We made a 7:30 am Saturday departure from the Railway station, with a couple of guest punters, Gareth and Steve coming along to do the van driving and their own gourmet tramp. After passing through the Wairarapa towns without kebab or coffee stops, we were at the road end and ready to tramp at 9:15am.
It was novel to leave a Tararua road end and not instantly start a grunty ascent. We briskly meandered SW along a flattish track next to a stream and then had a micro-ascent of 150m to a saddle where we de-layered and snacked. I was glad to have the pleasant weather and reasonable pace to enjoy the bush as the track descended and then followed the Mikomiki stream until a footbridge at the junction with another stream on our right.
Since this was a Nav trip, I’d been diligently practicing my locational awareness so fortunately we didn’t miss the footbridge and proceed blithely over it and further along the track! Instead, with some delegating and encouragement from Amanda, I took a bearing up the side stream and started out following old tram tracks. That was fine for about 300 metres until the tram tracks stopped abruptly at a steep bank above the stream. So we stayed on the same side of the stream and proceeded to bush-bash and swamp-sink upstream, occasionally rediscovering the old tram tracks and following them. Soon we were not far below.535 and sidling on quite steep terrain, with the weather deteriorating.
To avoid travelling in the stream, a collective decision was made to head up to .535. It didn’t take long to get there or for the rain to arrive. After a brisk lunch, we took a bearing up along the ridge to Bruce Hill at 975 metres just in case the well-worn foot pad and non-DoC markers disappeared as we progressed. We moved swiftly on the foot pad as the wind and the rain intensified. Fortunately the bush gave us shelter from the wind. At Bruce Hill most of us put on overpants and more layers. Taking bearings and debating where the foot-pad went, we scouted around for the best route onwards, and got a peek of Te Mara through the mist. Moving between exposed scrubby ridge-line and then into cloud forest, it was getting colder and my hands were numb…so out came the waterproof fleecy gloves. Onwards we tramped, down to a saddle and then up to .995 for a speedy snack. It was another kilometre, with another saddle to descend to before the final grunt up to Te Mara at 1104 metres.
Since we were all cold and had successfully navigated our way so far, we decided to head for Blue Range Hut for the night. We made a beeline for the main DoC track and after what seemed far longer than the 1 kilometre distance on the map, arrived at the empty and exceptionally windy Blue Range Hut at 4:45pm. There was plenty of room for the five of us and our wet gear – Sam got a toasty fire going, Alistair (cosily) kept out of the way by being tucked up in his bed on a mattress on the floor, whilst Amanda, Andy and I prepared a delicious meal of pasta with (many) vegetables, tomato and chorizo sauce. Alistair washed up, with Amanda providing QA, and we finished with chocolate biscuits and a cuppa. After venturing outside for some star-gazing, we had an early night.
On Sunday morning we slept in whilst the rain came and went and came! We couldn’t really find anywhere to get navigationally challenged, so after collecting firewood, we set off at 9:30 back to the road end. It kept raining most of the way, and seemed to take longer than we expected to get close to the road end. But soon the last 100 metres of altitude was lost and we meandered the last 400 metres, taking significantly less than the 20 minutes DoC estimates.
The rain was bucketing down as we spread out at the enormous table in the shelter, boiled the billy for morning tea and waited just in case Steve and Gareth turned up. They arrived with seconds to spare before the scheduled time for us to leave to collect them from the Pines road end.
Guided by a double, full span rainbow, we made our way back through the Wairarapa. The forecast was for high winds on the Rimutaka Hill, so we refuelled with custard slices and hot drinks in Carterton – just to provide ballast for the blustery trip over the hill back to Wellington.