Tourist Tracks over Mt Reeves MF
26 February 2014
An account of a Southern Crossing, published in 1920, includes the line ‘a better and more direct route has been cut – your map probably shows the old route’. A route and a map out of date already in 1920? Who could resist investigating!
The line occurs in Across the Tararuas and Beautiful Otaki, the first part written by F.W. Vosseler who was then the new TTC’s Chief Guide but who in this account pretends to be a novice in a group, perhaps a tourist party, led by an experienced Guide. At the top of Mt Reeves, he says, the old route ran along the ridge top towards Cone before dropping down to the Tauherenikau. And there is an inch to the mile trampers’ map from 1915, published for the use of people making the crossing from Greytown to Otaki, which does show the route running north for over a kilometre before dropping down to a hut near the mouth of Reeves Stream.
The route on the TR of the Waiohine was planned first as a stock route and then as a tourist track. It is now the regular tramping track up Mt Reeves from the Woodside road end and remains in remarkably good condition. It is comfortably graded – it was used by horses carrying building materials as far as Alpha – and earns Vosseler’s commendations for the skill of its makers. Now, as a hundred years ago apparently, you first puff up a steep paddock to reach the track which must have started, or perhaps zig-zagged, more gently further on up the valley. Once on top of Reeves, we decided to take the ‘new’ route down what was then a burnt spur and which now still carries only scrubby bush. It is now of course the track to Tutuwai. But at about the 600m contour, we left the track and followed the spur down to Reeves Stream. This was still used until Tutuwai Hut was built but the only signs of a track today are the occasional bits of worn rut in the ground. Lower down, trying to avoid the many windfalls, I risked looking for better going to the left, but didn’t find it. We did find a wasps’ nest and suffered a dozen stings, Tricia collecting eight and the following day needing medical attention. The main spur might not have been much faster, or even safe from wasps, but we had a late lunch.
The old hut was on the TR of Reeves Stream. It was called Tauherenikau Hut until the new one lower down the valley forced a change to Top Tauherenikau Hut. It conformed to the old pattern of segregated sleeping rooms with a communal cooking area. Its exterior covering was malthoid which perhaps explains its early decay, for although it was still being used in 1929, when Neill and Winchcombe slept there on the way to their eponymous ridge, the 1936 map has down-graded it to the status of an unnamed ‘whare’.
It was already after 1.30 and there wasn’t time to look seriously for the hut site. Instead, we tackled the TR spur of Reeves Stream: the really old route. It offers good going right to the top, but is curiously devoid of trees of any size, cleared long ago by wind perhaps. Lower down there is a long stretch of young rimus, two, three and four metres high. At the top, we picked up the recently attached coloured ties which mark the ridge-line from where the track from Walls Whare now meets it but going south to Reeves. And we then scuttled back down the rest of the hundred year old tourist route to the road end. I had warned this MF trip might take nine hours, and it did, to within a couple of minutes.
- Party members
- Colin Cook, Tricia French, David Ogilvie, John Thomson (leader and scribe, Bill Wheeler, Lynne White and Warwick Wright