Kaitoke Ridge-Benge Creek-Kaitoke Ridge
St Patrick’s Day, 17 March 2013
On Sunday morning at 9:00, seven courageous souls braved the forecast of Wellington’s first rain in a month and Bob Cyffers’ challenge of an E/M off-track adventure, and met to the sounds of the bells of St. Paul’s and headed off to the Kaitoke Park. We piled into two cars and set off for the park, where we met the final two trampers of our party of ten.
Boots were on, packs were hoisted and we soon were off, and quickly up the steep, but very well maintained track up the ridge. Little did we know what was in store. Progress was gentle as we climbed, finally reaching the view point and bench for a stop for morning tea with clear views across to the Marchant Ridge. Morning tea was thoughtfully supplemented by Bob with a large bag of lollies that he had rather optimistically brought along in case twenty five trampers turned up. Recharged and in good spirits, we set off in search of the old logging cut that would be our route through the bush, down to Benge Creek.
We had a brief stop to gaze over the reservoir that had been left empty for refurbishment because we wouldn’t need the extra water in Wellington. Then we headed off in search of the unmarked cut that was about five minutes down the track. Bob plunged into the bush, and after about fifteen minutes we heard him call. After waiting for a few minutes for members of the party who had scattered to see what they could find by way of track, we doubled back a hundred metres to find Bob emerging from the wilderness grinning that he had in fact found the cut.
And indeed it was an old cut, although there was no evidence that anyone else had ever set foot on it in the fifty or so years since it was last used for skidding logs. Now, of course, by Tararua standards of off-track exploration this was a motorway, but now it was somewhat overgrown, with a dash of supplejack and lawyer to catch the unaware or those taller than your average tramper. Of course, there were deadfall and washouts to navigate. However one advantage of a steepish slope is that there are not too many alternative routes so we were able to make reasonably sure, if slow, progress down toward the creek, hidden somewhere in the valley below. Injuries were confined to the normal skin grazes that attend such work. And the drought had helped as the footing was reasonably secure. Finally we arrived at the bottom and made our way into the creek. It was by now 1:15 and, lollies notwithstanding, the threat of mutiny was in the air if we were not allowed to stop for lunch. Sensing the mood of the group, Bob manfully bush-bashed up the bank and thrashed around until he found the road paralleling the creek. Again a call and we scaled the bank to be confronted by a thick hedge of gorse.
A bushcraft lesson followed as we tried out various means of breaching the barrier to our lunch spot. A number of people bulled through head first, and emerged scratched and bloody on the other side. Ray tried crawling under the gorse, but discovered that the spines carpeted the ground. The best technique discovered involved backing through the gorse, with the packs taking the brunt of the thorns. Navigation was effected by looking between ones’ legs to avoid straddling a gorse bush.
After a restorative lunch and the start of some light misty rain, we headed on along the track until we were blocked by the gates guarding the empty reservoir. Perhaps they thought we might steal some water during the drought. Then we went back into the stream for another three-quarters of an hour, making our way through deadfall and old fences, until we reached the ford and track that led back up to the ridge.
It was by now 3:00 and the party was somewhat wilted. Bob cheerfully pronounced that our E/M tramps had made it into the M category, but again lifted morale with his bag of lollies.
Re-energised, the group made its way back up onto the ridge on the well graded track, a cooling mist, being more of a pleasure than otherwise. After restraining Bob from trying out an “unreckied” side trail, we made our way back to the cars. It is understood that some members of the party continued the day at the pub with a pint of Guinness in honour of St Patrick.
- Party members
- Nicky Bradley, Muriel Christianson, Bob Cyffers (Leader), Julia Fraser, David Holland (scribe), Liz Martin, Ray Markham, Syd Moore, Pryor Rowland, Peter Shanahan