The Kaweka-Kaimanawa Expedition
The Kaweka-Kaimanawa Expedition
I feel bound to say, right at the beginning, that this trip was the first club trip in living memory to operate for 10 days without a drop of rain. Absurd, but true.
The eight people who were to partake in this frolic assembled on Napier Railway Station on a fine-mid-February afternoon. Jokes were being handed round like Minties when the Kombi rolled up, containing a bearded HTC version of P.Barry [unclear: Esq.] who kindly chauffered, amused, scared, educated and even transported us the forty miles west of Napier up onto the Blackbirch Range. After a while we cast a last look at the road and ambled off into rather familiar looking beech forest. The great trek had begun. Forty minutes of easy forest paths passed by before we stopped for the day at Makahu hut, close to a NZFS nursery. (Makahu hut was even equipped with a hot shower).
The next morning saw us grinding away up through clearing mist and Forest Service experimental plots on to Kaweka J. (5657'). At this stage it became apparent that this trip had three "fitties" - in the form of Keith, Gerald, and Nick. Lesley and Peter took off with these three on a side trip to Studholme Saddle hut and Kaiarahi, leaving the others to the heat and flies of Kaweka J. until our return at midday. Our two HTC companions decided to turn back then, so a rehash of food, and farewells took place. A few hours walking over gently undulating tops in the full glare of the sun and we arrived at Ballard hut, settled in a tiny bushed saddle, some distance off the main ridge. At this point we realised that this was to be a luxury trip - at every stop we made throughout the trip we were waited on hand and foot by flies. Blowflies and little grey-striped flies - all eager to please, fanning us with their wings, attempting to clean out dirty billies, even down to little details like waking us up at first light - 5.30 a.m.
The second morning saw us plugging up on to the main ridge, sweating under heavyish packs and a hot sun. Stops (ostensibly for admiring the view of miles and miles of eroded ranges) were made on most of the knobs which poked themselves up out of the bush. Blazed track, followed by bush-bash, then a short blazed spur led us on to Venison Top, where we dinedpage break page break page break page break page 19
in luxurious comfort on the bush edge. This area was aptly named - there were remains of several deer scattered over it. In fact, the entire trip was punctuated by many sightings of deer, their signs and skeletons. Dropping off to a bush saddle, followed by a steady grind up to the flat open top of Ahurua took up most of the afternoon. A short canter to Mangaturutu hut without packs was rewarded by a magnificent view from its heli-pad situated at the top of a bluff. Looking north we could see the Panekiri Range in the distance, and on all sides a silent, dark green expanse of rugged intersecting ridges and watersheds; truly a superlative hut site.
Back to the packs and over the alpine scrub to a snow poled route leading down a gentle swampy slope into the bush. The philosophy of camping out whenever possible - even when huts were available - was by this time firmly entrenched. And why not? The conditions were ideal. A reasonable campsite in mossy undergrowth was finally decided on and tea was eaten round a smouldering fire in the gathering gloom.
5.30 a.m. and it's Kaweka Blow-Fly time again! 'Undreds of 'em, attracted, if you please, by the smoke of the fire. The newly cut track soon peters out into a deer trail, but nobody's worried - most of the party want to get lost. I distinctly remember loud oaths coming from the vanguard when they came across discs in several apparently overgrown regions. 10.30 at Te Pukeohikarua hut, reading some culler's poems in the hut poetry book, which resides in a tin similar to that of the log book.
The Insta-fiz tablets established themselves as the coin of the realm in the hot humid weather. Our parched throats would hardly let them dissolve in the water which some slave had lugged two or three hundred feet up from the nearest trickle to the ridge, once or twice a day.
Some careful navigating through bush to a lunch stop at the saddle, reached just after inspecting a 60 foot high boulder on the ridge-top, followed by a short climb, then a rather sticky romp down through the manuka to the stream outside Harkness Hut. Glorious cool water. A general rest was proclaimed, setting the pattern for the rest of the trip -sun bathe and swim in the hot part of the day. The two cullers at the hut were sceptical of our reasons for tramping: "It's a mug's game", they said. Sometimes it's hard to refute that argument.
We casually ambled down to the junction at the creek with the Harkness stream, bathing in sun and water at the pool at the confluence. Jules' belated arrival prolonged the ecstasy. As the sun dipped lower we plugged up through the tussock valley of the Harkness, whose forested tops were an unusual feature. Tussock Hut, nestled in the bush edge, page 20looked a welcome haven in the cool twilight, especially to legs that had come from Ahurua that day. The sleep-out mania reached its peak that night, when, after tea, all except one bod took the comfy mattresses outside into the typically starry, moonlit and dewy night. All the sleeping gear was steaming dry on the heli-pad next morning when our friendly neighbourhood NZFS hunters arrived - with a leg of still-warm venison for us. Warbles of great joy from all -we are saved from the dreaded dehy stew in the nick of time.
At 8.30 we pay our respects and trudge up into the bush and over into the Ngaruroro - a vast expanse of waist-high tussock covering high pumice terraces and bogs.
Six hours at leisure in the sun was passed by drying gear, swimming, melting butter, cursing at melting butter, photographing a Canberra bomber etc. etc. Only at 4.00 p.m. did the party potter up-river. At the Mangamingi confluence 3 horses were sighted. Our gallant little band executed a strategic evasion policy over a nearby terrace when the afore-mentioned beasties came trotting swiftly through the tussock towards us. Camp was established in a pleasant wee site on the bush edge about half an hour upstream in the Mangamingi. 40 minutes walk the next morning on a bridle track brought us to a festering pile of firewood and tar-paper known as Mangamingi hut - a rather shambolic musterers hut. We wasted no time in pressing on up this bridle track through the bush onto Pawerawera ridge, thence down another ridge into the fabulous emerald waters of the Mangamaire. By now salubing in glorious rivers had become a way of life. But we had our sights on Makorako, the highest and most impressive peak in these ranges. A quick drink, grab cameras and scrog and we're away. In a little over one hour from the creek bed we were standing on the rocky summit, surveying the Rangitikei headwaters and the rest of the Kaimanawas, cursing the haze and the flies. That night was spent next to our chosen swimming pool, occasionally hearing the bark of a nearby stag.
A lethargic start followed by lethargic progress, wading up delicious pools, stopping for a dip every few minutes in the headwaters of the Mangamaire, occupied the next morning Up on to the butterfly-covered summit of Prominent Cone, where thoughts of a side-trip to Ngapuketurua faded quietly. Then galoop galoop thrash crash down into the Rangatitkei, where we established camp just above the 3550' forks. All of a sudden, several frightening apparitions were seen in the sky. The party's meteorologist assured us that they were known as clouds, and that as such, could bring to mind the possibility of rain. A motion of no confidence in Huey was passed, so we actually sited tent poles so that a tent could be pitched page 21in emergency, if need be.
Next day was voted a rest day, during which the climbing of Ngapuketurua was twice postponed, then cancelled.
Next day, was bloody well not a rest day. We left our campsite at 6 a.m. and left the lovely forested headwaters of the Rangitikei not long after that. Ignimbrite Saddle was reached after some toughish bush-bashing by 10 a.m. or so and by 11 the low cloud had cleared and we were standing on High Cone, all prepared to stroll down Middle Range. Until this range was reached, we had often halved the times taken by Norman Elder in his travels. It was only in the blazing sun on top of Thunderbolt that we realised that some smartish footwork would be needed in order to get to Kari-karinga with enough time to camp. On the way down Middle Range it became obvious that this route would be nearly impossible in mist without some form of route marking. The sun was setting as we pitched camp about 200 feet below the 5552' summit of Karikaringa in a dry mossy creek bed close to running water. A really beautiful sunset and silhouette of Ruapehu ended a long day.
Early on the morrow breakfast was under way, with the party's pyromaniac busy feeding the highest fire on the trip with small, dead hebe twigs. This was just to show that primi don't necessarily reign supreme above the bush line. 7 a.m. and we are back on to Karikaringa, sidle easily some fearsome looking pinnacles, motor over the golden tussock, alert a mob of about eleven deer and stagger up to Patutu. Damn this stop-watch tramping. Down into a big tussock basin, whose creek runs close to the main ridge. Anti-tramping food sentiment begins to run high now. No more (yech) pog for breakfast anyway. A casual sanity-restoring lunch stop. No more (yech) Tararua bickies. A final climb to the last peak of the trip - Waipahihi and we look back in wonder - a long way. We can take it easy now, we're back in civilisation really. Pitter-patter down to bush. That river will taste good. Oh, yes, I forgot -a small matter of bushlawyer. We sneak carefully down to a beautiful sidestream, pause, and walk down to the Waipakiki-Waikato junction, camp and swim and sunbathe. One last dehy stew, one last fire, one last night under the stars, one last revolting "breakfast" - and away to the Desert Road and home.
King : Gerald Edmunds) Fitties
Sidekick : Nick Whitten) Fitties
Speed king : Keith Jones) Fitties
Man with best camera : Julian Edmonds) Fitties
Botanist : Lesley Bagnall) Not quiteso fitties
Pyromaniac/Scribe : Peter Radcliffe) Not quiteso fitties