Labour Weekend - Friday 20 October 2017 to Monday 23 October 2017 (4 days)

Photos - Johny Nie

Photos - Dennis Brown

The medium fit group, ably led by Margaret Law, tackled the Pouakai side of Mt Taranaki, or as I prefer, having lived in Egmont Village, Mt Egmont. I don't know what the mountain had done to deserve us being there, but there we were, ready to conquer the mountain.

Day 1 - Friday. We all travelled down in the big blue tramping bus from Auckland. We comprised 3 groups, fast, medium fit and easy. Even those in the easy group had to carry their packs, including tents, for four days. I was in the medium fit, or unfit upon reflection, group.

At 2 pm we started on the Kaiauai track, for a 6 hour tramp to Pouakai hut.

The first half was pretty easy, and then we hit the hill. It went up and up and up, and then up some more. I was getting slower and (no need to repeat yourself, Bill). And apart from the good fortune of having a tail end Charlie competently bringing up the rear, I would have been dead last. Not my usual position. Justin endeavoured to be the equivalent of a rabbit at a greyhound race, tantalisingly out of reach to a greyhound, but this greyhound wasn’t taking the bait. It transpired that my pack was way too heavy. I lost 2 kg and suddenly I was moving again. Thanks Dennis. Well we got to the top, took some great photos over a tarn of Egmont, then scooted through to the hut where the lucky ones caught a bed. 16 bed hut, 11 in our group, and half slept outside, in tents, in woodsheds, or wherever. And the 6 hours was only 5.

Day 2 arrived with Mr 10 kg man letting me know I was a snorer. I already knew that, so was quite unmoved by the news. Mr 10 kg man is 75. Been tramping for 6 years. And all his gear for a 4 day tramp, including tent, rain gear, food and pack weighed 10 kg. His mission in life is to get rid of another gram. So I was able to pick his brain for ideas. I now know the lightest solo tent that exists, and how to buy it most cheaply. Sorry, you will need to pay me for the knowledge, which I will put towards a lighter tent.

This day saw us head towards Holly hut, then the Stony River side of the mountain, across and along a number of rivers, all full of stones so it was difficult to distinguish the real Stony River from all the rest, and on up to Kahui hut. Shortly after leaving Pouakai hut half the group took a side trip to Pouakai, and we all met again at Holly, after crossing the Ahukawakawa wetland. Not only was the wetland impressive, but the sight of the chap (not of our group) who had unintentionally fallen in was also memorable. At Holly hut I left a stash of stuff I didn't want to see until the following day (well, perhaps forever), as I didn't want to win the weightlifting competition 2 days in a row. I probably still did. We got to Kahui at 3 pm, about the same time as the rain. The tent

was hurriedly pitched and I got inside. The hut was uninviting, holding 6 people only and no fire. While waiting for the rain to stop I had a nap and woke up after 7 pm, finding the second half of our group had arrived, all settled in, had dinner and gone to bed. So much for company. Oh yes, and someone reported that I was snoring. So what.

Day 3 we woke to a drier day. Mr 10 kg let me know that he would have happily swapped his hut mates for me. Reckoned my snoring was of a much higher standard. I wasn’t about to disagree with his assessment. We headed down the mountain on another track until we hit the round the mountain track and then headed back in the direction of the day before. The first couple of hours appears on a topo map as a nicely curved follow the contour track. I don't know where the gullies came from, but it was hard yakka. Eventually got onto the previous day’s trail and scooted slowly up to Holly hut, stopping in at Bells Falls along the way. The low level bunk was welcoming, and I was reunited with my extra kilos.

Day 4 was along the Holly Hut track until we got to Kokowai track, which we went down for a long time with steep drop offs to the river below. Fantastic track. This took us out to the road, from where we then had to walk up the road to the bus and visitor centre. Now if we had just stayed on the Holly Hut track we would have got to the bus sooner, but why should we stick to the main trail when there are others less travelled. We were back at the bus by noon.

If anyone wants a big feed, come around for a party. This food is special. It has been all over Taranaki and has lived to get back to Auckland. It won't have that experience again.

The group was Margaret Law (leader), Dennis Brown, Dave Best, Julia Huang, Vicky King, Justin Gleeson, Eng Khor, Tong Khor, Bill Mancer (author), May Wu and Johny Nie