A Wander to Washpool Hut

It was a civilized time to start a tramping trip, I decided: 8.30 on Saturday morning at the railway station (and rolling on towards 9.00 before the last of the punters turned up), rather than the usual 7.00 o’clock start on Friday night. Being the leader of the only trip going away for the weekend and therefore able to dictate such things to fit in with your Friday night social life does have some advantages after all! Two and a half hours after leaving Wellington we were at the Pinnacles on the Cape Palliser coast, and after a short car shuffle to leave a vehicle at the bottom of Pararaki Stream, we were on our way.

I led up the stream through the middle of the pinnacles, then climbed out steeply at the top. After twenty metres through the scrub we emerged onto the four-wheel-drive ridge-track. “Lunch-time,” I declared. After all, we had been going for all of maybe 40 minutes.

After lunch we continued on up the track. The sun was shining, the track was firm and dry underneath, and a series of grassy clearings offered views out over the coast and across to the Rimutukas. On such occasions in the Haurangis I always find myself casting a gloating glance out to the north-west, thinking of all those poor, miserable bastards grovelling around in the Tararuas, struggling pathetically onwards through the leatherwood and spaniards into the teeth of a gale, freezing cold, visibility down to 10 metres, up to their armpits in mud, the rain bucketing down on their heads. An entry I read in the hut logbook that night described the Haurangis as one of the best-kept secrets in the Wellington region, and I couldn’t agree more.*

After a steep descent from the ridgeline of Mt Surf we arrived just on nightfall at Washpool Hut – a classic ex-Forest Service six-bunker. Soon we were ensconced inside, the fire ablaze and dinner on its way, to be followed down by cheesecake and fruit salad. (And my cheesecake, I modestly point out, turned out far better than Daniel’s effort!)

A pleasant evening was had trying to solve various lateral thinking puzzles. (“Two lumps of coal and a carrot are lying in the middle of a field on a summer’s day. Why?” “A man is lying dead and naked in the middle of the desert. In his hand is a short straw. Leading up to him is a trail of scattered clothes, but there are no footprints anywhere in the sand. How did this come about?”) Outside, the air was chilly and the dew was heavy, while overhead the stars shone with an intensity and in numbers that you never see in the city.

Next morning we decided to flag away the steep climb over into the Pararaki and head out straight down the Washpool instead. The gorgey section through the bush was fun going, although the series of swimming pools in the stream somehow seemed smaller, colder, and distinctly less inviting than I remembered them from the last time I went this way – maybe the fact that it was mid May rather than late January had something to do with it! Eventually we emerged out of the bush and into the park-like farmland, and after a couple of kilometres on a four-wheel track we stopped by the stream for lunch. Richard, obviously a man after my own heart, immediately produced the primus and billy for yet another brew.

After lunch, half the party continued straight out down the Washpool while the other half of us climbed over a convenient low saddle into Pararaki Stream and followed this out to the road, in order to pick up the car we had left there. Back at the Washpool, we found the others relaxing by the side of the road, brewing up another cup of tea. And so ended a very pleasant ramble in the Haurangis.

Punters: Andrew Chinn, Kirstie MacDonald, Andrew Squires, Damian Maddock, Richard West, Daniel Meares, Peggy Christianson, and Harry Smith.

(* Actually, strict honesty compels me to note that the weather, unbelievably, was probably quite fine in the Tararuas on this particular weekend – but one shouldn’t let mere inconvenient facts stand in the way of a good story.)

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