When Tony emailed out the trip plan to me, the sole punter, there were strict instructions to meet at platform 9 at 7.30am Saturday with my car. Since I was still struggling with daylight saving, my thought was pretty much ‘Struth! Tell him he’s dreaming.’ At 7.32am my clapped out wannabe Holden Barina screeched into the platform 9 carpark, narrowly avoiding a convoy of buses. Tony the fearless leader looked a bit alarmed. Infused with fresh caffeine, I drove us swiftly to the Ngatiawa roadend. White-knuckled Tony was probably wishing he’d driven his Ford (but it was parked in by his flatmates’ stuffed Commodore, another Holden nightmare).
From the roadend we briskly crossed the stream seven times and had a quick snack to prepare for the ascent to Kapakapanui hut. Tony set the pace of a two stroke engine at full throttle, until I casually reminded him this was a Medium tramp – it was allowed to be 20% brain, 30% muscle, 50% fun and 10% luck.
After a short break to gaze at Kapiti Island, the rest of the ascent to Kapakapanui hut was gentle and we chatted and walked at a solid Medium pace, checking our location on the map occasionally (the 20% brain part of tramping). Kapakapanui hut was chocka with serenity. So we lunched, contemplated the serenity and read the hut literature. Tony read a historical poster about the quickest route to the Waikanae pub, I read animal stories.
After lunch we set off into the mist a bit before midday, ambling through the cloud forest and occasionally stumbling in the mud. Just after Kapakapanui trig we reached the junction. Here we turned off towards Renata hut, another 3-4 hours away – this part of the route was red-line territory for me. We started descending through some boggy open tussock. With the clag, we could have been anywhere on the Tararua tops! Soon we were plunging down a narrow streambed/track fringed by wet leatherwood (i.e. 10% luck if you managed not to slip). The vibe of the thing was surprisingly rugged and exhilarating (i.e. 50% fun). After a 300m descent, we started heading gradually up and along through lush mossy cloud forest with swirling mist. A view of Kapiti Island had me momentarily disorientated until the map and compass came out. Soon we saw some spent bullet cartridges lying on the ground and heard the roar of 4WD engines. With this and its’ 4WD donuts, the first Maymorn Junction was chocka with culture.
The next part was a pleasant descent with a bit of rain starting, enough to put on the Gore-Tex. Sometime along the flat stretch, I realised there was a second Maymorn Junction marked on my older map and a track heading south. Something to check out on our return tomorrow, as the rain was getting steadily heavier.
We arrived at the mostly empty Renata hut in 3hrs 15minutes (from the Kapakapanui junction), about 4.30pm. Resident rats and previous tramper’s had left signs of their presence. Renata hut was chock-full of culture and serenity. There was even a proper surgical mattress for Tony (a medical man in his day job) to sleep on – once he’d cleared the rat shit from it he took it straight to the pool room! My mattress was also pretty cosy. After a wee explore and stretch, we chilled for a bit and then got into the business of cooking dinner. Tony had delegated dessert to me and he’d brought the main (but forgot cooking oil). When it was cooked up in the three billies, ‘what do you call this?’ was the inevitable question. ‘Pasta with tomatoes, vegetables and sausages. No seasoning though.’ Dessert was afghans and Whittaker’s dark mint chocolate. Awesome kai.
We fell asleep to steady rain and awoke to the same. No rats were seen or heard overnight. The rain had eased a lot by our 8am departure so off we briskly strolled and had passed the old marked track before I remembered to look for it. Oh well…another time. The track was noticeably wetter and conditions were mistier today though our travel time was much the same. Kapakapanui was partly obscured by cloud. Serenity prevailed. We heard some voices as we neared Kapakapanui junction…possibly the EM group. But they had disappeared into the mist so we saw no sign of them apart from a few slippy footprints as we steadily descended the steeper part of the Kapakapanui loop, getting warmer and drier. The stream was not noticeably higher and we arrived back at the car in shorts and t-shirts at 2pm. Thanks to Tony for expertly leading an enjoyable tramp.
Please note: no photocopiers were damaged during this tramp.