There were 3 in our happy band. After many days of beautiful, calm, sunny weather, there were howling gales and lashing rain forecasted for the weekend. Driving from Wellington on the Friday night, the worst of it did not arrive until we actually parked the van at Otaki Forks about 9pm. We opened the van door to get our gear, and the heavens opened.
Fortunately, Parawai Lodge is only 200 metres away from the bridge, and we coped just fine in the couple of minutes it took us to get to the hut. Tim and I huddled up to hot water bottles, while Michelle braved it out despite having a small bout of carsickness on arrival (I swear I drove slowly and carefully!).
There was rain, and lots of it, but by morning it had blown itself out and we woke to birdsong and sunshine. In fact it was perfect tramping weather, and with a spring in our step made our way up to Field Hut where we stopped for lunch. I was happy to share the result of a newly discovered (for me) recipe for spanakopita. Mmmm! After warnings by a couple of strangers about the perils of slips on the track to Penn Creek, we continued uphill to Table Top, where yet another person also warned us, and we got to the “Danger” sign erected by DoC.
A discussion ensued about the merits of going to Kime instead, which by all reports had snow and frozen streams early in the morning. You also could hardly see far beyond Dennan Hill because of the ugly conditions evident in that direction. On agreement that we would turn back to Field if the going got too tough, we soldiered on toward Penn. And we saw our first wild mammal…a kid, no more than 20 metres away. It bounded down the track ahead and stared at us before disappearing into the brush. Down, down, downhill. Seemingly never-ending and tough on the knees, we descended to the valley floor.
We were practically there. There had been no slips at all. A couple of small stream crossings and a disagreement with a supplejack later, we arrived at the hut. It is a hut brimming with character, and is just lovely to be in. A slight drawback is that unless you want a smoke-filled room within seconds, it is an absolute must to have both windows open while the fire is alight. We had the place to ourselves apart from a couple who borrowed a pot and mattress and camped downstream.
Tim and Michelle were in charge of the meal, and it was butter chicken on rice, followed by cheesecake. Whilst in the middle of making the cheesecake, the whole place lit up, again and again. The thunder storm had arrived. Fortunately for us, it only deposited about 20 minutes of heavy rain. We found out the following day that there was also hail and fiendish gales up at Maungahuka hut. I was very glad of the decision to go to Penn. After the brief downpour, Tim played a few magic card tricks on me and we whiled away a very pleasant evening.
The forecast for Sunday had been clear, and indeed it was. Tim and Michelle charged up back up the hill to Table Top, with instructions to look for me if I hadn’t been seen for 1 ½ hours. Much to my dismay, they came and looked for me! Admittedly, I’d stopped for a nice falafel lunch (another new recipe I’d tried), but even so, they made me feel every bit 20 years their senior. Argh!
At this point, the weather closed in with some mist and drizzle. I didn’t even bother to put on my raincoat, as we would soon be back at Field Hut. Amanda and Richard popped in to say hello, and after a rest, the 3 of us headed back to the van. Essentially, we’d missed 99.9% of all the bad weather, and I’m not sure there was any that weekend at all…