Extended Trip - 17 June to 25 June 2016 (9 days)
Photo Gallery Feiyan Zhong
We got off the plane on a fine and crisp Nelson morning and were met by Christine and Alex, hopped in a shuttle and were whisked over the Takaka Hill and up the Aorere Valley to the start of the Heaphy Track. The cyclists from Devonport, who shared our shuttle, took off up the hill and we followed. The 17 kms up a nice even grade to Perry Saddle took us a bit over 4 hours, the glorious afternoon affording views to the Lead Hills and Douglas Range to the East. Plentiful birdlife, including Robin, Weka, Riflemen and Bellbird, too. Hit the hut on dusk, the cyclists having got the fire going on what was to be a cool, clear night.
A fine frosty start and off to explore the (modest) caves near Gouland Downs Hut, having first secured packs from the proprietorial resident Wekas. A Kaka was heard and seen in forest between Saxon (our lunch stop) and James McKay (our day’s destination) huts. Mckay, like Perry Saddle and Heaphy huts, is well-sited, new, large and comfortable. A decent-sized squadron of Kea live thereabouts. Took us bit over 6 hours to cover the day’s 24kms
A pleasant day dropping down through the rainforest in drizzle. Stopped for lunch at Lewis Hut after which Simon proved himself quite the conservationist, (almost) dispatching a sickly rat en route, near some amazing old Rata trees. The view from Heaphy Hut is marvellous and some of the hardier souls braved the weather for a walk down to the river mouth. 4-5 hrs from McKay to Heaphy Hut
The remaining 16 kms of the Heaphy Track was about 4 and a half hours of atmospheric drizzl;y coastal Nikau forest. Truly spectacular. At Kohaihai we were taken to the friendly folk at Rongos Backpackers where we were made most welcome. Everyone enjoyed the feast prepared for us by the Rongolians, and the chance to shower and wash clothes.
Those that hadn’t been before spent the moning in the Oparara Basin, transported by a helpful and informative Rongolian. The caves, arches and primordial forest are amazing.
We were then dropped off to the start of the Wangapeka track and walked the 10kms to Belltown Hut in 3 hrs. Results of that evening’s Womens Open Armwrestling Competition as follows. 3rd place: Alex, the Spanish Armada. 2nd place: Fay, the Chinese Dragon. 1st place, and Champion: Vicki from Parnell
We had gone to bed to the sound of rain on the roof and it kept coming down for the next couple of days. Although the main crossings are bridged, the side streams had come up a bit so we were careful with crossings. The track was a bit rough, and therefore slowish, but still perfectly navigable from Belltown to Wanganui Biv. We couldn’t really understand why people had made such a fuss about it in the Belltown hut book. DoC has done a good job re-cutting the track through horrendous windfall from the storm a couple of years ago. Pretty much head down, tail up over the Little Wanganui Saddle and on to Taipo Hut. 10kms, 6 and a half hours. Graeme (especially) and Dave did a sterling job coaxing a fire for us out of wet beech wood
The rain continued but eased off a bit which gave us a pleasant walk, with plenty of waterfalls, over Wangapeka Saddle via Helicopter Flat to Stone Hut. About 7 and a half hours to do the 19kms. Graeme again excelled on the fire-provision front at Stone Hut, and with much jockeying for position, most people got their wet clothes fairly dry again. The comfortable empty huts of the Heaphy and Wangapeka, with well -stocked wood sheds, were a great advertisement for winter tramping!
The march out. The weather cleared and we had an enjoyable, if fairly brisk, 30-odd kms to our mid afternoon van pick-up. Stone Hut to Rolling River Carpark, past Kings Creek Hut is about 20kms of pleasant tramping with views of Mt Patriarch. Cecil King’s historic hut has been lovingly preserved and is well worth a look. Because the ford across the Dart River is apparently unreliable, the last part of our tramp was a bash along the Wangapeka River Road which, as far as road bashes go, was actually quite pleasant.
All in all this was a very pleasant week’s tramping with a great bunch of people, hopefully the fore-runner of many future ATC South Island Winter trips. Many thanks to Tony, and to Margaret Law too, for all the organisational work.
We were: Graeme Pollock, Dave Best, Tony Walton (leader), Christine Major, Vicki King, Simon Rainger, Alex Sancho, Catherine Doyle, Fay Zhong, Andrew Murdoch (scribe)