Looking at the weather report on a daily basis I felt we would have at least one good day – and that would be the day we would go across the tops.
We camped at the road end which made it easy for setting off the next morning and we could take our time tramping. I knew there was flat ground and a loo which made it easy. As the weather was still changing (someone said it was a complex front), I thought I would leave it until Saturday morning to decide a plan. This area has a lot of options which is great.
Saturday morning it was drizzling and very low cloud, so I made a decision to go to Daphne Hut first, then reassess. We drove to the start of Daphne track 2 km away. We all thought it was a bit rude that the track is straight up from the get-go, so for some the muesli and coffee did not sit well. As we had lots of time, we took it easy and stuck together as a group. As we gained altitude, the weather improved and soon we were above the morning cloud. It didn’t take long before we were at the top and I thought we would be able to see the tops but more cloud came in and there was no view. The rain stayed away which made it a bit easier to go down the hill to “Daphne” river.
It was good to see that the river level had not got too high yet from a few days rain. Those that wanted to keep their feet dry were out of luck – some parts of the river were deep and other areas were narrow so no chance to rock-hop. This was a nice section and adds variation to the whole trip. We soon got to Daphne Hut where we had lunch and a cuppa. I said if the weather packed in we would stay here, if it stayed the same or improved we would go to Howletts Hut. I think there was a minimal improvement, so wet boots on and up to Howletts it was!
Again I had some time as a buffer in case we got slowed down at the top where I thought the wind would be blowing a gale.
Straight up it was again so we were warm in no time, and some great conversation made the time go by and in a few hours we were out of the trees and into the tussock. To my surprise we were mainly out of the wind – must have changed to a westerly. “Not far now”, I said when we got to the sign pointing to the hut. In the distance we saw a couple of hunters, I thought we were lucky to be two minutes ahead so we could get first dibs on the beds!
We claimed our sleeping area, then leaned that there were not two but five hunters! We made sure we all had a space, had a hot drink and snacks and played cards which was very enjoyable.
We all helped with dinner and the entertainment at this stage was watching the hunters try to light the fire. Several fire-starters, three different hunters trying and some advice from Jess got it going and it was cosy-warm all night.
Day II – Michelle
Woke up at Howletts Hut (1,365 m) to clear weather and gorgeous sunshine along the ridges, deciding to take the track via Longview hut back to the car. Coffees and brecky filling our tummies we set off amongst the leatherwood. We passed the five hunter boys from the night before making breakfast, I’m sure much to their disappointment we spotted a deer in open view bounding off in front of us for at least a few minutes (animal sighting of the day).
Following along the ridgelines we enjoyed the view, a few bits of stray ice and a fair bit of mud hidden amongst the tussock grass. Jackets were put on and taken off again and repeat. We passed along the ridge to the highest point of 1,519 m and through the Pohangina Saddle.
Maarten bounded ahead to move the car back up the road for us (thank you!) and a quick lunch stop (complete with the new flavoured water from Longview ‘wood smoked’- Wellington foodies would love it) and a fast downhill to the finish (much to my relief). Most of us promptly nodded off in the car trip home.
Cheers everyone for a great trip, excellent banter, hope to see everyone around again.