Weekend - Friday 15 September 2017 to Sunday 17 September 2017 (3 days)
The "great swamp in the sky" Andrew called it. A great plain of oozing bog and slippery clay, comprehensively inundated with regular passing showers and omnipresent clag.
You wouldn’t think any self-respecting forest park would be happy with a multi kilometre long quagmire adorning its crest, but that’s the Kaimais for you. Strange now to think the old North-South route used to go through here - that must have sorted the frogs from the polliwogs.
Late on Saturday afternoon three fearless ATC mudsteteers slithered, slipped, wallowed, waded, flailed and floundered our way across this mire to reach the ever so welcome Kauritatahi Hut.
Big Blue had dropped us at the Tuahu Track road end that morning and we had comfortably reached the Tuahu saddle in 2 hours. From there we headed south to Motutapere Hut for some of the best tramping to be had in these parts. Barely 2ks on the map, but an hour and a half of constant ups and downs, clambering around rock formations, negotiating ladders, hauling ourselves up through the bush, being buffeted by vigorous wind gusts on the exposed ridgeline, relishing the tortured terrain and expansive views. This is stunning country, some of the best in the range, and a key reason the Kaimai Ridgeway traverse is such a great multiday tramp. If you haven’t yet pranced across this section, you really should - it’s simply superb.
Albeit a bit muddy in places ...
The resident rat kindly vacated Motutapere Hut when we arrived so we could enjoy an early lunch out of wind and rain. Then it was on to the open tops above Thompsons saddle where we came across 2 horses tethered to low lying trees, their riders enjoying refreshments on the grass. They’d come up Thompsons Track from the Waikato to build up their horses’ stamina in preparation for trekking trips to come.
After a bit of a chat it was on up the cavernous, clay-ravaged "ruts" of the 4-wheel drive-scarred hillside beyond the saddle and (with relief) into the infinitely more appealing bush. Some imposing specimens in the forest here (not us) and great variety to the vegetation through to our Kauritatahi Track turnoff.
Although somewhat overgrown, the climb up to the great celestial mire was much easier than we expected. The track flowed beautifully across the land, sidling expertly at a steady gradient around the steep slopes of Ngatamahinerua and offering wide views east to the coast. We reached the top, traversed the mire and were at the hut in 1hr 40 mins. Did I mention it was a tad boggy up there?
Kauritatahi Hut proved an excellent shelter from the biting wind, clean and tidy and clearly much appreciated and well maintained by Thames Valley Deerstalkers - thanks all! And we loved the views and lights at night.
Next day we climbed back into our mud caked socks and headed back across the bog to the turnoff to the 1963 DC3 crash site. We battled through the bush, valiantly trying to spot and follow old bits of tape. These popped us out onto a slip, then sent us down, back up, across, down again, up, bamboozled we circled back, hunted around, offered up supplications to the aircraft wreckage gods, but all in vain. Although others have found it, we couldn’t locate the site of the wreckage. Oh well, another time.
Our last leg took us out down Thompsons Track West, a public road enjoyed by 4-wheel drives, horses and trail bikes (and yes, we met them all). As you might imagine, it’s consequently not ideal for trampers ...
We slithered down the track, skirted the craters as best we could, sloshed through the lakes and dreamed of terra firma. Our lunch stop brought temporary relief, and mercifully soon afterwards we were out on the gravel road. A good clean up in a stream to remove the worst of the evidence, followed by a 2k road bash saw us down at our pick-up point.
This was a terrific weekender in some great Kaimai terrain.
The mudsteteers were:
Rob de Jong
Dennis Brown (author)