Weekend at Waerenga
5 – 7 December 2008
It was a beautiful sunny evening when seven of us met in the Catchpool car park for a picnic tea on a Friday night in early December. The intention was to use Waerenga as a base to climb Mount Matthews and the forecast promised well. It was a pleasant walk along the Orongorongo track with the golden light of early evening adding a touch of magic. As darkness fell in the valley, it was also a great night for star spotting.
The following day dawned fine and, not long after the proposed departure time of 8.30a.m., we were making our way up river. The South Saddle was reached in time for a late morning tea. There was hardly a breath of wind, the views all around were magnificent and it was tempting to spend the afternoon there relaxing. However we eventually managed to rise up and proceed on our way up the long ridge track to the summit. Christine and I, bringing up the rear, heard some interesting bird sounds -“zzwheesht, zzwheesht”, as if a couple of birds were calling out to each other. After watching quietly for a few minutes, we saw a long tailed cuckoo. It was the first time either of us had seen one and was a moment of great excitement!
Finally at the summit and time for a late lunch. Ahead of us we could see across to Lake Ferry and the great sweep of Palliser Bay. It felt as if we were the luckiest people in Wellington to be in such a place on such a day.
The descent proved uneventful – the last hour from Baines Hut back to Waerenga seemed to be the longest part of the day. Finally after nearly 10 hours tramping, the last of us arrived at the hut, to a great welcome from Brian and Julia Landymore – a lovely surprise to see them as we had thought Julia’s stress fracture was going to prevent them from walking in for a while.
That evening Mary planned to impress us with a recreation of her award winning dish from the Cookery Competition Cuisine en Montagne cooking group. Unfortunately she found she had forgotten one or two key ingredients. However thanks to an ingenious use of breadcrumbs, the situation was saved and we were suitably impressed.
Later Julia tried to teach Barbara and me how to play Upwords, but unfortunately exhaustion made us rather dull pupils and Julia won quite convincingly.
Sunday morning saw us moving around rather gently. Julia showed me the garden she had planted and Mary and I watered the new arrivals. Barbara took the opportunity to do some sketching in the valley and some of the others accompanied Brian to fix a minor plumbing problem. We were reluctant to leave, but pre-Christmas activities needed attention and late morning saw us starting the journey back into Wellington.
A wonderful weekend and one that made us appreciate having such a lovely place in the Rimutaka Forest Park. Starting out on the Friday night gave us the sense that we had had a long weekend away – a leisurely escape from the city.
I would recommend selecting a summer weekend for this trip when there is plenty of daylight. Two of the party had climbed Matthews in Autumn some years ago, barely making it back to the valley floor before darkness fell on a moonless night, and first one torch, and then another failed. They would have spent a night out in the open, but for the thoughtfulness of Brian Landymore, but that is another story…