16-17 February, 2008
Despite this none of my party pulled out, so the trip was on. We set out early Saturday morning from Wellington but it was after 10.30am when we departed from Kiriwhakapapa road end. The weather had cleared and there was no rain as we trudged up over Blue Range. Lunch was at the track junction to Blue Range Hut. The afternoon was a delightful walk through the goblin forest of moss and lichen-draped trees. This is a part of the Tararuas that I have not visited very much. My first trip was as a new tramper in 1977 in the winter. There was snow on the track then. I had only been back once over the intervening 30 years so enjoyed the easy travel on a ‘proper’ tramper’s track…
Light rain started after lunch and by 3pm it was more persistent - parkas the order of the day. We arrived at Cow Creek in good time, admiring the magnificent swing bridge. This has a solid metal deck and has a five-people-at-a-time limit. Tina checked out the Waingawa River for trout and declared it good fishing. The river came up over the evening and was running quite high and dirty by nightfall.
The next morning was fine and clear with blue skies and no wind. The river had gone down so we set off to Cow Saddle, crossing the river at the hut and saving the 25 minutes it would have taken via the swing bridge. Once over the saddle it is down Cleft Creek. My memory of my earliest visit was of a lovely bushy creek. About eight years ago the stream was scoured out by a flood, leaving barren clay and shingle; most unattractive and also a rough scramble. Now the bush is regenerating. There was a wonderful number of beech saplings at over waist height and the toi toi was magnificent. A highlight was to spot two Kereru flying up the creek. They perched high above us on a branch and proceded to mate after a bobbing up and down routine by the male bird. We were amazed they did not fall off their lofty perch.
We clambered out of the creek bed back onto the track and enjoyed the easy pleasant travel. The track is well marked and, once past the junction with the Ruamahanga, follows along a high bench above the river. The only hazard was avoiding wasps. Tina was the unlucky fourth person in line. The bush becomes quite scrubby as we reached the farmland where we passed a very comfortable looking private hut that some of the local farmers have set up as part of a private walk.