At 7.45 p.m. four tramps were found at the end of the Kiriwhakapapa road, busy unpacking parkas and jerseys. They had travelled from afar in order to do the celebrated "Bannister crossing". The weather forecast was good, "fine and frosty", but the weather wasn't living up to it. The starless sky above bode ill for the future.
The four tramps finished packing, shouldered packs and set off, with the aid of torches, along a well defined track. This degenerated, however, after the Masterton Rovers' hut.
The climb up onto Blue Range can be quite interesting, if one has the light to see it.
Concern was expressed by the leader tramp when a signpost was reached one hour beyond the Rovers' hut. "It took me an hour and a half to get down from here" he exclaimed. "I just don't understand it."
Nevertheless the four tramps pressed on into the night. On and on they went, with torches growing dimmer and dimmer.
"Ah ha, the turnoff," cried the leader.
The tramps turned off and promptly lost the track. The wind was blowing hard and it was cold.
"I think it's down here," said the leader, moving off down a scrub covered spur. The others followed and they soon found themselves on a wet, slippery track which brought them out by Blue Range hut.page 15
Next morning the four tramps awoke to find a grey, cheerless sky and a howling northerly. However, Blue Range hut is not a piking hut, despite the excellent grot. There is very little water there. One tramp even climbed onto the roof to take water from the guttering for his pog.
Ten o'clock found the party tramping along Blue Range. The plan to do a Bannister had been dropped. Instead the intrepid band of tramps were going to undertake the adventurous track to Roaring Stag Lodge, via the Ruamahunga river. It was raining on Cow Saddle and the tramps turned down the track to Cleft Creek, via Bastard grass hollow. An hour after the saddle a gorge was encountered, which was traversed, although the stream was a little high. A little later the gorge widened to disclose a most wonderful and inspiring sight - for those who like fast, dirty, flooded rivers. There was nothing else to do but return to the saddle.
Slowly the little band trudged back, which caused the leader some consternation, to find that they went uphill faster than they went down. From the saddle, the tramps headed due west and very soon arrived at Cow Creek hut. Pit bashing was the order for the rest of the day.
The tramps left the hut next morning during a heavy shower. The Waingawa river demonstrated its amazing property of "swelling" in half an hour. The tramps planned to take the wet weather track to Mitre Flats, then go out to the Pines. But after due consultation with the map, it was decided there was no track, so they sidled instead. Many small streams and creeks were crossed, nothing daunted the intrepid band. Nothing, that is, until the North Mitre stream was reached. This was a marvellous sight, 40 cubits wide, 30 cubits deep and rolling boulders. However the tramps, being filled with the spirit of V U W T C forebears, decided not to be overcome. They would tramp up the side, even to the headwaters, and then cross it.
Twenty minutes upstream fate smiled on the determined band. There was a fallen tree stretching from bank to bank. Carefully they crossed, listening to the boulders rolling beneath them, feeling the log shudder with the force of the water, and expressing relief on reaching the other side. One of the tramps, however, in order to outdo his companions decided to cross the last half underwater. Rescue operations were carried out.
Half an hour later a disc was sighted. The rain eased, the sky cleared. A quick brew was had at Mitre Flats hut and the tramps hurried along the Barra track to the road end.page 16
As the tramps were hitch hiking through the Wairarapa, the sky over the Tararuas was turned a rich golden colour by the setting sun. The tramps were content. There would be another day for a Bannister.
Tramps:- John Keys, Don Anderson, Chris Studt, Chris Brown.