Weekend Trip - May 6th - 8th
Maybe it was the Hamilton hoodoo …
Whatever the cause, in the days immediately preceding this trip people started dropping like flies. All valid reasons of course, like face planting the footpath while out for a run – ouch!
So what was to be a near full bus, became … well a somewhat diminished number of hardy souls.
With no takers for the easy trip, the planned 4 groups became 3. And then at the last minute Rob pulled up with a damaged knee, rendering the extended bush bash he was to lead also a non-starter.
So the 3 groups folded into two. 11 starters, 6 in my group, 5 in Tony’s. Plus Rob who was waiting for us on Friday night, and who tested his knee by going part of the way with Tony's group before heading back down.
The bus arrived at around 9.30 pm Friday night, and with the low numbers Tony decided his group would overnight at the bus, rather than head up to the Kaniwhaniwha campsite as planned. Then he had his lot up and away before 7 next morning – yep that’s right, before it was light (mad!). Still they did serve as an effective alarm clock as they trundled past my tent.
My group of course observed more gentlemanly hours, with an 8.30 am departure (sensible). The flat and easy Nikau Walk beside the Kaniwhaniwha stream soon had us at the campsite, then heading up the well-formed and marked Tahuanui Track through very pleasant bush.
Now this being part of Te Araroa, you’d think the track might be in good nick right up to the top, right? Not a chance! After a couple of hours of great travel and steady climbing we hit the mud. Mud, mud, glorious mud. Masses of mud, oceans of ooze, seas of sludge.
And so we slithered, slid and slunk along, finally reaching the main ridge, where we plonked our muddled selves down for lunch. In the sun. Yes, today was one out of the box, about as good as you could get. Gloriously fine, mild temperatures, with views forever. Pirongia really is a rather spectacular mountain when you see it like this.
Then onto the boardwalks along the ridge, up the lookout tower for more sweeping views, and we were at the superb new Pahautea Hut by 2pm. In short order we decided to take advantage of the great weather and bring forward to this afternoon tomorrow’s planned side trip to Hihikiwi.
Now the section over to Hihikiwi is boardwalked the whole way, and what a boardwalk! Elevated throughout (in places over 2m above the ground) it snakes beautifully through and around the vegetation and up and down the gradients, always maintaining interest and offering a different perspective of the bush. It’s a masterpiece of construction, just superb.
Tony’s group had just arrived when we returned to the hut shortly after 3. They had turned right at Kaniwhaniwha Campsite and taken the Bell Track, up over the spectacular Cone . They too had grappled with mountains of mire, but had made good progress.
With just a half dozen other trampers and a spacious 20 bunk hut, there was plenty of room for all, aided by 2 of us out camping and 2 others in the old hut. A spectacular sunset had most of us out on the decks, at the helipad, or balancing on the railings for further elevation, and snapping away merrily.
Next morning Tony’s group were away early (surprise, surprise) over to Hihikiwi, back again, and then heading down the Tahuanui mudslide, sorry Track, that we had squelched up, sorry climbed, the day before. Our group headed down the Tirohanga Track to Corcoran Rd. A new track for us all, this featured even more mud and frustratingly slow progress on the upper section. But also great views across to the Mahaukura ridge, and a spectacular rock outcrop that Fay, naturally, scooted up for a great photo opportunity. Lower down though it morphed into a highway.
Again we were tramping in the sun, but a rather imposing grey front was steaming in from the west, and caught us shortly after we got out just after 12. We had barely finished lunch when Simon gunned Big Blue into the carpark. Which meant we were back in Auckland at (for ATC) a very reasonable hour.
The virtually perfect weather, superb views and very comfortable digs made this a great trip for all those that survived the pre-trip collapses.
Early-risers: Tony Walton (leader), Simon Rainger (driver), Robin Houston, Mark Abela, Ming Lo, Rob de Jong
Leisurely lot: Dennis Brown (leader & scribe), Hazel Walton, Keith Ayton, Lynda Going, Fay Zhong, Graeme McGowan.