An epic trip, with mud, mud, mud and infinite hard steps -Waiopehu Hut Loop, Tararua Forest Park
26-27 May 2018
It was a memorable trip! Unfortunately mostly due to wrong reasons. Rugged terrain; hills and hills; mud, mud and mud; walking for hours at night; 12 hours of walk on second day; arthritis and lack of fitness. Last two are about me, and previous two were because of these conditions …
Ruth, Adina and I and a few others had been in the TTC bushcraft course in April and May. Dave kindly offered to take us for a course refresher in the Tararua Forest Park. His new wife Lisa joined us too.
Initially the plan was to go to Field Hut but owing to a bad weather forecast, Dave changed to Waiopehu Hut.
The first day, the Waiopehu Track went up from about 150m to 950m across some 10km. Most members of the group were quite fit, but I wasn’t! I am a slow walker, but usually I make the track with about 20 to 30% extra time. So 3-5hrs walk on first day seemed feasible for me.
We started walking around 11:30am on Saturday. I struggled to keep up with others and they were very kind and carried my pack half of the way. Even with such help, we got to Waiopehu Hut at 7:30pm! We went through deep mud patches right at the end. Ruth, who was carrying my pack, had a little dip into the mud, avoided the worst thanks to my pack … At least my pack was of some good use!
In the hut, Ruth and Andina prepared a warm and filling pasta with tuna and peas. I had dessert Sans Rival (meringue with butter cream) from my favorite Sans Rival bakery in Newlands. We had so much food that we asked a student to help finish it.
We were very happy in the morning with amazing views from the hut. The hut is located on a ridge at 950m, so we could see the whole, Levin to the sea. The forecast for the day was rain, snow up to 600m and gale winds. So seeing only high clouds we got ready as soon as possible and left the hut at 9:05am. Since we were all feeling well, and being downhill we decided to do the loop via Gable End Ridge. This was a little bit longer (estimated 6hrs), but we would climb the Twin Peak (1097m), walk along the ridge and then Ohau Gorge at the end.
We had spectacular views from the Twin Peak and through the ridge, and stunning trees with moss hanging all over.
Unfortunately, the track had even more mud than the previous day and many, many hard steps to go through. I thought going down would be a bit faster than climbing up. But my body could not keep up with so many deep and rugged steps. And again I was dragging the team. We thought we could do the walk in 7+ hours, but we ended up taking 12 hours! Again the rest of the group rescued me by carrying my pack and we walked in darkness for 4 hours. For the last hour my head torch ran out of light and I managed to get even slower! Dave rescued me, lending me his marvellous torch and I dragged my arthritic knees to where we parked the TTC van.
I am very grateful for the group that supported me so much and the timing of weather forecast was wrong and we had heavy rain just after the walk!!
The walk was a refresher of the bushcraft course. So I went along to gain more skills and fitness. I gained so much more useful experience than I ever imagined and I also tested my fitness and mental capability. Unfortunately, I made a very risky mistake believing that I was capable of doing this track without too much struggle. The biggest lesson for me was “know your limitations”!
Despite epic delays in completing the walk, most of the time everyone, amazingly, dealt with the problems with a great sense of humour. Thank you everyone for keeping up with me!! It wasn’t an easy treat.
- Party members
- Ruth Crawford, Dave Grainger (leader), Adina Nachum, Rissa Ota (scribe), Lisa Wilson