The punters who’d signed up for this tramp dropped like flies this weekend – so much so that we managed to fit the E, EM and M groups all in one van! However, given our trip was going to the rather cosy Cone Hut (which DoC alleges is a six-bunker, but that’s taking a liberal interpretation of “bunk” in my opinion), we weren’t too worried about going from a party of eight down to four.
We headed off for Waiohine Gorge on Saturday on a nice morning, and got to the roadend about 10am. We and the EM group were heading in the same direction, with Cone about a three-hour up-across-down stomp. The EMs were off to Tutuwai Hut, a further hour or so south along the Tauherenikau River.
As we started to puff up the 500m ascent, some of the people on the EM trip helped to make us feel a bit better by telling us about a trip they’d done the previous year, when they did the roadend-Cone leg of their Medium tramp on the Friday night, with head torches. We were quite happy to be in the daylight, and able to stop for snacks and drinks regularly, in true Easy style!
Although there was the option of waiting until we got to the hut for lunch, we got a bit hungry before then (well, I got hungry) and found a spot for lunch on the top of the ridge, before starting to head down. On the way down, we came across an enormous, wolfish-looking dog (part Husky), whose owner was a few too many metres behind for comfort. Standoff with the dog ensued; it turned out the dog didn’t like people wearing packs. Excellent!
We got to Cone Hut around 1:30pm and piled into this wonderful historic hut with the four EM people, who’d arrived ahead and were eating their lunch there. It’s small, built originally in the 1940s (then restored in the 80s), and has a single platform for sleeping, which you couldn’t really describe as level. The EMs soon headed off to Tutuwai, teasing us about our rickety accommodation, while we put the billy on for afternoon tea. After that, we thought we should maybe see what we were missing out on, so headed off to Tutuwai ourselves. It is indeed a spacious and well-appointed hut, but lacking the rustic charm of Cone (no, I am not a real estate agent, but you get the drift).
It turned out that Tutuwai also lacked Cone’s peace and quiet as, after we had got back and were cooking dinner, a troop of eight Scouts (with three adults) arrived at Cone. We heard them coming before we saw them. Given it was twilight by this time, we were a bit nervous about what their intentions might be – but fortunately, they were also headed to Tutuwai. Result!
Sunday dawned, and we continued sleeping (well not Barry, whose back was playing up). Later, over breakfast and coffee, we read the DomPost, which we carried in just for a lazy Sunday morning. And after a second cup of coffee (for me) we pushed ourselves to get going by 10 am – the Easy tramp is the life! Even better –it’s only a 330m ascent coming back, so we got back to the roadend in about 2.5 hours. Lunch was enjoyed at the picnic table in the sun, where the M and then the EM people soon joined us.
We had a good trip back, with a quick stop in Greytown for pies/chips/coffee/custard squares, and got back to the railway station in the late afternoon. What a fantastic weekend – it felt like we had been away for days instead of just overnight. And all this just a couple of hours’ drive away.