A long Whakanui Circuit on a short day SF
Wednesday 24 May
With less than a month to go before the shortest day, it was a bit bold to attempt the longish circuit from Sunny Grove, over the East Whakanui to the Ōrongorongo, and home via the Whakanui Track. We knew it would be an eight-hour day - or longer - climbing a total of 1300 metres and walking about 20 km. But hey, the Slow Fit team was willing to give it a go.
Eight members crawled out of bed and were pretty much awake by the time we gathered at Sunny Grove at 7.30 a.m. Cloudy skies and a bit of drizzle made it surprisingly dark in the forest as we headed up the Whakanui Track. After a while the drizzle eased, but the bush was still so wet we got pretty damp anyway. We plodded steadily upwards for an hour, on the very good Whakanui Track, rewarded by a brief look at the view back to Wainuiomata from the junction of the Whakanui and McKerrow tracks.
Then onto the East Whakanui Track, first climbing gently up and then tumbling down to the saddle, before the steep slog up the other side to point 800. By now it was late morning, and we were happy to know that the biggest climb of the day was over. Ahead of us lay the long, lovely descent of the East Whakanui spur, with views here and there to the valley below, and enormous trees to admire. We enjoyed spotting weirdly-shaped fungi in an impressive variety of colours: red, white, yellow, purple, orange, pink, grey, brown.
After six hours, we arrived at the Ōrongorongo River. Quite enough tramping for one day. But guess what next? Yep, more climbing! The haul out of the river and up the Whakanui track is steep. Upwards we went, steadily, a bit wearily, for 500 metres before turning at last onto the more-or-less level track that wriggles round the Turere Stream headwaters.
By now it was apparent that we were not going to complete the tramp in daylight. We reached the junction with the McKerrow Track as dusk fell. No choice but to keep going. Staying close together, we carefully made our way downhill for the last hour without using our headlamps, feeling that it was probably simpler without flickering lights confusing the way. We finally arrived back at Sunny Grove at almost 6.00 p.m., in pitch black, having triumphantly survived a whopping 10-hour tramp.
- Party members
- Joan Basher (leader and scribe), Katherine Close, Ursula Evans, Rachel Fry, Susan Guscott, David McNabb, Peter Morten, Peter Smith