Go East Young Man
27th-29th January 2013
It is a truth universally accepted, that a Tararua Range basking in the sun is in need of a decent tramping trip.
And so it happened that Wharry and Karen dropped us at Ohau one fine morning back during the drought. With high hopes and never a backward glance, Edward and I ambled across the pasture and into the bush. He was carrying the tent and most of the food; I was pottering along with the lightest of packs for a northern.
We strode through the luscious pools of the Ohau all afternoon. What a way to rehydrate (after an asado)... in the burning rays of the sun. And toddled up through kamahi and beech, with kidney fern curled up with the heat, to stand on Te Matawai's helipad in the sunset, Egmont's long shadow casting across the intervening bay.
We slept on the porch, heads (covered) towards the bright full moon. This made for an early start, scampering across the now hard bogs betwixt those everlasting thickets of dracophyllum and leatherwood, in the shadow of Pukematawai, till the very summit. Edward, the superfit, began sometime later, to appear suddenly beside me, then perch on a crag far beyond and above, waiting patiently like the kind cobber he is.
We were carrying 1½ litres each, ever mindful of the two tanks between us and the Waingawa. It was going to be a scorcher all right - very little breeze and never a cloud in sight.
Those well remembered ridges and valleys appeared - the beckoning folds of the Park and Ruamahanga, the crisp traverse to Arete, bringing back memories of a midwinter struggle up here in deep snow in 1965 with John Rhodes and a bunch of students. A long time since.
And the gentle stroll down to the new Arete Biv - those little rusty stakes remain yet! And the long and winding walk to Waiohine Pinnacles, still with that groovy path through a wondrous alpine garden, glistening berry beads and myriads of eidelweiss. The luxury of it. Never needs weeding either. However Pedro had an undignified scramble, across those hairy abyss-faces, chucking his ski pole over to a safe place. Glad it wasn't a day of howling mist and sleet. We picnic'd on an exquisite little lawn, taking in the huge views. Life can be such a bore.
Tarn Ridge was the unrelenting trudge it ever was, with the heat of noon grinding me down a bit. I begged Ed to go on and leave me to it. He gave me a glug from his water bottle, which I shall not forget. The dear fellow.
Wading through waist-high tussocks across the ridge to the hut, I noticed its roof was bright red. Bright red? Hallucinations surely. No. But I could smell fresh paint. A charming young lady bounced up to greet me, and explain. A bunch of guys (with company) from Dulux had flown in with paint, gear and all kinds of flash tucker, to repaint the exterior. A joint venture with DoC. With my floppy old sunhat and filthy glacier shirt, I felt rather the local scarecrow but they were very friendly and welcoming. After engulfing a huge brew I fell asleep, despite the busy noises of the painting crew.
But time was pressing, so I urged my weary bones up to join Edward and the others on the ridge, pointing out where we'd come from. Pukematawai and Arete looked far away. And we had peaks to cross before we could sleep.
A full water bottle, and a fresh outlook, from Girdlestone trig. Plus a handful of wine gums, to help us along the high pathway over Brockett as the heat of the day slowly faded. The hanging gardens of stupendous masses of flowers made the grind up that gravel face of Mitre much more bearable.
Ed and I shook hands and had another quiet chat as we gazed out over the Wairarapa. He'd recently been rebuffed by a strong wind here, so victory made the occasion sweeter. But that's the Tararuas.
The long descent to the bushline was a slow grovel for me, as the shadows lengthened, but finally we snuck through the bush edge to find - yes - that well-remembered little patch of flat grass. To unroll our bedding and rest, rest. And take careful turns to swig from our remaining water. Twelve hours it had been, bushline to bushline. Again that bright moon and diamond stars, and far below the hush of the distant river.
The rising sun shone so red that we both thought it was day-glo paint sprayed on the beech leaves. No kidding. Once again it was me who packed up and pottered off through the forest, leaving Ed to snoozle quietly for another half hour. Of course he caught up effortlessly before we were down in the valley. Reaching the hut before the sun, my thoughts were brew, brew and brew, in that order. Once that was taken care of it was time to spread out and bask in the sun, read a book, nibble at a sandwich. And have another brew.
The Barra Track has not improved with time. Still a mindless series of ups and downs and greasy roots till that last rock-infested bit. But the Waingawa lay ready with the priceless gift of a glittering green jewel of a pool, the river coiling past a cliff, with roaring cicadas all around, and endless hot boulders and smooth warm logs to dry our laundry.
We scoffed our last food and legged it hard to the road, to be picked up by Vivienne. Ice creams at Featherston. 31 degrees at 6 pm. Seems a long time ago already.
- Party members
- Edward and Peter Radcliffe (scribe)