Marchant Stream - Joe’s Track
Five members set off from Camp Kaitoke and climbed up onto the track to Dobsons and proceeded in the usual fashion, trying not to slip on the clay track, enjoying the bush sections and endeavouring to avoid the mud and puddles. From Dobsons we took the track leading down towards Smiths Creek Shelter, but before the dropoff, we slipped through the short dracophyllum onto the lesser used, now old track down to the Tauherenikau River, getting quite wet pushing through the overgrown shrubs for the first 15 minutes or so, until we broke out into the lovely beech forest. We had to climb over, or skirt around several large windfalls, and keep a close watch out for the few track markers still clinging to the trees, as it is quite easy to lose this track. The lower section is quite steep in places, and very easy to slip on, but we all came down safely, joining the highway along the Tauherenikau at the Marchant Stream.
We waited until we reached Smiths Creek Shelter for lunch, but deciding the campsite near the riverbank a far more salubrious spot to enjoy our food than in that shelter, even though Bob had removed a dead possum from it.
So far the trip had been enjoyable, but uneventful, and off we set along the river again. We decided to make this more interesting by not taking the high detour, but crossing the slips along the makeshift tracks, and so to a short scroggin break before starting up the stream and Joe’s Track at the base of the climb up to the Puffer Saddle. The track is very vague to start with, entailing quite a number of stream crossings and climbing under logs that have fallen across the stream. About 50 metres up the stream, I found myself ahead of the group, scouting for the way forward, and, when after a couple of minutes no-one appeared, started to retrace my steps and met Pryor who was coming to find me to tell me some bad news. We had an injury! Nicky was sitting on the bank, looking a little sorry for herself, and also very apologetic to us. She had slipped, and could not put any weight on her ankle.
What a to-do. This is very rough territory, but thankfully not too far from the main track. Nicky insisted she would manage by moving along the bank on her bottom, which worked successfully for about two metres, but we had lots of stream crossings and obstacles to negotiate, so she allowed Bob and Pryor to support her, one on either side, while she hopped on her good leg. This actually was working, but obviously would not get her up to the Puffer Saddle and back to the cars. A helicopter was needed.
So Jude and I hared up to the saddle, and reception for the cellphone and called 111. The next hour was very interesting. I was put through to the ambulance service, and once our position was established they advised a helicopter would be on its way. Jude returned back down the hill, with this news. Once the helicopter was airborne, Gemma of Ambulance Coms called me back, and within ten minutes I could hear it approaching. It passed right over me, and followed the track down into the valley. While I was on the phone, a young woman arrived up the hill and greeted me: “You must be Diane.” She had a GPS, so I passed the phone to her and she gave co-ordinates to Gemma. Her partner was a paramedic, and was with our group,
helping. Not long after, a hunter arrived. “You must be Diane.” He also had a GPS, but more importantly, was wearing a bright orange hat and marker on his pack. He had waved the helicopter on down the valley, and they had acknowledged his signal.
We could hear the helicopter, the pitch changing constantly. Apparently it spotted our group, but the bush at the base of the hill is quite thick. A paramedic was winched down about 50 metres up the track, through some softer tree ferns. But Nicky was winched up through this thicker bush. She later said, she just closed her eyes and hung on to the paramedic!
After about 20 minutes we could tell the helicopter was on its way again and soon passed over, headed for Wellington Hospital. Gemma confirmed this, and said goodbye. So I headed back down the hill to meet my party coming up. We arrived back at the cars just as it was getting dark, and Pryor received a text message from Nicky, that she was safely at the Emergency Department.
It transpired that Nicky had a broken fibula and tibia, so felt vindicated in “acting like a drama queen” as she put it, but truly, she was very, very stoic, especially as her future plans involved flying to Kenya the following Saturday and climbing Mt Kilimanjaro!
- Party members
- Nicky Dowle, Pryor Rowland, Jude Willis, Bob Cyffers, Diane Head (leader and scribe).