We set off on Friday evening to get to Paua hut so we could make an early start on Saturday.
It was a perfect warm calm evening for us to sit outside Paua Hut and Alastair to talk us through the trip he had in mind, and to give some a crash course in navigation.
After hot drinks and chatting until sun down, to bed it was – for some this was under the stars as it was such a calm night.
On Saturday, we were all ready to go at 730am – it must have been the excitement and anticipation for what Alistair had in store.
First we needed to head up to Tapokopoko which we accessed from Paua Ridge, and to some this was familiar from the other awesome trip Alastair lead a few months ago. This well- trodden track goes straight up and is partially marked so no need for compasses yet.
After a quick break at the “camp site” ¾ way up the hill, to drink (last stream for the next 8 hours) and enjoy the view, we got to the summit at 843m.
Compasses and maps out, we take a bearing to our next spot south across the ridge. After all agreeing on the bearing, it was baptism with fire for Bernie who Alastair put on point, and it was up to the rest of us to keep him on track as he made his way through the trees, and Wei Min was the time keeper (so we could estimate distance).
To me this was great as we could just walk under the trees with the sun coming out and no nasty bush to whack. I am sure I heard Alastair say that the open area we were heading towards was hard to cross, so we were not getting too complacent.
After taking a few more bearings, we made our way across the ridge and the easy walking soon turned to finding the thinnest part of several “hedge walls” of tightly grown shrubs with sharp interlocking branches and climbing up flax hills where you just had to grab and power through until we got to the open area. Occasionally you could see deer and orongorongoutan paths through the dense bush which made it easier to get through.
Alistair was right. What looks like an easy area to cross on the map, was the mother of all tussock grass areas which you had to fight your way through. Hidden fallen trees, big dips with grass up to your armpits, overlapping grass plants and avoiding the steep cliffs in the water shed made for a very slow tiring stage. This was a chance to get a visual of our next bearing which was the spot height 743m, and from there towards The Peak (864m).
The Peak was our lunch stop – great spot with views across Palliser Bay to Aorangi Range to the west, the Richmond and Kaikoura Range to the south and Lower Hutt and Kapiti Island to the north.
From The Peak we set several bearings to get us around the east side of Kotumu towards Red rocks stream which was our way back down the hill to the Orongorongo river. This section had a massive slip and ongaonga to avoid, but generally easy going. We entered the Red Rocks stream a bit down the hill as the top was a bit steep, and after a quick scramble down, we could replenish our water and rest before the last leg – 5 km along Red Rocks and the Orongorongo rivers back to Paua Hut.
It was still well in the 20s so we were hot from out epic bush walk and in need of a swim. We all kept our eyes open for anything that resembled a water hole to cool off and we weren’t disappointed. Near Paua hut was a clean deep pool which was inviting us in. Four of us didn’t hesitate much and we were in, and two thought it was too cold.
At 630pm we were back at Paua hut where it was snacks and drinks whilst preparing dinner – chorizo pasta – boy did that taste good after a long day. To top the great day off, Alistair made custard and chocolate cake for dessert!
More hot drinks and a chinwag until sundown and as it was another calm warm night, several of us slept outside.
Sunday was an easy walk back to the Catchpool carpark and we were off home.
A good weekend was had by all.