This, according to trip leader Tony, was all we needed to find the track back up the hill from Totara flats to the ridge via the old unmaintained hunters’ track: Imagination, plus a map and a compass. And find it we did – battling through long grass and a hailstorm in the process. For a novice, and very recent import to New Zealand, this was something of a baptism of fire into the world of tramping!
In spite of the challenges on this ‘easy’ trip (or perhaps because of them!), the entire loop from Mangatarere Valley to the Totara Flats and back proved to be a great opportunity for creative thinking. Some of the particularly memorable moments included:
- Negotiating a number of rather steep tracks that had been made extremely slippery by recent rain. This resulted in quite a few bruised bottoms
- My first encounter with a goblin forest, the eeriness of which was only slightly muted by the absence of Lord of the Rings characters
- Fitting seven people in a six-person hut. Though the route had been specifically chosen as a quiet one, with the expectation that we would have Sayers Hut to ourselves – a party from the Kaumatua Tramping Club tramping club beat us to the bunks! Tony ended up on the veranda…
- Kate (another new member to the club) learned how to use a liquid fuel stove, so that we could cook up an Aunty Rata recipe. The tomato macaroni went down a treat!
- Traversing the swing-bridge over the Totara Creek in pretty significant winds. I’m very glad that I only found out it was flexible enough to turn 90 degrees in the right conditions until after the crossing.
Needless to say, it was not a dull trip. And we ended up being very lucky with the weather. Although it had been forecast to rain for most of Saturday and on Sunday morning, with the exception of the afore-mentioned hailstorm, we managed to miss almost all of it during the daylight hours! It was a different story at night though, when I was woken at least three times by the almighty ruckus of heavy rain on the tin-roof of the hut.
Tony was an excellent guide throughout the experience, pointing out all the best opportunities for me to play with my camera, and very tolerant of my rather plodding pace.
In all, it was a great first experience in the Tararuas, and I’m looking forward to the next one!