Aorangi N-S traverse
Labour Weekend, 20-22 October 2007
Our group of eight E/M trampers left Wellington at 7.30 on the Saturday of Labour Weekend and were at the Putangirua Pinnacles carpark by 9.30. After a car shuffle, we set off at 10.45 up the river, then to the Pinnacles viewpoint track. Somehow Christine managed to have her pack carried by a handsome young man as far as the track turnoff. Pleasant tramping conditions saw us lunching part way up the 4WD track in a spot sheltered from the northerly. Then followed the long traverse over various bumps, before a fairly horrid descent to Washpool Hut - loose gravel and leaves underfoot, not quite enough of anything to hang on to, and steep and slippery. Those of us who'd done this bit before had forgotten this aspect of the track. We reached the hut at 5.30, having exceeded the suggested time in Mark Pickering's route guide by an hour. The hut was almost full, but Jenny knew in advance that at least one hut would be occupied, so we were carrying tent flies, and we established a camp across the Makotukutuku Stream. Other TTC members were at the other good spot just upstream.
An 8.30 start next morning saw us plodding up the 500 metres to near point 765, enjoying the beautiful vegetation - huge matai, rimu, hinau and beech trees, lots of lancewood, libertia just coming into flower, and plenty of birds soon to be confused or stimulated by Mary's bird-call gadget and Dianne's whistling. We heard warblers, ducks, kingfishers, woodpigeons, whiteheads and bellbirds. Great views of Palliser Bay and the Kaikouras were enjoyed as we walked. Lunch was eaten partway down towards Pararaki Hut, which we reached at about 1.45 after another steepish stretch. We lay about in the sunshine at the hut, having decided that there might be campsites up the north branch of the Pararaki beyond the initial climb. Alas, when we got there, there wasn't anything too salubrious, so we reluctantly continued on, most of us fairly tired after negotiating rough track, and were delighted to come upon a big flat area with a meandering stream not long after crossing the saddle. It was 4.15 and took about two seconds to decide to camp there. Syd made a big fire and a relaxed evening followed: lots of food and conversation, a bit of smoke in our eyes, and a very vocal young morepork which flitted from tree to tree around our camp, calling out and being called back to by Mary, helped the evening pass. There were wind gusts throughout the night, but no rain.
Another 8.30 start on Monday had us heading down to the stream crossing, then sidling around to the very pretty and mossy ridge which led to a fork in the river, then down the stream with several crossings en route, to Kawakawa Hut. Having long since abandoned any idea of doing the leg to Mangatoetoe Hut, we set off down the Otakaha stream for the coast. A brisk passing southerly kept us moving down river until we found a sheltered hillside for lunch, with occasional bursts of sunshine in between the cloud bands. Kawakawa Hut is accessible to 4WD vehicles, and several passed us as we walked. After rejecting one offer to transport our packs, some of us accepted a later one - but not Jenny and Bev, who staunchly carried their packs all the way. Good that some still have a bit of pride! Christine once again smiled sweetly at yet another handsome young man, and ended up riding the rest of the way on the back of a farm bike. Somehow all the party and all the packs ended up at the woolshed where two cars had been left for safekeeping on Saturday. It was about 1.30pm. The trip was a lot of fun, and a good time was had by all, even if there were some aching muscles, creaking knees, nettle stings, and signs of vegetation attack among the group.