Ruahine Traverse Year 10 Camp

How ambitious is it, to put a pack on your back and commit to carrying everything you need to survive for 6 days tramping across the lower North Island? The mission is to start on the eastern side, near Onga Onga, and travel west, emerging at the road end behind the old Mangaweka Bungee site. The challenge was taken up by 8 young men, lead by experienced staff; leaving Sunday morning.

The first day is up hill for three hours to Sunrise hut. Each kilogram in the pack was felt and decisions of how much food to carry were being questioned. However, the views were fantastic, but with rain and high winds forecasted, lunch was short as we had to climb higher still, and walk through an exposed saddle to our campsite: Top Maropea Hut. Tents were erected and a small fire started, and as the sun set, the rains and wind started. Strong winds, coming straight up the valley tested the strength of tents and had pegs straining to stay in the ground. Everyone stayed dry though, and were up and ready to carry on before 8am.

Day two was a river day. The rain was a consistent drizzle, annoyingly wet enough to mean that stopping for a rest was too cold, so the only stops were for admiring trout in the river (and getting out the fishing rods) and quietly observing the native Whio (blue duck). Whio are more rare than Kiwi in New Zealand, and it is a real privilege to see them in the native habitat. After about 5hours we arrived at Maropea Forks hut with wet boots. The rain had started to clear which meant tents could be put up to dry out properly before they were needed again in the evening.

Tuesday is a dedicated rest day, to recuperate from the last two days, and to prepare for the steep climb required to get to our next campsite. Rest days also give the opportunity for new friendships to be made and strengthened, for campcraft skills to be learned, and for a couple of keen fishermen to explore the rivers for quality back-country trout (and occasional eel). There was a possible but unconfirmed sighting of the extremely rare Ruahine Mountain Dolphin. This was record in the hut book so that future groups to know where to look. Food is enthusiastically eaten so that packs become lighter, and gear and boots also have time to dry properly. Some experiential learning about the incorrect way to dry boots will hopefully be long remembered by the young men on the trip !

Wednesday is our longest walking day. An early 8am start will mean an early finish so we grind our way up hill. The day is dry and hotter, but not too hot and with lighter packs we make good time to the high pointy. The Ruahine Whio Protection group has put down stoat and rat traps all along this route, and we cleared these as we went. 5 rats and 1 stoat !!!. The bush we walk through is just beautiful: beech trees and moss lined the track. Tui, Bellbird and the Shining Cuckoo are heard in the trees, and after about 5 hours, as we pass through regenerating Manuka and fresh pig rooting, we hear the river below signalling we are nearly at the next campsite. Fresh pig sign is all around, and Onga Onga (the NZ native stinging nettle tree) has started to grow too close to the track. We arrived at Ironbark hut an hour faster that the last camp taken here, and gratefully so. Tents were quickly put up and the rest of the day was enjoyed listening to Tui and talking around the camp fire.

Thursday is uneventful, and prepares us for Fridays quick and sharp lift back to the top of the Mokai-Patea range. Again the group moves faster than previous years and we make good time up to the tops. Navigating over private property (with permission), we stopped to watch a group of Red Deer hinds run off, and saw another smaller group feeding about 500m away. The downhill leg is extremely steep, without tracks or trees to hold on to we were fortunate that the few slides were short and more funny than painful. Our timing was perfect, emerging at the road end and seeing the van just come into view, we only had to wait a minute before we were soon on the road home !