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Heels 1968

The Upper Otaki Gorge: or How to get saturated on a no-parka trip

page 17

The Upper Otaki Gorge: or How to get saturated on a no-parka trip

Once upon a time - in March it was - 5 male carbide lamps and 1 female electric lamp set off from Otaki Forks in search of Plateau Stream. They found it, just before midnight, hiding next to a rather lowly saddle. At 10 a.m. next day they set off after a surfeit of talk and "fire" lighting, only to stop in the bed of the Otaki river to inflate various tubes and lilos. Spirits were high, the river was low, and worms were turning. Not long afterwards waterfalls were nigh, temperatures were low, and rapids were a-churning. A warming-up stop was held about thirty feet above river-level, near some mighty big driftwood. Back into the tubes, and out into the great grey-green, greasy river. The first pair of spectacles was lost when its owner was swamped by a smallish treacherous waterfall. Wettish bread and other pack contents were viewed with some distaste soon afterwards. The day wore on, and our behinds nearly wore off in some rocky wee rapids. By now, as Ross put it, the trip was becoming "interesting". Interesting scenery - huge boulders, deep pools, and a distinct lack of vegetation for the first 30 feet up the valley walls. Interesting also in learning how to cross a 20 mph neck-deep river, or in retrieving a pack from the middle of a scary-looking cataract after nearly being sucked into it.

By 5 p.m. it was plain that we would be camping out again. The Tararua peaks looked savage in the last of the sunlight as we crossed to a suitable flat in the dank recesses of the valley. 3 wet pits soon steamed themselves to a semblance of dryness beside a roaring fire and six sleeping bag covers soon lay scattered around on unfamiliar moonscape. At 4 p.m. the drizzle started tocking on the covers a warning of approaching derision, which fortunately came to little more than temporary cloud. Our packs again doubled in weight as we took to the water again, but our main thoughts were of the sun, which shone happily all the way down to Penn Creek, where we spent the last of our precious energy on a side-trip of nearly 2 hours, just to visit a hut which belonged to Tom. Penn Creek Hut or something, I think he called it.

A brew and some food brought us back to life. The river, although larger, was somewhat tamer now - long pools, less tricky sidling, and some navigable rapids which, along with the psychological advantage of a hot sun, contributed to some long voyages in armchair comfort. By 4.30 we had drifted serenely under the bridge and disembarked onto the river-flats for the slog back to the car, feeling that this had been something more than the usual Tararua week-end trip.

- P.K.R.

page 18

- P.K.R.

Party: T.S.Clarkson (leader), Gerald Edmunds, Lesley Bagnall, Ross Gooder, Clive Bolt, Peter Radcliffe.