When I mentioned to my friends that the plan for weekend was to go to Waterfall hut, they all talked about the speargrass misery and challenging access, so I put my gaiters close to the top and my expectations close to bottom. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
I felt my GCSB style background vetting of the leader had been in vain when the van zoomed past Dave’s pick up at the Dowse interchange. But Maarten was unfazed and cool under pressure, executing an adroit rescue mission in rush hour traffic before nonchalantly pulling off the perfect parallel park outside the new Kebab shop in Greytown. Later that night he guided us to Triplex Hut using only the stars – was there nothing our secret agent man couldn’t do?
Well yes, as it turns out, remembering to bring gloves would have been a start but all that was a long way in the future. Staying at Triplex hut Friday night enabled us to put unwanted gear back into the van, and have a leisurely start Saturday morning.
This is Maarten’s favourite hut – he said he loved it because there are so many options and variety – rivers, tops, spurs, entries from west or east, 10 hour walk or 6 hour walk.
After skirting farmland for 30 min or so, we got to Smiths stream. As we waded our way downstream to Smith Creek Hut (hut number 2 for the hut baggers) and then uphill towards the tops I was more transfixed by Dave’s suitcase masquerading as a backpack. Was there nothing it didn’t contain? A full loaf of Vogel bread, a jar of jam, several packets of Toffee Pops and more costume changes than Kim Kardashian. One minute he was too hot and stripped down to a singlet, then too cold and stopping to don a storm jacket. Long johns or shorts with that? Mittens with or without gloves? Gaiters, on or off? A mid-lay or maybe three? Luckily Dave is so fit that it took no time at all to hunt us down after his endless faffing around.
We all had our fingers crossed for good visibility. As we got higher, we could see the mist come and go and the wind picking up.
Above the bushline the wind was howling in typical Ruahine fashion. Enough to blow me over onto the razor sharp gravel. Would we have to turn back? Maarten and Dave pointed to a snow covered gut running in the lee of the exposed spur. Perhaps this would offer enough protection to get us to 1715m. Miraculously, the plan worked. The wind died down as we walked across the tops which was awesome. With confirmation from a few navigators, we left the ridge and made our way down towards Waterfall hut.
With the climb up taking the energy out of a few of us, mist coming in and conditions darkening, a quick descent would be good – Fortunately the kids spied a scree escalator and in no time at all we were safely off the tops and in Rangi Creek – a river which Maarten knew well.
Before we know it, we were seated in front of a smokey fire awaiting a serving of Dave’s magic pudding……….
The missing pudding incident of Waterfall hut:
Three little steamed puddings sat on the cookbench, awaiting our contented follow-up to Maarten’s orange & date dessert treat. Later on, and most mysteriously, only two puddings could then be found, despite a thorough search of the hut. I double-Czeched carefully, even though we already had two Czechs in the hut. Paul’s photo of the smokey hut interior reveals a shadowy figure (possibly a single Czech) at the cookbench about the time the pudding disappeared. In the morning Klara discovered/revealed (claimed?) that the missing pudding had hidden itself in her pack. However the tension and suspicion within our close-knit team during the evening of the missing pudding remains strong in my memory, and justifies quotes from the great Australian children’s book “The Magic Pudding”:
“They’re after our Puddin’,” explained Sam, “because they’re professional pudding thieves.”
“Puddin’-thieves!” exclaimed the Mayor. “Don’t tell me that puddin’-thieves have come to Toolaroo!”
It staggers me with pain and grief, I can’t believe it’s true, That we should have a puddin’-thief, Or two in Tooraloo.
The next morning we went up a few rivers and over two saddles to get back to the van. The timing was perfect so we could have a snack at Wakamaka Hut (hut 4) and lunch at Waipawa Hut (hut 5 for the hut baggers).
The trip was great and I was impressed that just within two-day tramping I could have cross out five huts on the hut bagger. Also I considered myself rather experienced tamper but I have learnt several useful tricks.
No 1 – Have you forgotten your gloves? No problem! Search through your car until you find an old jumper, tear away the sleeves – voila!
No 2 – Does the water takes too long to boil? Just boost it up with another stove from the side! Who cares that you look like pyromaniac.
No 3 – There’s never enough sticky date pudding! Well I kind of knew that before but I’ve learnt more than one new way how to prepare date desert in the mountain hut.
No 4 – Dave has always a fashion surprise up his sleeve. Unless he is wearing singlet in a chilling wind on the ridge and keeping the next fashion model in his backpack.
No 5 – Using landslides saves a lot of bush-bashing and provides a lot of fun on the scree!
So in a response to my friends’ comments: Speargrass? What speargrass?!
Thanks again for a great company on a great trip. How to see you all soon again.
P.S. Dave chose a fetching green and yellow twinset for the journey home.