2nd and 3rd January 2008
We listened to the Ngati Porou guide at the visitor’s centre give a very informative description of the carved sculpures (Te Takapau O Maui) on Mount Hikurangi. We paid our $15 hut fees and drove to the road end at Pahikiroa Station along the Tapuaeroa River, 20kms from Ruatoria.
The Molineuxs had just spent a successful three days with a commercial venture, rafting down the Motu, while the Smiths and Whitefords had spent a great three days in the Waioeka Forest Park which borders the Urewera National Park, walking into Tawa Hut, then down the Kahunui Stream to Koranga Forks. Both groups were fortunate to see several pairs of blue duck. But back to Hikurangi.
As we drove along the road we mistakenly thought Hikurangi was Whakaria, but Hikurangi was completely shrouded in mist. We left our cars over the bridge below the farm and opposite to where the farm dogs were housed, so a fairly safe area. The DOC notice said 4 to 7 hours to the hut, a rather generous time compared to the guide books we had read. There was high cloud and a wind was blowing, which lessened the heat on the metalled farm road devoid of trees. From the car park at 320 metres, we followed the yellow marker posts to the shoulder of the mountain where the hut lay at 1180 metres.
We arrived at the carved sculptures in just under three hours and the mist swirling around the carvings gave the place a mystical feeling. We talked to seven lasses who had left the road end at 7:30am. Three had made the summit. It had been mainly clear for them on the southern side of the mountain. From the carvings we took a line to the red-roofed hut ten minutes above us and got a brew going. We watched the mist slowly clearing from Wharekia and Whanakao to the east, showing their rugged forms. It was time to get the evening meal under way. It was a starry night and our intention was to get up at 4am and see the sunrise.
When the alarm went at 4am we had a cup of tea but the starry night was no more. It was replaced by thick mist. The thought of clambering up the steep mountain in the mist and dark and probably not seeing a sunrise soon lost its appeal and we went back to the sack. Someone stirred at 6am, so it was all on, a second brew and some breakfast and away by 6:45am. It was certainly a bit of a grunt straight up the 200m grassy slope above the hut with our stomachs full of breakfast, but the track then leveled off a bit going into a small forest with lichen hanging from the trees. The track, still climbing, went over a shoulder to the south side with the mist still swirling. It was here, where, according to Maori legend, Maui’s canoe rested on the land before the lands were uplifted.
We contoured around on the southern flank past many flowering spaniards to where the track headed up a scree slope. By now the mist was beginning to lift as we made our way up the gut to the saddle. As we ascended there was abundance of flowers with mountain daisies, yellow ranuculus and edelweiss. We headed to the east and the summit trig. It had taken us just under two hours from the hut. Clear views all round - Aorangi 1273metres to the east, Whanakao 1631 meters to the west and Wharekia 1013 metres just to our north. South east was the sea.
We climbed to the other rounded peak. There is some conjecture which is the higher peak; the guide in the tourist office had stated that this was the highest although the trig is on the other peak. My GPS registered 1743metres on both although the official height is 1752 metres. It is the fifth highest peak in the North Island. We took photos and enjoyed the ambience of the place, the peaks and the views, including looking down on the carved sculptures, which tended to blend in with dying tree stumps around the lower mountain. By 11am it was time to retrace our path back down the gut and to the hut, lunch and another brew, before returning along a very hot and dusty road back to the car.
It had been a great day, the weather had been kind to us and we had had some expansive views from the summit. Often this mountain is shrouded in mist. We returned to Ruatoria to watch the pah wars.
- Party members
- Peter & Christine Whiteford, Carol & Ray Molineux, Trish Gardiner-Smith & Peter Smith (scribe)