Extended Trip - Sunday 12 May 2019 to Friday 17 May 2019 (6 days)
by Terry Chubb
A two small groups crossover trip winding through the Kaweka and Kaimanawa ranges, all on public land, one group N⇒S from Clements Mill Road and the other S⇒N from Kuripapango. This report describes the latter.
Saturday was spent cruising down to Taihape, staying the night at the quaint Rusty Nail backpackers just out of town. Dinner was had at the highly recommended Malaysian Straits Kitchen in the main drag, setting us up for a night of watching rugby on TV.
Sunday: The day started with an hour and a half drive to Cameron carpark, near Kuripapango, where the other group’s car was left for them to pick up.
Our target was scaled back to Kiwi Saddle Hut, on account of the 0930 start and the predicted weather system coming in. It's a long haul with full packs up the track to Kuripapango summit. The going got easier along the undulating ridge covered with scrub, then contorta, then beech. The well-appointed Heretaunga Tramping Club Kiwi Saddle Hut was reached soon after lunch. A 3.5 hour day.
Monday: Today was always going to be a serious weather day and we were on open tops all the way to our next hut. We were not disappointed.
Picture - Terry and Alex traversing the tops from Kiwi Saddle Hut
Starting at 0745, we soon emerged from the bush into showers and a ripper of a wind. By Studholme Saddle, the rain kicked up a gear, requiring more togging up.
Hail next part way up Mad Dog Hill, followed by snow showers on the summit. Weirdly, the wind dropped and the sun came out before Kaweka J. Hopes were dashed when the howling wind, murk and showers returned, as we pushed on past North Kaweka and on to Whetu.
A left turn, a right turn and a drop down to Ballard Hut in the beech and we were in a different world. One DOC worker in attendance. A 6.5 hour day.
Tuesday: Dawned clear, frosty and sunny. Away at 0800 and along the tops for a short while, before dropping onto the bush ridge to Tira Lodge. Great views of Mt Ruapehu.
We met the N⇒S group of David and Andrew just before the hut and exchanged information.
The bush continued past the hut until we emerged into an attractive tussock landscape. Mangaturutu Hut was bypassed.
On advice from Andrew, Te Puke Hut was also given a wide berth, requiring us carrying on to Harkness Hut for the night. A three hut day, unheard of in our little group. A 9 hour day.
Wednesday: Another clear, sunny morning. Today would be a shorter tramp, calling for a later 0900 start.
The Harkness Valley, a tussock and toetoe filled delight, starts off narrowish before opening out into a large upper basin. The lower part calls for crisscrossing the stream about fifty times, before breaking out at the basin. Right at the head stands Tussock Hut in a primo position.
Continuing along a bush then scrub spur, we drop into the Ngaruroro Valley. The views on the way down are awesome, an expansive tussock filled valley, the river snaking through, river terraces stacked one above the other, pumice cliffs, just outstanding.
We head up the valley, crossing the Ngaruroro several times before ascending to a large terrace and Boyd Hut. Two WTMC trampers join us for the night. A 5.5 hour day.
Thursday: Sunny as we set off at 0800 to cross the Ngaruroro for the final time. A fernbird is spotted in the scrub.
We cross a low saddle before following a stream and then Oamaru River down through a bush-filled valley. It is an easy track, staying all the time on the true left with a few side streams to cross.
The beech trees were sizable and the fungi in abundance and well photographed.
We eventually emerged from the trees into open tussock for a few kilometres, before arriving at Oamaru Hut for the night. The hut resembled a supermarket, furnishing a dinner of fire-baked kumara, potato and pumpkin, followed by ground coffee and honey-roasted peanuts. A hunter arrived late by headlight. A 6.25 hour day.
Friday: Our last day with home only a half day’s drive from the track end, we made an early 0700 start.
A blistering trip up Kaipo River and a sidle around Te Iringa had us at Clements Mill Road carpark at 1230, smashing DOC time. Mind you the track is beautifully made in these parts, making for a fast exit. A 5.5 hour day.
A late lunch at Taupo and we were back in the metropolis by 1800.
Summary: The area, particularly the Kawekas, has good tracks, good huts and options galore. The tracks and tops are well marked, so very little navigation is required.
David's group unfortunately bypassed the spectacular Ngaruroro Valley, by taking the off-track Otorihinaiti Saddle route, which proved rather difficult to follow.
The Kaweka huts are mostly small, like 4 - 6 bunks, so it is best to avoid the peak hunting season and carry a tent.
Logistics is the biggest issue for a through trip like we did. However, having some mates and a couple of cars makes it easy as.
We were Alex Sancho, Dennis Brown and Terry Chubb.