Thursday, 1 December 2016

Blue Range Hut

Cute as a button

4-5 August 2012
Party: Myself, David, Sandra, Kath, Michael
Kiriwhakapapa Road, Tararua Forest Park

An early start at the railway station as we were sharing a van with others was mitigated by a lot of fun on the drive over the hill. And as an added bonus for a winter weekend, we didn’t camp out Friday night. Amanda and her group missioned off up the track ahead of us while we finished getting sorted and locked up.

This tramp was a little different for me. I was six weeks pregnant and completely unsure how my body was going to cope. While classed as an easy tramp, and only involving one nights worth of gear and food, I was still nervous and had considered pulling out, if not for the fact I had had a full trip list my first Wednesday back at club after our trip to Europe and my week at Photography Camp.

I probably should have listened to my gut. The climb to Blue Range hut is neither long nor steep, but it took forever. Thankfully we had good weather, because the walk I was expecting to take about 2 hours instead took 4 – although I wasn’t the only person taking it slow, thankfully. I was super puffed and simply not really up for the strain.

Arriving at the hut it was cold. This place gets no sunshine in winter. There was basically no dry wood and it had rained recently, so it took a very long time to get the fire going and heating the hut with any impact. David had bought along a travel coffee grinder and percolator and spent hours and hours in the afternoon making coffee. Most of us chilled out on the bunks in every warm item we had (thankfully we arrived dry, so didn’t have to also dry clothes), hoping no-one else turned up, as we were already 5 people in a 4 bunk hut – thankfully, we remained the only people for the night.

Blue Range Hut (217:366)  Tow Away  Exciting Fire

I spent my afternoon lying on the bunk, worrying, as I had started bleeding. Thankfully this turned out to be nothing once we got back to town, but the guys both took some of the weight out of my pack for the trip home and one of the girls gave me her walking poles to reduce my impact on the way down the hill. We started late in the morning and were caught not long before the carpark by members of Amanda’s party, and after changing into non-sweaty clothes, headed home.

Moss (218:366)

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Climbing a Stairway to Heaven

Having a great time

Mark, Myself
Paekakariki Escarpment Track, Te Araroa Trail, Paekakariki Train Station to Pukerua Bay Train Station
9.74km, 3hr08min, 364m elevation gain

A fair while ago, I noticed a couple of swing bridges well above State Highway 1 along the coast, and wondered how to get to them. Mike made an attempt back in 2013, before the track was completed and opened, and ever since I have been waiting to try the track for myself. (Mike also did it more recently – in fact, the day after it opened)

Once the word was out that the final stages of track building were underway and the track would have a grand opening, it moved well up my to-do list for local daywalks. Trying to find a time when we have been around with no other plans, good weather, no injuries and no pre-schooler to hand has been a challenge, although things finally happened on the weekend.

The forecast was for fine, warm-but-not-hot weather with northerly breezes. With what I knew of the narrowness and exposure of the track, the fact moderate breezes were forecast did make me a little nervous, but I figured at least a northerly would blow UP the hill, not down, given the alignment of the hills.

We headed out the door at just after 9am, having decided to park our car at Pukerua Bay station and catch the train north to Paekakariki and then walk south (which was the recommendation on the opening day, and seems to be the recommendation in general, we definitely understood why later). For reference, the trains come through Pukerua Bay every half hour at 10past and 20to the hour north AND south bound, and its about 10 minutes to Paekakariki ($3.50 cash fare).

The track starts at the train station, heading up Beach Road towards the beach, then turning at the church (take advantage of the toilets, you wont see more until you get to the main road at Pukerua Bay), and wandering down the footpath along Ames Street for about 1km till you turn back NORTH up the highway, across the narrow bridge (be aware of trucks, that bridge is narrow and they are RIGHT THERE when they surprise you), and down the stairs at the north end, under the bridge to the 1km marker.

Clinging to the edge

The walk down Ames Street is probably recommended by the planners as it is more comfortable than the walk down the highway. So quiet you’d never know the highway and Main Trunk railway were right there – you hear the sea more! That said, the fact the traffic comes up quite fast behind you on the bridge is no fun.

Dont look down

We enjoyed our walk heading south, and could see several advantages to tackling this section in a north-south direction. For starters, the sun was always behind us, or slightly to the side. Given that the ground was radiating warmth back at us in August, this track would get HOT in the summer. The wind (being northerly) was also slightly behind us for the most part, and we found that in large parts of the track it was actually fairly sheltered.


Additionally, the stairs at the north end, while steep with narrow tread depth, have sections of benched track between them. The steepest climb from the south is incessant, with only landings between flights of stairs – although the treads seemed deeper on those as well. Getting the big climb out of the way earlier in the walk was also good, as we hit a bit tired on some of the later ones – and every climb had a matching descent, so hitting a long, steady stair climb late in the walk would have been really hard work.

Keep on climbing

We met a really lovely large family group when we stopped at the lone, sheltered picnic table on the track, which was about 10 minutes shy of the first swing bridge. The picnic table was a great spot to stop, and easily sat 8 of us around it (with space to spare). It was entertaining watching them enjoy the swing bridge together.

By the time we got to the track-side track on the way to Muri Station, my feet were getting sore. While the ankle support offered by my boots was great for the stairs, the solid sole of my boots was too much for the kind of track it was. Doing it again I would probably throw a really light pair of running shoes in my bag for the pavement sections (about 1km at the start and end of the track), and still don boots for the track proper.

I was hoping for Muri station to be ominous and depressing in its closed / abandoned state, but perhaps its too soon, or the daylight was too strong.

There were a LOT of people out on the track with us. A couple of groups we leap-frogged as each took turns to stop, but most parties we saw ahead or behind us stayed ahead or behind us by about the same distance the whole track. A good number of runners were out. Probably 75% of the people we saw walking were going north to south, and passing was tight in a lot of places, with very little margin for error. I can imagine in high summer this track will be insanely popular, and I dread the idea of it turning in to a local variation on the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. The weather up there could change very rapidly (and it looked like it was threatening to, at least a couple of times while we were up there). There are no alternative exits – once you are on the track, it’s a through track or a back track for at least 8km. In summer heat it is VERY exposed and there are only small patches of shade and no water. People WILL turn up underprepared for the conditions, lulled into a false sense of security by how accessible it is.

Stunning track, will probably do it again at some point, and about this time of year – nice weather but not too hot!

Meeting Sirocco

30 August 2013
Mark, Myself, about a dozen others
Zealandia Sanctuary

Marks parents were very excited – a double reason to travel to Wellington. A new grandchild and a chance to see Sirocco, a rare Kakapo (giant parrot). Sirocco, in particular, is quite famous after he attempted to mate with a human head during filming for a documentary. Sadly, he’s not considered breeding stock, so instead has become a species ambassador, travelling around the country to visit different sanctuaries.

Mark and I spent a bit of time debating whether we would go. There was always a chance that his visit to Wellington would be a once-off and we might never get another opportunity. When Marks parents volunteered to babysit so we could go different nights, we figured why not. And I’m glad we did. Even though Sirocco has been back to visit in the time since we went, that evening off was lovely.

A talk in the visitor centre, then a guided walk through the valley to the specially constructed habitat, hearing the birds that live at the sanctuary settling in for the night and then getting a chance to spend half an hour or more watching how Sirocco moved and learning more about his life, before walking back to the sound of kiwi calling across the valley. Worth whatever we spent on it, as most of the ticket price went to Kakapo Recovery.


Sunday, 2 October 2016

Tararua Snow

03 – 05 July 2009
Mark, Me, Barbara + 7 others
Holdsworth Road End, Tararua Forest Park

Mid-Winter, and I was scheduled to lead an Easy-Medium trip to Sunrise Hut to play in some snow. We were hoping for maybe half a meter, enough to make it a tramp IN snow, but not ploughing through tons of the stuff being miserable.

Staying in the 

The weather snowed nicely for us the week before, so I contacted a campground in Dannevirke so we didn’t have to try and make it to the road end in snow in the dark before making our way to Triplex Hut in the snow and dark at midnight or later. They were happy to have us, and offered us a massive discount to boot.

Friday morning I arrived at work to a massive flurry of emails. The not-great weather I had been watching all week had hit the Ruahine’s hard. The leaders of the other trips were not thrilled with the idea of going in, with one having called the local DoC visitor centre that morning and receiving the advice that the CARPARK was under 1m of snow, with more expected over the weekend.

I cancelled our booking at the campground at Dannevirke. They were pleased to hear that news as they had been worried about our plans given the weather they were experiencing. I still met my punters at the railway station on Friday night at the standard time and we made plans to go a bit closer to home – so Powell Hut it was. Sad, as I had been there so.many.times before.

For some reason, we still decided to head over the hill that night rather than heading home and then regrouping early Saturday morning. This meant we had a cold night ahead of us, sleeping in the shelter at the Holdsworth Carpark, as the lodge was booked.

Thankfully the wind was in a good quarter, and we were joined in the shelter by a whole pack of scouts also off on a tramp, so the number of bodies squeezed in to the area with a roof kept us all a little warmer than we would otherwise have been.

Saturday morning dawned slightly overcast but dry, and so we headed off up the slightly muddy track. We came across our first snow patches somewhere above Mountain House. When we got to the last flat section just below the bushline, the snow was blanketing the ground entirely. Looking up the first steep scramble to the lowest point of the ridge, there was a LOT of snow ahead of us, but a good ground trail to follow our way up.

We all stopped to celebrate making it to the snow (and to don extra layers and sunglasses), as the weather started packing in a little. The snow was deep enough in places that our trail in the snow was walking on top of the stunted trees that grow on the ridge.

We made it to the hut with no drama, shook the snow off our boots and settled in to get warm. A scrummy dinner and dessert were had, books were read by candle light and we all settled in for one of the best nights sleep I’ve had at Powell as we had very little wind.

Sunday morning dawned overcast. No pretty sunrise for us. On went frozen boots and damp packs, and we inched our way back down the hill, out of the snow and back to town. We got to tramp to and in the snow, even if it wasn’t to our original destination, and we had a good time while we were at it.

Winning all around!

Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Zealandia Pylon and Turbine Tracks

20 October 2015
Just me
6.9km, 1hr44min, total gain 208m, Visitor Centre to Visitor Centre

For some reason I cant recall, in the morning I had parked on Thorndon Quay and walked up to Manners Street and back (4.1km!), so I am really surprised, looking back, that I even considered attempting such a loop.

Writing this well after the fact a handful of moments stick in my mind. It was hot. The whole walk. I was incredibly surprised at my capacity to just keep going – I remember remarking to myself that the me of 12-18 months previously would have got halfway up the hill to the pylon, decided it was both too steep and too hard, then turned around and gone home (since I was on my own). I carried my dSLR, only to discover at about the 2km mark that it had either no battery life or no memory card loaded (I cant remember which, but I do know it was a heavy, expensive, pack weight of no use).

Sitting under the pylon that the track is named for to catch a breeze and have a snack, the turbine looked fairly close, so I figured I would continue on and get my first taste of the track that is marked on the maps as running around the inside perimeter of the fenceline.

I wish I had taken photos of the track. It was absolutely not what I had expected. Overgrown, full of holes, and in places only wide enough for my feet with steep drops. It also had very little shade to offer. Some of the climb was also much steeper than I had anticipated, and I questioned regularly whether I would be better off turning around to go back or continue on.

I was determined to continue on, and so I did. Eventually the turbine appeared immediately in front of me. It took what seemed an interminable time. After stopping in the sun to take some selfies and have another bite to eat, I plunged down the steep upper section of the track into the cool bush, stopping partway down after startling a Tuatara back into its burrow.

The walk down the Turbine Track was uneventful otherwise and apart from a brief debate of whether to take the Tui Glen track or continue down the Turbine track (the Turbine track won), I was back on the main path before I really knew it.

Saturday, 6 August 2016

Thwarted Effort

Turere Lodge (351:365)

17 December 2011
Party: Mark, Myself, Paul A (leader), Karl, Nic, Jose
Turere Lodge (meant to be Paua Hut), Orongorongo Valley, Wainuiomata

Coming so close to the end of the year, this trip was unsurprisingly late to be properly organised, with emails going out on Friday morning to confirm Saturday’s planned departure – “regardless of the weather”. The weather had been awful, and was forecast to remain so for the entire weekend, but we were intrepid proper trampers, so tramping we would go, regardless of the weather.

I don’t recall the weather being massively abhorrent while we were walking, but we got to the bridge at the Orongorongo River to discover a nasty, brown, fast-flowing and VERY high river in front of us. That had our destination on the other side of it.

A quick conflab was held and the easy decision made – no way were we going to try and cross that river and get the hour-or-so down the valley to the hut. Instead, we opted to trudge up the valley a short distance and head for the newly opened Turere Lodge for a lunch break before heading back to the van and home.

We found Turere Lodge booked by a set of Ranger Units, with the units tramping in over the course of the day, so only a couple of leaders were in residence when we got there. They obligingly let us look around (Turere is a locked, bookable hut normally) and allowed us to warm up in front of their fire while we ate, which was a huge improvement over the intended plan to eat out on the deck.

Given Karl had his traditional multiple-kg bag of lollies with him, we ate what we could and gave a pile to the leaders to lighten his pack before heading back along the track towards the carpark.
Good practice at carrying an overnight bag again after a while away from tramping, even if we only got halfway to where we had wanted to be. And a good team to have an unusual day with!

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Zealandia Faultline and Raingauge Spur tracks

 16 April 2016
Just me
7.4km, 1hr52min, total gain 229m, Visitor Centre to Visitor Centre, inside the sanctuary fence

I wasn’t feeling massively inspired this day, but we had no LJ at home for the weekend, and the sun was shining after a few days rain, so off I went while Mark did some work around the house and study. I was still aiming to finish my goal of red-lining all the tracks inside Zealandia, which I still haven’t completed, so off I launched into the back of the Upper Valley.

The best view I had all day
The faultline track was muddy. I seriously regretted opting for sneakers and shorts rather than boots and gaiters. It wasn’t overly surprising though, given the weather we had recently had, and the fact that the faultline track doesn’t see a lot of sunshine. I opted not to take the detour up the Western Firebreak for some reason that I cant recall now, perhaps I was running low on time, as I had only started walking at 2:30, and knew I had to be back at the visitor centre by 5pm, not knowing how long the loop around the back was going to take.

A burst of colour on the upper Raingauge Track
The track climbed gradually, with a couple of short steeper sections, until it got to the back fence. Unlike around the Brooklyn side of the valley, this part of the fence line track inside was actually moderately well defined. It was also quite steep (and so quite slow). I also found a surprise – a road around the back of the sanctuary. It looked to connect Brooklyn and Wrights Hills. The amount of undeveloped farm land to the south and west of the sanctuary was also quite a surprise. I sort of knew that the bottom of the island scooped around like it did, but at the back of the Faultline track, you feel like you are in the back of beyond – and then you look out and you are nowhere.

The raingauge track was also steep, and slippery in places, as well as starting to get quite overgrown with gorse and blackberry in places. I definitely wished I had gaiters and walking poles inching my way down the hill. The bottom of the track is very sudden – one moment you are in a dry, exposed bit of track, the next you are in the bush, and barely a moment later you are back on the faultline track, heading home again.

This leaves me with the Western and Eastern Fire Break and Tui Glen tracks to complete, and then I will have done all the tracks inside the fence except some sections of the clearing around the inside of the fence. Given the average condition of the “track” inside the fenceline, I’m not going to push to complete the last segments of that once I have done the others, instead I will do the loop around the outside one day.

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