20-26 April 2001
With none of the party working fulltime, we got away at 2 pm on Friday, and spent the night in a comfortable cabin in the Waipukurau Holiday Park, at a very reasonable $12.00 per person.
Early on Saturday morning we drove in to Mastersí Shelter and set off, in hot sunny weather, up the steep Golden Crown Spur. We reached Aranga Hut at about 3:30 pm to find it already occupied by two hunters, whose belongings seemed to have expanded to fill every conceivable space. We pitched our tent some distance from the hut just before the cold, south-easterly rain started. It rained steadily all night and on Sunday morning we democratically resolved to stay in the tent for the day rather than face the tops in unsuitable weather. The day was spent playing 20 Questions and completing a giant cryptic crossword Kerry just happened to have with her or such an emergency.
On Monday morning we set off around the tops in fine clear weather with a cool breeze. There were splendid views until we approached "U" itself when the mist came down to meet us. The mist cleared however when we reached the well-marked track through the bush from Trig "U" to Potae and stopped for lunch. Once up Potae, a further 45 minutes (during which we found several paraphanta, common in this area) brought us to Ruahine Corner Hut. Here we spent a convivial night with three Pukekohe Tramping Club members who had come up from Lake Colenso that day.
Tuesday was again fine as we set off across the tussock-covered limestone plateau, past the odd doline, to Trig "Y" and down the untracked ridge towards Ikawatea Forks Hut. This ridge, although marked in places by coloured tape, requires careful navigation and accurate compass work. I managed to take the wrong spur near the bottom (despite having navigated it successfully twice before) and we emerged in the Ikawatea Stream half an hour up from the hut. Although the stream provides generally easy travel, there is a rather daunting, though short, gorge about ten minutes downstream. It was already rather late and, after inspecting the gorge, the wire cable (complete with orange asset label!) strung along the rock face above, and the fixed aluminium ladder, we camped for the night.
On Wednesday morning (with the aid of a rope) everyone successfully negotiated the rock, packs were lowered, and we continued down the stream in time for morning tea at Ikawatea Forks Hut. This is a very isolated hut which is no longer accessible by maintained tracks. In how many hut books today could one find the entry one made seven years ago - and in a book only a quarter full? We then started up the old track to the Nomans tops. This track, seven years ago, was in good condition but has not been maintained since. The lower half is still easy to follow through open bush and very old, large blazes. However, above this the windfalls and closely packed beech saplings are fast taking over. Within a year or two it will be completely overgrown and will require skilful navigation and some physical effort to negotiate, particularly on the broad middle section of the ridge with its splendid, very large beech trees.
About four hours after leaving Ikawatea Hut we emerged onto the tops. The route from here to Nomans Hut, once controlled by DOC, is now Maori land. The Ruahine Hunting Club, who control the area, seemed very happy to grant permission to cross it and left Nomans Hut open for us - we could even have had hot showers if we had been willing to carry a caravan-type gas bottle with us! Most of the route from the bush-edge to Nomans Hut is along very muddy quad bike tracks (put in recently by the new owners) and passes a brand new lodge, complete with television, which is situated close to the Nomans trig - offered to us for $40 per person per night. Before descending the 4WD road to Nomans Hut we made good use of a cell phone to let friends and family in Wellington know that we were running a day late.
Thursday was a glorious day - clear blue sky and the faintest of breezes. We dawdled our way around to Golden Crown, admiring the views of the Main and Hikurangi Ranges, and then down to Mastersí Shelter, food (with bottomless coffee- and tea-pots) at the tearooms in Onga Onga, and then home. A most enjoyable trip in interesting country - with a party tolerant of its leaderís occasional failings!
Trip members: Masaki Kojima, Pat Reesby, Kerry Popplewell, Bruce Popplewell (Leader and Scribe).