I was looking forward to returning to what I consider my home grade (“Easy-Medium”) with Maarten’s trip to Daphne Hut, after some tough snow trips this past winter. In addition, Maarten is the club’s resident expert on the Ruahine, so he is supremely qualified to lead rambles around the Hawkes Bay hills.
After a wet night camping at ANZAC camp ground just north of Norsewood, Easy-Medium and Medium groups decided on a coffee at the Norsewood cafe and a leisurely start.
A pre-tramp coffee in Norsewood. I love Easy-Medium! Photo credit: Aimee.
The DOC website said there had been some roadworks on Kashmir Road, and boy did we notice a difference! Usually it is a potholed, roller-coaster ride to the road end, but this time it was very smooth. Well done DOC or whoever filled in all those potholes!
Easy-Medium’s plan had been to head straight up the track to Longview Hut, however upon arriving at the road end, the snow and clag had set in, and Maarten wisely decided we should take the more northern, sheltered route into Daphne Hut. We got back in the van and drove the short 3km to the earlier road end.
After a short slog up the hill, we arrived in a snow-covered winter wonderland. The forecast had snow down to 600 meters, so we were treated to a sprinkling of white in places that I imagine don’t often see snow.
Maarten loves the Ruahine, and from my small experience of them I can see why. It is perhaps not as dramatic or densely forested as the Tararua, but it has nice grassy tracks with little mud, and you are on the tops in a jiffy – instant gratification tramping!
After some snapshots of the tops, we descended to the Tukituki River, where I got a chance to do what I am particularly skilled at – splashing around in puddles and getting unnecessarily wet. It wasn’t an issue though – it is only about 20 minutes along the north branch of the river before you arrive at Daphne Hut and are able to empty boots and pull off wet socks!
We arrived at the hut about 2.30pm. After a brew and soaking up some intermittent sun, the others played a rather complicated and strategic game of cards called 21. I tried to follow along but I soon fell asleep in my sleeping bag. Funnily enough I woke up just in time for dinner. Steph and Pat did a great job of cooking up the Laksa, and Anya the dates for dessert, so all I had to do was crawl out and fill up my plate! What a treat!
Sunday revealed some beautiful blue sky, and while I was eager to get in as much tops as possible, Maarten sensibly decided to take the shorter tops route due to time constraints, and, as it turned out, changeable weather. We splashed back up the river and marched up the hill, retracing our steps from yesterday.
At the high point of this track there is a junction, with the choice of descending the track we had taken yesterday, or striking out south-west-ish along the unmarked tops. We went for the tops, despite the cloud having gathered by this point. Despite being a little cold, it was a nice womble amongst the tussocks to Longview Hut.
By the time we reached Longview, the rain had set in, so we quickly regrouped in the hut to eat lunch and warm up. In a stroke of perfect timing, we had seen Medium across the tops descending from Otumore, so they arrived at the junction to Longview about 20 minutes after us. Medium’s job was to get down the ridge and go and collect the van from the Daphne Hut road end, so we tried to stay in the hut as long as possible to give them time to do so! As it turned out, it was the perfect amount of waiting time, because as we descended the ridge, the clouds started to break again and we got some more sunshine!
We had a warm drive out of the hills, and made another important stop at the Norsewood cafe for scones and coffee. A very relaxing weekend all round – thanks Maarten and group!