Ruamahanga farm weekend – tramping, tubing and feasting
17-19 February 2023
Four brightly coloured tunnel tents ornamented the front lawn of the Claridge’s farm/holiday house. We sat on the veranda in the last of the sun, beers and cups of tea in hand. On the banks of the Ruamahanga River in northern Wairarapa, it was hard to believe that a few days previously, floods had devastated Hawke’s Bay, only a hundred kilometres to the north.
Our plan was to tube the mighty Ruamahanga. Mid-week river levels peaked at 137 cumecs. You need under 5.0 for a viable tubing trip on this river. The punters were told we had contingency plans but to bring their tubing gear. We’d tramp on Saturday and have our tubing day on Sunday to give the river a chance to fall further.
Saturday morning, we were up bright and early but not as early as Mark, self-appointed breakfast chef. Crispy bacon, buttery scrambled eggs, hash browns, grilled tomatoes, plum jam on Vogel’s toast and plunger coffee – that should get us up a hill or two.
Our destination was Blue Range Hut. At the hut, signs filched from Masterton Hospital always draw a giggle – if reception is unattended please ring the bell, antenatal clinic, forensic science … The picnic table with views out to Bannister, Arete, and the Waiohine Pinnacles was an ace position to take our thermos tea.
Walking back down the hill, we bumped into a wedding party. The ceremony was being held in the redwood grove near the car park. The bride lifted her skirts to avoid the mud and her bridesmaids teetered dangerously on high heels. The champagne hadn’t been popped, so we carried on our merry way.
Half of us continued along the tramway track between Kiriwhakapapa and Mihimihi, while the others picked up the cars and drove round to meet us. A good feed of blackberries was the highlight of the tramway. And then back in time to test out the river for the next day’s epic. Just as well the sun was still shining for our evening swim – the water temperature was decidedly chilly.
I’ll spare the details of Saturday evening’s menu. Needless to say, we put on a good feast with everyone chipping in. Jane’s gravy, Amie’s stuffing, Tom’s salad, crumble by the two Sarahs …
Another early start and some nervy tummies. I’ve done some fabulous tubing trips in the Tararua Range – those beautiful peaceful pools, the densely bushed gorges with picturesque waterfalls flowing steeply down, the exhilaration of a rapid, well ridden stretch, warming up on a remote shingle beach, the sheer good fun of it – it’s like being a kid again. But then again it’s pretty loose – kayaking friends can’t believe how uncontrolled tubing is. The rider doesn’t decide where the tube goes, the river does, and I’ve had a couple of incidents which have made me wary.
We split into two groups again. Amie’s team explored upstream for an hour and a half before turning downriver. Jenny and Tim walked back down to the farm, enjoying swims on the way. Amie, Jane and Sarah P donned wetsuits and jumped on their tubes – they got some calm pools and exciting rapids and are now hooked on Tararua tubing.
Paul led the second group up the track on the true right of the river for a couple of hours. Our route took us through farmland and along the track high above the river, only occasionally giving glimpses of the gorges and rapids we would soon be riding. It looked kind of daunting to Anna who hadn’t tubed before and to newly cautious me. Following down Muttonchop Creek, we met the Ruamahanga and began pumping up the tubes. The river had now dropped to an almost perfect tubing level (3.4 cumecs) although the dare devils (looking at you Paul and Mark) would have liked it to be a little higher.
Franz and Anna, wary of the rapids, mountain goat-like, clambered around the banks, resorting to their tubes for the quiet gorgy sections. The rest of us mixed it up, getting out of our tubes to check the river ahead, and deciding whether to shoot a rapid or walk around.
It was everything a tubing trip should be – with the right balance of exhilaration, calm enjoyment, sun and company. Most of us got tipped out of our tubes at some point and dragged through turbulent rapids, bruising different parts of our bodies. No serious injuries though and by two thirty we were back at our swimming hole of the evening before.
All that was left to do was climb the wide and semi paved track (it used to be State Highway 2 before the road was realigned) back up to the farmhouse for afternoon tea in the sun. Many thanks to Amie for her hospitality.
- Party members
- Amie Claridge, Theresa Davies, Anna Davison, Mark Edwards, Jane Frances, Franz Hubmann, Paul McCredie, Jenny Olsen, Sarah Peters, Nina Sawicki, Tim Stone, Sarah White (co-ordinator and scribe), Tom White.