a high and muddy Ruamahanga River. The new tourist lodge further down the Western Lake Road was also visible. The Papatahi trig clearing was reached about 1.15pm for a welcome lunch
stop in very sunny conditions.
The party departed Papatahi about 1.45pm descending down the spur leading to North Boulder Creek (NBC). We hit the unnamed creek above NBC at 2.45pm and NBC shortly after. There was a lot of water in NBC however there is a marked dry weather track along this creek which provides the quickest access to the Orongorongo River further down stream. While the water level in the Orongorongo River was high and swift, the valley widens and the river itself is braided in parts. We were comfortably able to cross the river five times in twos and threes reaching Whakanui Creek about 3.55 for an afternoon tea stop.
The return journey was along the Whakanui Track arriving at Sunny Grove shortly after 6.20pm. This part of the trip was uneventful apart from the heavy rain about 5pm and Dave Reynolds finding an old horse shoe. In summary the trip was about 10 hours in duration with stops of up to an hour or more for the faster party members.
Party members were: Tim Stone, Ken Fraser, Dave Reynolds, Bill Allcock, Sieny Pollard, Yvonne Ashworth, Colin Cook, Masaki Kojima and Bernard Molloy (scribe).