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Heels 1978

Queen's Birthday, The Kawekas And Vera The V.W

Queen's Birthday, The Kawekas And Vera The V.W.

If you happened to be driving from Napier to Taihape, not very early on the Saturday morning of Queen's Birthday weekend, you might have seen three squirming, pit-encased bodies, fighting for supremacy of some sort as they lay squeezed under a fly. At least, one of them was under the fly -one was partway under Vera the V.W. and the other was getting a frosty nose out in the very nippy air.

A little while later the same three could be seen down the road, where they'd driven to be in the morning sun ! and were getting themselves qrganised in a dithery sort of way, in between publicity shots and examining the crystalline structure of hoarfrost.

Climbing up from the Ngaruroro in open country very different from the familiar Tararuas, we looked about us at rolling farmland, the distant Ruahines and the Sparrowhawks, and the river itself flowing swiftly below us in a fairly narrow valley. The country we were in had unusual reddish-brown soil - mostly we were out in the open as the vegetation was mainly manuka scrub. Frozen puddles fascinated me with their curved silvery lines, and before long there was a sprinkling of snow around us as well as the hoar frost lifting up the loose soil.

Once on the ridge, the Kawekas were visible; lovely in the bright windy day with a delicate snow covering, stretching enticingly away... The country easy, pleasant tramping country, and we were beginning to see why one of our number, who had grown up in the Hawkes Bay hills, (almost), was sometimes rather rude about our lovely home-grown Tararuas.

But even eager, young trampers like me don't have endless energy and after a short slog I was pleased to see the lunch stop; Kiwi Saddle hut, on the other side. Enthusiastic H.T.C. members were busy fitting into their roles with the girls making bread while 'the lads' chopped wood and did a bit of hut maintenance.

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We chose between dropping down to Kiwi Creek or taking the so-called sidle track. This eventually made us climb to the height of the hut on the other side of the valley - all good exercise I guess. My first experiences of bush-bashing didn't give me a taste for it; apart from the physical discomforts I didn't like the isolated feeling I got from the middle of a tall thicket of kanuka when I couldn't hear the others at all.

So I at least was happy to find myself descending very steeply into the valley - so steeply that I felt the next step might take me onto the roof of the hut, tucked neatly against the hillside as it was. I was obliged to sit and stare into space in a zombielike manner (as I had been known to do when in a somewhat intoxicated state), while my faithful companions rallied around making the hut into a home for the evening. Apple loaf a la Atkinson made a delightful hors-d'oevres; tea was a simple meal of frankfurters and spaghetti. The hut was ours for the night and we made good use of the space and the matresses, the two females being careful not to encourage the advances of the male of the party, who was finding it hard to resist such personification of beauty, wit and womanly charm.

It was UP to the tops the next morning; another bout of bashing, catching glimpses of sunlit bush as we went, and for me finding that the way to go was to develop a certain defensive attitude: a few trees aren't going to get me down, I can handle worse, etc.

The tops - Rocky Point, an extraordinary outcrop of rock risin out of the bush, with a good view of surrounding ranges and even a distant Ruapehu. The nice thing about the tops in the Kawekas? It means virtually the end of long slogs; there are great flat ridges, gentle inclines and long downward slopes. The vegetation is an attractive mixture of golden tussock, dracophyllum, some kanuka, and lovely patches of open beech with very little undergrowth .

There was a time when we weren't absolutely sure where we were, but coming across a gentle basin with a stream and a little camping stop, Russell recognised it as a childhood picnic spot (from the days when weekend trips were done in a day), and we saw it as a desirable place to stop. By 6.30 pm (!) the three bodies were once again in pit underneath their fly - and once again the clever one was in the middle (need I say more?). Twelve pm, and it was time for midnight snacks, brews and euphemisms.

Breakfast not only solid (as opposed to liquid), but sustaining, is an absolute necessity for my continued welfare in the hills, and I shall stick to that statement to the last in spite of the derogatory remarks of my lazy or other-wise friends. So, one solid and sustaining breakfast later, we left our friendly spot and started off across the smooth and rolling tops. One particularly lovely basin we came across had a little polythene shelter nestling against a patch of bush - evidently a few hunters come here, and some bring horses.

Water had cut strange runnels in the soft soil which were tricky unless you always walked as if on a tightrope. Hogget was amazingly flat and seemed to go on forever; I found it hard to work out where I was going as a result (in relation to the surrounding peaks). We headed across unusual volcanic country, pumicey, fine soiled, carved by the weather.

"Out" turned out to be further than I imagined when, from the tops, we looked down to the farmland where we would eventually come out. We descended through unexciting scrub and I mused grumpily on the beating my poor delicate body, which has never revelled in

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masochism, had been forced to take. The lovely bush we came into had an eerie feeling of having once been ravaged by man, but was now deserted; the evidence being great tracks criss-crossing through it - confusing and rather depressing to follow.

One boring road, and two paddocks later (as it turned out, we were lucky not to meet the farmer, who had just ear-bashed Roussel for crossing his land), we were back on the Napier-Taihape Road, and just wondering how much traffic there would be when a forest service landrover with a friendly driver came past, and we travelled in comfort back to patient little Vera.

So our first experience of the Kawekas was good enough to make us listen with a little more patience to Roussel running down the Tararuas - to me, though, they are two very different, but equally lovely places to tramp.

The Trendy Trio - Russell Millington, Mary Atkinson, and Lucy Atkinson, who wrote this.

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