This article was first published in the Tararua Tramper Volume 95, no 4, May [[!(Tramper)2023]
Kotumu - shelter 2023the storm
Saturday 25 March
Tea slopped over the edge as Mark handed me a steaming hot mug. ‘All good, it’s the hut that’s shaking, not me!’ he chortled.
We were 700 metres high on the Remutaka main range, hunkered down snuggly and smugly out of the norwesterly gale that threatened to send the hut and us tumbling out into Palliser Bay.
It hadn’t been a bad sort of a morning; an hour’s tramp along the Ōrongorongo River road from the coast, followed by a precipitous scramble up a pest control line that followed a scrubby spur towards Kotumu. The pink triangles ran out at the ridge top boundary with Ōrongorongo Station. From there we bush bashed through a final few hundred metres of alpine forest to the summit, which lies within the farm.
There’s a wooden survey peg to confirm the obvious but it’s not enough to make you want to linger. From there we needed to get to the open farmland that lay to the south. In between, lay a minefield of horopito and tātarāmoa that sloped at a disorientating angle. To the east a death-inducing drop to the Wairarapa coast hundreds of metres below.
I’ve done this trip enough times to know a scrub bash would only end in tears. The smart money is to take a deep breath and follow the animal trails that hug the cliff top. It’s definitely not a place for the faint hearted.
Sensing the possibility of mutiny, I firstly led Sarah and Mark into a thicket of bush lawyers. It was no contest after that taste of misery; they happily swung their way along the cliff top with nothing but handfuls of horopito branches between glory and a SAR call out.
Mark had his heart set on boiling the billy for lunch but by now the wind had risen to banshee proportions. Where could we get out of the tempest that was sending sheets of spindrift across the bay?
Finally out of the scrub and back on safe ground we spied a musterers’ hut up ahead. Sure enough the door was unlocked and we gratefully tumbled in. It was in fair condition, a couple of beds, chairs, a dart board, log burner and some crockery. With views back to Wellington and out to South America it doesn’t get any better. Although, I would have liked a few tie down cables attached to the hut for peace of mind.
Back outside and with the maelstrom now behind us, we fair sailed along the farm road that snakes south. Manuka is clearly winning the battle with pasture, and we encountered only an occasional sheep, complete with tail and a fleece that has never seen a shearing shed. A little over an hour later we were zig zagging down to the homestead at the base of Cape Turakirae and a welcome ice cream on the drive home.
- Party members
- Paul McCredie (leader and scribe), Mark Edwards, Sarah White.