The forecast was for heavy rain and strong cold southerly winds but we decided to go anyway. After all we would be in the bush most of the way and so out of the worst of the weather, and the stretch in the open would be short enough. And we both needed a day out in the hills somewhere – anywhere would do.
So we left Welly at 7:30 and headed to the road end at Otaki Forks. The plan was for a simple day walk up Rae Ridge and back via Fields Track. Getting to the start of the ridge is not difficult but involves either crossing the river a couple of times or some mild bush bashing along the low-level terraces.
First we decided on the climbing bush bashing option but got stuck on a steep and very slippery bank under an overhanging grassy ledge. Next we considered crossing the river but it was too high after recent rain. So we went back a wee way and bashed through the scrub where we should have gone in the first place. And I had been here once before and got it wrong that time as well!
There is a newly cut track from the last of the grassy flats to Sheridan Creek which seems a bit pointless given that it leaves you on the river bank with nowhere in particular to go except the bush-bash up the other side to the crest of Rae Ridge.
Apart from the usual bush lawyer and supplejack the bush is fairly open and we were soon on our way along the ridge top. This is pleasant relatively easy travel and the way is obvious, and we passed by many small rata trees in full flower which added to the pretty picture. A bit higher the scrubby bush changes to mature trees and a bit of navigation is required in places to keep you heading in the right direction.
We soon came across pink tapes that had been tied to branches and seemed to be there to mark the way. So we simply followed them while chatting about life, the Universe and everything until:
Jackie – ‘We seem to be going a bit too much downhill don’t you think?
Tony – ‘Yes you’re right, perhaps it would be a good idea to check the compass’, [and after getting map and compass out of pack], ‘actually we are heading in the wrong direction even if we are still following the pink tapes’.
So back a bit and take the compass bearing we should have done way before, and then off we went in the correct direction again, with no idea where those tapes would have actually taken us.
We correctly passed the high point on the ridge which leads you a wee bit astray if you don’t take care and started along the flat section of ridge. And then the pink tapes appeared again, and again seemed to mark the correct way. But this time too they eventually lead us off the main ridge and started down a side spur to who knows where.
So for the second time we backtracked a short way and decided that instead of trying to solve all the world’s problems we should instead think where we were actually supposed to be going and therefore solve our own immediate problem of making a reasonable time along the ridge.
The flat section of ridge dragged on a bit and we were glad to finally get to the steeper climb up to the main Kime Ridge. The last time I had been here there was a recently cut track through the scrub but it was now fairly overgrown and in places difficult to follow.
And we were now out of the shelter of the trees and even with parkas and hats we felt cold as small lumps of hail sailed merrily past travelling horizontally in the gale southerly. But it was a short climb to the top of Denan and standing braced against the wind we managed with numbed fingers to take a photo or two.
We tried to send a text to let folk know that because we had taken so long to get up our chosen ridge we would be a bit late home but there was no reception. So down the track to Field Hut for a short stop with a drink and the last of the food.
The wander down from Fields is made for easy walking and pleasant talk. And there was just the last of the daylight as we were driving back along the Forks Road to the highway and then home.
So if you are thinking of a Rae Ridge trip (and it is good fun) here is some short advice from first-hand experience:
1. Don’t try to be clever but instead take the obvious way through the scrub to get to the start of the ridge
2. Don’t continue with idle chatter while following pink tapes tied to trees especially when you are going downhill instead of up
3. And finally, don’t tell the folks at home that you will be back in time for tea.