Ten of us left platform 9 soon after 5:30pm. We dined at Levin where the vast array of takeaway options were fully taken advantage of with all trampers conjuring up different kai, much to the envy of myself having purchased a couple of stale buns from countdown. Light rain on and off on the journey forced discussions on the prospective trip and what was expected by way of the weather forecast.
We arrived safely at road end after 9:00pm (thanks driver, Steve) and walked 30 minutes in a light misty rain in the dark to Heritage Lodge. It was a calm and mild evening and, despite the rain, Gary, Steve and I elected to sleep on the verandah. Inside the trampers contended with snoring while outside I had to put up with the occasional need to flick a rat off my sleeping bag. Otherwise, it was a good night.
We woke in the morning to an overcast sky but no rain and 9 of us eagerly ventured out to conquer Tunupo. Gracious Roger, Monty (our mascot) and fellow tramper Roger took the river route to the hut to set up flys and tents in anticipation of our arrival. The ascent was reasonable around 850m and we made this in approximately 3 hours. At around halfway up, after leaving the bush line, we encountered light rain. We soldiered on anticipating that the weather might clear soon, as forecast.
The rain didn’t clear though the sky did lighten for a moment which got our hopes up. Lunch was therefore relatively brief, so much so that the rear guard wondered whether they had had lunch at all. We ventured along the ridgeline with visibility at approximately 100m and rain driven by a reasonably brisk wind from the Southeast.
With no track laid out and no landmarks visible we took a northeast bearing and walked partway down an errant ridge before Steve pulled us up and redirected us along the correct ridge. The rain and wind persisted while we were on the top. The portable GPS came in handy with visibility being so poor.
The ridgeline exhibited a vast array of different flora; I could have tarried for much longer. The ground was dense with grasses and shrubs and small white flowers were in abundance, (Striped Gentians, Creeping Ourisia, Mountain Daisy among others).
A couple of hours later we had descended below the wet weather and took a moment to have a breather. The weather was a lot warmer and we were completely sheltered from the southerly wind. Some of us concluded our lunch at this point before the descent to Iron Gate Hut, which took another 2-3 hours. The descent was much steeper than the ascent and I was pleased we hadn’t had to climb this slope.
Back at the hut Roger had erected a tent and two flys due to the hut being occupied by four girls working towards Duke of Edinburgh certificates and their leader. Tea was a communal WTMC Thai red curry, very tasty, followed by an equally tasty dessert organised by Roger: river chilled chocolate and marshmallow delight. Nice.
The following day brought clear weather and a pleasant 2-3 hour walk had us back at Heritage Lodge for lunch followed by a short walk out to the van.
This being my first expedition with WTMC I was uncertain what to expect and have to say the trip was perfect. Good pace, good sense of exploration, well organised and lead. Thanks Steve and WTMC.