Pines - Barra Track - Mitre Flats - Waingawa River
Sunday 20 February 2000
The trip was one of a series of 'new look' Sunday tramps designed to cater for a wider range of people. It certainly worked - we had twelve on this trip, including two non-members, and the route turned out to be magnificent.
We couldn't have been more fortunate with the weather - a classic azure sky and not a breath of wind. Mitre Peak stood out in perfect profile and the Waingawa was most inviting as the track began to climb and we warmed up.
The Barra Track begins as a country ramble but becomes rocky and tangled with tree roots, with steep drop-offs for the unwary. However, this was a non-hurry trip and easy did it. We had a number of pleasant little interludes in beautiful mossy hollows, where group members continued to marvel at the spectacular weather.
Closer to the hut, we took the side route down to the river rather than the longer bridge route. The river crossing was fairly non-threatening, although some party members who had not experienced raw river travel discovered that boulders and rocks have to be treated with respect.
Lunch was fairly late because of our late start (see comment later). By the time the billy was boiled and tea was had, it was close to 2pm and time to head back down the river.
This was the really magical section of the trip. The Waingawa was deliciously green, with deep pools that were irresistible in the glorious afternoon sun. Although we had no choice but to swim with our packs in places and we were in at least up to our knees for much of the distance, there was one section where everyone just downed gear and plunged in for the sheer fun of it.
Unfortunately, time was rushing on and we had to keep moving. By 4pm we were losing the sun in the sheer gorges and getting a touch of chill.
Much as it was sad to leave the river and go back onto the track at 5.30pm, it was lovely to be able to enjoy the warmth of the late afternoon sun as we walked the final stretch back to the cars.
Many thanks to John Thomson whose idea it was to put this trip on the fixture card, and to all the members of the party, who made it a thoroughly enjoyable day all round.
I have some tips for those who may do this route in the future. Our party was comfortable with the trip in high summer, but it might have been a worry had the river been even a little higher. Swimming with packs was not a problem, but some of the knee-high crossings were challenging because the Waingawa was very swift in places and the river bed was very slippery with large rocks. I was glad I had thoroughly quizzed anyone who enquired who was unknown to me, as I think some Sunday regulars might find this trip scary with a bit more water in the river; anyone who had not brought an alpine pole or some kind of walking stick was frantically looking for one amongst the driftwood. I would also suggest an earlier start - 7.30 or 8am at the railway station - as it is a long drive to the Pines, and most would not have got back home before 8.30pm.
Club members on the trip were: Nina Price, John Thomson, Heidi Thomson, Andre Visser, Kate Williams, John Willetts, Alan Clarke, Mark Sherriff, Mike Arnold, Marg Conal (leader and scribe), and non-members: Rada Nedekjlovic and Dorothy Sole.