Papatahi Crossing

Marie in Joe's Hut
Marie in Joe’s Hut

What’s the definition of a M/F-tramp? According to some, it doesn’t even exist as it would be either M or F, and anything in between is just smoke and mirrors. This trip was optimistically scheduled to be a M-trip, but over the weekend the idea developed that it actually should be rated a M/F tramp.

Let’s start with the ingredients: some veggies and couscous, a relaxed Saturday morning start allowing all to check out the Guy Fawkes fireworks on Friday evening, two vans to do a car swap, a bunch of enthusiastic punters, lots of orange triangles, vertical and horizontal water, and a few bits of rope.

This probably requires some more explanation, so let’s go to a coffee shop in Petone where four guys are bent over a NZ Topo map, discussing the track whilst letting some of the southerly rain get past. The plan was to leave one van in Wainuiomata, guarded by the local duck posse on Sunny Grove, allowing these four punters to start from the west side. Two others took the club van and had already headed off to the Wairarapa side of the crossing and started their journey from there. The junction of Boulder Creek and the Orongorongo seemed a logical mid-point to meet the other group and set up camp.

Cheerful start at Sunny Grove
Cheerful start at Sunny Grove

Indeed a river terrace just south of Boulder Creek provided a perfect camping spot. Rowena, accompanied by her dog, had already walked in from Catchpool after a dog-training, identified the right location and was about to start a nice campfire by the time the group of four arrived. Metservice had promised the southerly to die out in the course of the day, so we put up the large fly in the hope of a comfortable night.

Meanwhile the other two had arrived from the eastern side, going up Papatahi on one side and sliding down the other side. A combination of some snow, a bit of mud and loose scree made it quite challenging, but luckily there were some bits of rope and sufficient trees to grab for additional support. As fisherman tales and campfire stories go, the mud, slips, ongaonga and vertical drops got bigger and bigger, and by the end of the evening (must have been 9 o’clock) their 7-hour tramp had been transformed into a 10-hour gruesome journey. The leg of the tramp from Wainui to the campsite had been pretty easy going on a wellformed track, with the major events being some crossings of the Orongorongo. The four guys had therefore no possibility to balance the horror stories with similar R16 stuff.

Last lazy bit out, looking back to Papatahi and Mt  Matthews
Last lazy bit out, looking back to Papatahi and Mt

Sunday crept in very quietly, so the group of four actually got up a bit later than planned and hit the track shortly before 9AM. They made a huge effort to stick to the 10-hour scheme, negotiating the track carefully, having some snack breaks, doing map reading and altimeter checks. There certainly were steep parts where the trees, ferns and ropes came in handy, there were some bum-slides, and worst of all some even hit the stinging nettle. Halfway the afternoon they came across Joe’s hut (or Wharepapa hut on the new map) which contained some 1970’s editions of the Outdoor magazine (50c only) advertising real Swiss army knives for about $40. The final leg meant going up another hill, and down, and up another little one, and down again to reach the van basking in the early evening sun. Proud as they were to have made this 10-hour trip in exactly 10 hours, the four men happily drove home.

Meanwhile, the three feminine trampers had spent half a day in and around their homes, as the bit to Wanuiomata appeared to be some five hours only.

So getting back to the original question it is very clear: a M/F tramp should be defined as a tramp where the Male punters travel in one direction, and the Female in the other. Simple as that!

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