Hot was the weather, keen were the members, and vile was the language on the 'get fit for Christmas' Middle crossing. Fitness was about the only thing I'd given up for Christmas, alas.
The trip was conceived out of wedlock on Wednesday night. It was an indeterminate cross between a Northern and a Southern, but definitely a bastard. The embryo took the form of a High Ridge - Maungahuka - Penn Creek at first, then distorted itself into an Atiwhakatu - MacGregor - Nicholls during the latter stages of the gesticulation period. It finally hatched out in that state late on Friday night during a prolonged discussion on physical anatomy (special thanks to NZR and passengers).
The taxi stopped at Holdsworth Lodge, the driver paid to go away, and the four dark figures slunk inside the lodge, where they spent half the night in talking like a lady's auxiliary.
By midmorning Saturday they were well into the mountainous country of the Atiwhakatu. The Atiwhak is a busy little river, constructed of deep pools with turbulent rapids connecting them; all set about with mossy boulders and beech trees. The rocks (" coarse sand") grew bigger and bigger as the river became smaller and higher. The little people emptied their boots and had a last drink before wandering up a direct spur towards MacGregor. The beech trees were getting gnarled and stunted, Snowgrass bushes and leatherwoods grew around them, until the little people had to crawl the last few yards onto the tops. I have a grudging admiration for leatherwood, though. Hell, what else thrives in such green profusion on Tararua tops?
The tramps pattered up to MacGregor, pausing frequently to look at hanging valleys, relics of an ice age long past. Over the last bit and down to the little white biv., guarded by a surly culler, damn his eyes. The main range was playing peek-a-boo in the evanescent mist as our little band trooped down into the bush, and ate their lunch sprawled out on sphagnum, idly discussing the merits of various cullers.
Before lethargy completely overtook them, they shouldered their loads and sneaked off down towards the mighty Waiohine. A chainsaw had been there before them, but even so, the track was distinctly indistinct. An easy river crossing and a quiet smoke. How nice to relax in a remote river bed for a while. Unwind the mind.
The last effort was a careful, slow trog through the kiekie and supple-jack up to Nicholls, with sunlight mottling the forest floor. Twelve hours from Holdsworth Lodge.
Eleven in the hut that night - churning sleeping bags, gear everywhere. A lone transistor radio blurbed out election results in an unequal struggle with the surging mutter of conversation and the chuttering of the busy primi.
Sunday arrived at 6:00 a.m. with the light pouring horizontally over Tarn Ridge and in through the door; into the eyes of those sleeping under the bunks. A blazing hot reveille.
Three of us waded up through the silky snowgrass and north to Kelliher. We looked at the Northern tops one last lingering time and then turned to the bush. A thundering, crashing, pouncing, jumping, swinging, rumble down to the cool blue Otaki. Oh cool river, we're friends today.page 4
And so on down to Waitewaewae and out to the Forks and into the ear and away to the Manawatu and home in the fading sunset.
Those who met in Nicholls:
Ross Gooder, John Keys, Noel Sissons, Bryan Sissons, George Kendall, sundry Tongue & Meats and Peter Radcliffe.