Kaitoke - Cone Hut
13-14 January 2001
One of the first club weekend trips in the true new millennium started from Kiwi Ranch on the 13th at 10am, the decision being made to travel along the superb scenic route following the Tauherenikau River, rather than going over Cone Saddle. According to the track times given on my 1987 map this would upgrade the trip to an easy-medium. I thought party members were seasoned enough to tolerate this change.
On the first leg to Smith Creek Shelter we encountered people emerging from the creek bed as we were going in to avoid the treacherous path traversing two large slips. On getting near the Shelter we had to give way to a large Forest and Bird group returning from a day walk. For the rest of the inwards journey we enjoyed the peaceful forest to ourselves until our arrival at Cone Hut where we found two hunters from the Wairarapa in residence with three large frisky dogs.
Pat did not relish having to share the hut with these large boisterous beasts, so decided to backtrack and spend the night at Tutuwai. George and I settled for Cone Hut, where the hunters considerately went outside while we were preparing our evening meal.
To make our sleeping hours more peaceful the hunters locked their dogs outside in the rain for the night. There was a table outside, under which they could have sheltered. This strategy did not really work as the dogs let us know they did not relish their predicament by intermittently whining and barking throughout the night. However the dogs may have been of some benefit in frightening off the local rat population. One entry in the hut log mentioned encountering a rat the size of a chihuahua. Our food and packs, carelessly left in accessible areas, were not touched.
In the morning our primus could not be lit outside because of pouring rain, but I felt comfortable priming and lighting it on the dirt floor, confident this would not ignite. George and I left for Tutuwai after breakfast, making the return journey in better time than we made for the incoming one.
After morning tea with Pat the re-united party set out in cooler conditions than the day before, which made the tramping much more pleasant. Without exception each person in the party was awed by the beauty of the wild river valley. The only person who passed us on the track before we got to Smith Creek was an Englishman who had also spent the night at Tutuwai.
The overall time taken to tramp the track was well in excess of the time quoted on my obsolete map. Part of the reason for this could be due to the age and state of fitness of some party members. But I decided deterioration of the track through repeated onslaughts by the river could also have contributed. In places where the original level track had vanished into the river, the replacement track inevitably consisted of a steep ascent followed by an equally gruelling descent to rejoin the remaining section of low level track. Each detour would add to the original time required to traverse the vanished section of track. I wondered how many sections of track the river had destroyed in its periodic wild bursts after the date at which my map was compiled. I vividly remember one section of beautifully constructed track, bordered on both sides with stout timbers, terminating abruptly at a cliff edge. I thought of all the hard work put in making the missing section of track eventually being nullified by the riverís capricious violence.
The party arrived back at Kiwi Ranch in warm sunshine and good spirits having been invigorated by the wild beauty of the Tauherenikau.
The party: George Spenser, Pat Reesby, Dave Currie (leader and scribe).