Majestic Views and Hot Springs in the Kawekas

Friday afternoon had arrived and it was the long weekend – that meant only one thing – off to explore the hills! I knew it would be a long drive after our 30min dinner break in Carterton but our group got off lightly as we were dropped off at road end just below Makahu Saddle Hut, whereas the other group had a considerable extra drive up to the hot springs at Mangatutu. There was one lone tramper set up in the hut, so not enough space for us all. We went and found a site to set up our tent under the glistening light of the Milky Way, and Harry found himself a spot under the trees whilst the others bunked down in the hut for the night.

We set off at the reasonable time of 8.30am on Saturday morning, running into a group of 3 other trampers who were also headed up the hill. Rodger led us up Trials Spur on what promised to be a beautiful day, albeit rather icy and crunchy underfoot. We made short work of the hill until we hit the snow which slowed us down somewhat. Nothing we couldn’t handle, however the extra one or two kicks each step soon tires you out and it wasn’t long before Rodger asked me to take over. Due to some lost time on what became a bit of a challenging and slippery incline, we were a little late finally getting onto the tops. We decided to forego the extra detour to Kaweka J on this occasion and instead pressed on North, taking some fantastic shots of the distant snow-capped Ruapehu and Ngaurahoe in all their glory.

With the awesome views and the slightly deeper snow than anticipated it was hard to keep up a pace that would get us to our original destination of Tira Lodge. By the time we reached Whetu we were only a couple of hours away from sunset. Whilst I’m sure we all could have continued down to the Lodge, we all agreed that we’d instead enjoy the setting sun from a prime location at Ballard Hut. Elisabet and I set off ahead of the group so that we could get our tent pitched before sunset. We arrived to find 2 trampers had already claimed half of the bunks (it’s a tiny but very cute hut – and warm!). As it turns out, Rodger had met these guys only a couple of weeks prior so it was a rather unexpected reunion!

The girls did a magnificent job of cooking a dinner of Chili Con Carne with mashed potatoes; made all the more difficult given the cramped space. We all helped out to gather some wood before settling in for a good rest and some banter.

Sunday morning saw us rise relatively slowly; we took our time packing down and didn’t set off until gone 10:30am. A few of the group took a little side tour beforehand to a nearby peak where they caught some great pictures of the sunrise. We made quick work of the traverse back across onto the summit of Whetu (approx 45 mins) where we stopped for some group photos with the majestic Tonagiriro range in the background. From there it was a (much warmer) tramp slowly down to the bush line where we all stopped for lunch and our last look at the incredible views over Hawkes Bay to the east and Ruapehu/Ngarahoe to the west.

Elisabet and I pressed on ahead, bumping into Kevin’s group along the way who were aiming to make it up to the bush line for a taste of those stunning views. We stopped briefly at Makino Hut to refill our water and met the wardens for the nearby Te Puia Lodge, who were out doing some trapping. We followed them down the steep descent North from there (reminiscent of Mt Matthews in the Orongorongos but with less trees) and after taking a left at the bridge, trudged our way into the Mangatainoka Hot Springs sometime around 4pm.

It was there we met Richard’s group who had set up a fantastic camp site with oven fire to boot. What a treat this place is! I highly recommend this place if you’ve never been – especially in the colder months, it really warms to you to the core which is very welcome when the thermometer flutters around 0c…

The rest of our group strolled into camp a little later and the others decided to set up camp and have some dinner before going for a late night dip. Of all the nights, this was the warmest and so we all got ourselves a pretty decent sleep.

The following morning we set off with the other group at 7am. We took the short 35min walk back to Te Puia Lodge, stopping for a quick break before we began the final 2.5 hour hike along the winding Mohaka River. Most people took the last opportunity to have a dip in the springs and we all spent the last hour sat in the sun eating the last of our food.

Yet another fantastic weekend with the club. It’s always so great getting to spend time with like-minded people. My work mates are often bored silly with all my chatter about tramps here and there, yet it’s a whole different world when I get out into the hills with you all. Looking forward to the next one!

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