Soon after fuelling ourselves at a Turkish restaurant on our way to the Tararua Forest Park we arrived at the beginning of our trail and set off. The four of us had a wet two hour tramp through the darkness, lighting the trail with our head torches to our first shelter, Herepai Hut. We managed to get warm and dry by switching our hiking gear for our pyjamas, building a fire and boiling water for tea. Once the other group arrived the hut became a cosy full house of ten.
In the morning we put on our already wet tramping clothes and set off, soon warming up to a comfortable, yet damp temperature.
We had a fairly easy trek from Herepai Hut to Roaring Stag Hut then began the seemingly never-ending ascent up to Cattle Ridge. The higher we climbed the more precarious the trail became. Soon we were just pushing our way through a muddy uphill trench and were no longer avoiding puddles as it would have been impossible for us to get any wetter than we already were. After many disparaging false summits we reached the top.
We rejoiced in the feeling of finally walking on flat ground again but wasted no time before beginning our descent down to Cow Creek. It was during this descent we really tested how much punishment our knees could take. After another couple of hours daylight reduced until we had to put on our head torches and tramp the last hour or two in the dark, occasionally having to spread out in search of the orange triangle trail markers. For the most part these triangle trail markers kept us on track but I do question the decision to use triangles to point trampers in the right direction. I question this because at any one time a triangle points in three directions at once.
Regardless, we made it to Cow Creek Hut sometime around 7pm after roughly 10 hours of hard-core tramping. Although the facilities there were fairly basic, we had everything we needed to get warm and dry. To wet tramps like us it felt like luxury. Together we cooked a nice, warming dinner of quinoa, vegetables and chickpeas. My contribution to the effort was to drain the tin of chickpeas and I stand by the fact that it was the most important duty. Saying this, the others did well to put the rest of the meal together. Very soon after inhaling the finished product I fell into an easy sleep.
After what seemed like a few seconds it was morning and time to continue with the final leg of our journey. Once again, we donned our wet tramping gear and ventured out into the ever dependable rain towards Blue Range Hut. Following on from the difficult conditions of the trial the previous day, the trail here was a dream. Although the first couple of hours were a constant slog uphill, the solid and (more helpfully) visible footing made it much less demanding.
We had a brief stop at Blue Range Hut for some snacks and chats before heading off again. At this point it was becoming easier to visualise our goal of finally becoming and staying warm and dry. This made the last few kilometres fly by.
We reached the car park and were welcomed by some very friendly dogs. One of whom was insistent (almost to the point of rudeness) that we play fetch. This dog was so relentless that we only ended up stopping when the stick eventually disintegrated in its jaws, ending the fun for both of us. Before we knew it, the tramping van arrived to pick us up so I said goodbye to my new friend and headed back to the real world.
Although we weren’t overly lucky with the weather I still felt it was an enlightening experience of the New Zealand bush in all it’s rugged, rainy glory. A big shout out to Tereza who did great job of planning the trip and providing a number of options to account for different weather conditions and experience levels. Also a giant thank you to Matt, who performed the heroic task of driving everyone home.