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Heels 1968

Queen's Birthday 1968

page 28

Queen's Birthday 1968

I will begin by stating a Vuwtc maxim "He who goeth upon a Queen's Birthday weekend F.E. trip is, by definition, a masochist." This trip ran in accordance with this maxim. The suffering began with a sweaty bash from Poad's to Waiopehu (for once, the term "bash" is applicable. There are many unforeseen, overhanging, eternally damned branches on this track on Friday nights). It (the suffering) recommenced in a mild form on the way to Oriwa the next day. N.B. - between Waiopehu and Oriwa lies a festering thicket of pedigree leatherwood. 10.30 and yes, it's the lake hollow. 5 minutes more and, yes, it's Oriwa. No more need be said about this neck-of-the-woods. Suffice it to say that our gallant band suffered on down an easy spur to the Otaki River. Ten minutes more, and we drew up in front of the mid-Otaki wharf, a glorious, majestic structure, resplendent with indigenous beech piles, giving a subtle hint of the wondrous luxuries of the palace that lay behind it - that opulent mansion, that dignified oriental edifice - Mid-Otaki hut. The mind boggles ...

I digress. A snap decision at top level in the party hierarchy decreed that this would be our resting place that night. As it was just after 2 p.m. an afternoon'-s boating on the river was deemed a fitting occupation for all. Despite coolish conditions, three hardy twits managed to execute some slick manoeuvres in the only craft available - a "tin tippy" commandeered from the underbrush close by, their tricks culminating in shooting a rapid at great speed whilst facing upstream - no mean feat for this self-scuttling apparatus. 5.30 and it's dark again. The usual stew burbling over a too-big-for-cooking-with-fire. Five mattresses were laid across the floor of the hut, providing a comfortable basis for two schools of pontoon and a massive brawl, conducted in sleeping bags to the tune of "God save the Queen" - the singer being savagely assailed at the time.

Sunday. Rain. 7.30 getaway. Where did all that great murky floody river come from? Answer: Just look upwards with your mouth open. Downstream. Bushbash. Kelliher Creek - Ross goes down Otaki, minus parka. We go up to Crawford, minus brains, via easy spur and freezing tops. One hour in exposure conditions and Anderson's shows up. Nearly everyone is food-bonked.

1st tramper [shouting above the roar of the primus]: Nickle-ass, are you suffering? Voice from behind a loaf of Bermaline [shouting above the clatter of shivering teeth]: "Y-e-e-e-s." Off to Kahiwiroa. Better weather, but page 29misty. The Nkw route-finding service is used, and yes, (right first time, said the king), down to Mid-Waiohine, with river big and brown. Nick and I sneak across and shout directions to the others, who follow cautiously in the gathering gloom. No brawls tonight.

Monday. Fine and high cloud. 7.30 getaway. Three go out via Isobel and Holdsworth. The remaining five forge upstream (twenty midwinter Waiohine crossings and you are a pretty cold gerkhin). The map says we are now in a gorge. I now think I know why they run gorge trips in a downstream direction - and why they generally operate best in summer. One hectic moment floating in a scrabbling mess down to some horrible rapids. No more of them, please. Francis Creek appears - truly beautiful sight. The walls of the gorges in both Waiohine and Francis Creek entail a three hundred foot climb vertically upwards. Cor, wot larx. I mean, kicking steps in overhanging moss. 11 a.m. and we are at the Devon Crash, sniffing about in freezing mist. (Memories here of one Whitten, menacing the remains with a tin opener). A hurried repast and we are sightseeing again - mist, graves, mist, pinnacles, Angle Knob, Jumbo. Three go via Holdsworth, Keith and I go via Spooner's and the new Atiwhakatu hut, leaving there one log book and some bootprints. 4.45 and we reach the Holdsworth Lodge car park.

- P.K.R.

Party: Nick Whitten (leader in fact), Euan Nicol, Keith Jones, Brian Davis, John Keys, Ross Gooder, Neville Lupton, Chris Brown, Peter Radcliffe.