It all began at 5.30pm on a balmy Wellington Friday afternoon. Setting off enthusiastically into rush hour traffic, we began our journey to the start of the track. Van conversation ranged from the art of being a llama farmer who farms llamas, buying boats, mermaids, Bolivian taxi drivers and the number ‘37’ and the obvious superiority of pilates over yoga.
A necessary and delicious stop was made along the way to enjoy an exemplary meal of fish ‘n’ chips in Waikanae –great call Mike! Arriving at the start of the track, the sun was starting to set and it was not long before the headlamps came out. The track was damp and surprisingly boggy in places. One team member (who shall remain nameless) managed to get stuck up to their knee in mud. Mocking ensued. It was a little over an hour before we arrived out our camping site nestled in the trees and set up our fly nearby our fellow trampers on the Medium Fit trip (“MF”).
We all awoke refreshed the next morning after an undisturbed sleep, aside from Paul, who had been attacked by a gigantic bug during the night. Breakfast followed –from bagels, to horribly burnt lumpy custard, to OSMs (one square meals) –fueling up for the big climb.
The track started straight up from our campsite -started from about 200 metres to a high point of 930 metres, we passed a number of knobs along the way including Mayo Knob. A great deal of discussion was had about the possible origin of this name.
We soon reached 930 metres and the endpoint of our climb. Stunning views of the surrounding ranges and of Waiopehu Hut bathed in sunshine greeted us. After lunching, it was time for the down-hill bush-bashing. Mike wasn’t lying when he’d said that the track was well-marked. The ribbons were really helpful – we all knew exactly which direction we needed to slide, fall, trip and/or scramble in if we wanted to end up at the hut.Although it was steep going, we made good time on the uphill, helped by large handfuls of scroggin. This included handfuls of scroggin made for the inaugural scroggin-off between team members Em and Thomas. A great deal of smack-talk had preceded this much anticipated event and Mike as adjudicator undoubtedly felt the pressure of making such a life-altering decision –it was a tie.
Having set up camp at the hut, a couple of brave souls jumped into the River to cool down (Em, Joe, Thomas), while others piked out and moaned about how cold it was. Afternoon tea followed, with Paul triumphing over nature to produce a fantastic fire which we proceeded to roast marshmallows on. A vital part of tramping is delicious food and that night’s meal was no exception. Dinner was followed up with fondue and fruit. The MF crew arrived not long after –a full hut.
The next morning we awoke to clear blue skies. Fed and watered, both the EM and MF parties headed downstream with the EM team quickly mastering the art of rock-hopping. It became apparent almost immediately that we were going to get soaked at least to knee height, and even higher for those shorter in stature. As the tallest member of the group, I’m pretty sure Rob only got his ankles wet.
Stops were frequent and idyllic. The scenery was stunning; the River went from rushing through narrow gorges to giant pools of inviting water. One stop saw Paul making the final decision in the scroggin-off. It was determined that Thomas’ scroggin was superior, though as a completely unbiased third party, I’m pretty sure Em’s was better.
Another stop saw at least 10 trampers brave the River for a very refreshing swim, and after another break for lunch, we were on the home stretch and it was not long before we were back at the road end. Stopping at the Tuatara Brewery for a cold one and some nachos was a fitting and delicious way to end a fantastic weekend. Thanks Team!!