“It’s all downhill from here…” – A sensible SK trip

sskBe sure to check out all of Tony G’s photos.

Megan had advertised in a newsletter earlier in the year that she would be leading a sensible SK trip over the Easter. Sensible in that it would be done over 4 days and all punters would keep their trousers on for the duration of the trip unlike an earlier attempted sub 48 hour trip. I thought this all sounded pretty sensible so I signed up. I’m not sure we had the advertised ‘sensible’ trip but we certainly had a fun adventure.

In the week leading up to our Easter trip the weather was pretty hideous and the weather forecast for Easter was looking particularly bleak with rain and gales. Tony and Megan decided that since it was a sensible trip we would work with the weather and decided to do the SK via the valleys and rivers. By Thursday I had the medical team where I was on clinical placement, questioning whether it was wise to go and if they would see me on Tuesday…

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We certainly started out right for a sensible trip. Tony drove right up to the mud bath at the top of the roadend rather than stopping at Camp Kaitoke to save us walking up one unnecessary hill. We had a quick photo-shoot to show all the punters who we were starting out (and hopefully finishing!) with. Personally, I was a little disappointed not to get a prize for best dressed as my bright and clashing colours were probably blinding the rest of the punters on the trip – a strategic decision to ensure the trip leaders couldn’t easily lose me perhaps. After a few minutes of tramping I decided to start out with the dreaded question of “Are we there yet?” although I was duly punished for asking such a question no less than 30 minutes later when my legs shot out from under me on the slippery clay and I found myself trying to tramp sitting down. Unfortunately, I wasn’t the only one not having the best of luck as Megan ended up sitting down in the stream when she slipped on a rock while making the wire-assisted crossing… As we trudged along to Tutuwai hut, Tony G kept us all entertained with his drama-packed Mt Taranaki trip from earlier in the month.

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At Tutuwai hut that night Megan brought out a game called Bananagrams that turned out to be a lot of fun but before this the Easter bunny had made a visit. I had been out of the hut when the bunny had visited, and walked back in to see everyone concentrating very hard on something in the middle of the table, much like a map… It turned out they were all focused on trying to decide what colour Easter egg they should chose! As the game of Bananagrams progressed with Leanne & Stuart dominating, it began to get a bit more competitive and the Easter eggs that had been scattered with the letters in the middle of the table were soon removed so that just the letters were left. This meant my chances of trying to sneakily substitute eggs for letters quickly diminished leaving me floundering to much more skilled Bananagram players…

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The next day we had a later start than intended because just as we were leaving, a helicopter from the company Amalgamated Helicopters flew in to drop off some contractors who were going to be painting the hut. We ended up waiting to see the helicopter come back again to drop some other gear down by winch next to the hut’s porch. The idea of getting the helicopter to drop off our packs at Atiwhakatu hut did crop up, but sadly didn’t eventuate. However, the rainbow that we saw from the flats in front of Tutuwai hut more than made up for this.

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After lunch at Totara Flats Hut, we started up towards Holdsworth. Tony G said to take it slowly and go along at own pace since it was a bit of grind. Stuart flew up the hill (I’m still convinced he doesn’t touch the ground when he’s tramping) with me chasing behind. I was keen to get to Mountain House Shelter before darkness so I continued on at a good pace. I later heard that Tony V told some greater “trampers’ spin” as he tramped up the hill with Megan, Tony G & Leanne –stuff like “It’s levelling off here” & “It’s not so steep here,” as well as the pure gold of “It’s just around the next corner” & “It’s all downhill from here.”

I hung out at the junction of the track leading down to Atiwhakatu Hut to wait for the Tonys, Megan and Leanne to catch up as the track down was not particularly well-marked and I had already passed through one junction without waiting. Although I had left a nice big stick arrow showing the others which way I had gone. On the way down Tony G had a fall and cut the skin right beside his eye – he emerged looking a bit like a zombie when he inadvertently rubbed the blood all over his face. We were a bit concerned about him scaring away all the children at the hut when we finally managed to get there. We finally arrived at the hut at 8:30pm, hungry but in good spirits. Tony G had spent all day singing the praises of Backcountry dehydrated meals to Leanne and myself who had never had them before so we were keen to see if they lived up to his marketing or if he was just pulling our leg.

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On Sunday morning, we unwilling left the warm hut with Leanne in it, as she had decided to stay at the hut because of bad blisters. It was decided she would walk out to Holdsworth Roadend the next day. For this day, Tony G said from when he walked the track in the opposite direction it was mostly uphill – so downhill for us. We decided Tony G must have had a selective memory on that section of the track because it certainly had plenty of uphills. During lunch at Mitre Flats hut torrential rain started. Tony V had been feeling the effects of the long day on Saturday and made the decision to stay at Mitre Flats hut and walk out via the Barra. I’m not sure if Megan & Tony G were getting concerned by the fact that we seemed to be losing punters rapidly on this so called “sensible” trip.

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Tony V bade us farewell as we set off saying that he would get the fire roaring because he didn’t reckon we would get across the North Mitre Stream. We thought we would go take a look anyway. We got to Peggy Stream, a smaller stream before N. Mitre and that was a torrent of water. Looks were deceiving because though the water was fast moving and murky, it didn’t look all that deep. When we stuck Tony’s walking pole in, it completely disappeared up to the handle. After getting photographic evidence to show why we were thwarted, we turned back with thoughts of a nice cosy hut. It was Bananagrams again that night and I was very proud to finally win a game when I had very appropriately used “mountains” as the main framework of my crossword.

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The last day was a nice easy walk out along the Barra track to the Pines. When we got to the top of the farmland, the cellphones were whipped out and several of us ended up walking around in circles holding phones in the air trying to get cellphone reception. I managed to get a call and txt into Kevin Cole while standing in the middle of a puddle. Kevin, had been a good sport, and agreed to help out with transport if we got stuck anywhere, and very kindly drove up from Wellington to pick up Megan and take her to the Van parked at Putara roadend (our original destination). Meanwhile Leanne had solo tramped out from Atiwhakatu hut and had negotiated a ride out to Masterton, so Megan picked her up on the way back to pick up the rest of us the roadend.

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We may not have bagged SK but it sure was a fun and entertaining trip. We will bag SK, sensible style, another time…

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