Tararua Tramping on Waitangi Weekend

Who would have thought that Pretty Little Princess me would survive three days in the bush! I honestly wouldn’t have thought so myself, but I actually did it. I went on an honest-to-goodness tramp (level of difficulty: Medium) and survived — without a hairbrush!

Since I know nothing about tramping, I let my companion / tramp guide handle all the nitty gritty details. He showed me where we were going and explained that we will be parking the car at the Waiohine Campsite (just after Greytown), cross a swing bridge over the Waiohine River and go over a little hill (it’s so little it doesn’t have a name) to get to Cone Hut, which is in the upper Tauherenikau Valley. We spend the night in Cone Hut and then proceed to Tutuwai Hut the following day. And then, depending on the weather, we can go up Mount Reeves to get back to the car, or walk back the way we came in. I said, yeah sure… and so, on Saturday, we hopped in the car and drove about 2 hours North East of Wellington to go on this tramp.

Topography of a Tramp

Day 1 – And so it begins

We arrived at Waiohine Gorge a little past 1:00 in the afternoon. We mucked around for a bit – made sure all our valuables were in the boot of the car, repacked our bags, made sure we had water in our water bottles and scroggin in our pockets, and adjusted our big packs! I’ve honestly never carried a pack like this before … well, my pack is little and light compared to what my companion had on his back … so it was kind of exciting. We walked about 800 meters from the car park to get to the campsite (there was a slip which made the road to the Waiohine Campsite impassable) and then crossed the swing bridge to get to where the tramp proper started. Of course all was well and good! I even had time to take pictures (of me, the pack, the swing bridge, the river and my not-yet-sore-feet!).

And this is the tramp proper … Yeah. It was all fun and games until the actual tramp started. The first few steps were okay but we had to go up the side of the hill and, if you look at the topographical map above, you’ll see that the incline was quite steep. Somewhere between the time we started and the time we reached the peak, I almost broke down in tears … TWICE! I was just so overwhelmed! I felt like I couldn’t breathe, my legs hurt and every step I made made my legs hurt even more. I seriously asked myself why I was doing this, and wanted to turn back but couldn’t because that would make me a wuss and I guess, I also didn’t want to.

My companion had to give me pep talks every so often (which kinda helped, a little) and one time, while we were resting at a fallen log (I was trying to catch my breath and he was explaining that I have to work through the “burn”) some random dude went running past us. I was like – “what the !@)*!@?”  Here I am, struggling to walk up a hill and this man just prances around past us like this hill was his own personal treadmill. That gave me the boost I needed – and the thought that my companion was carrying such a heavy load and my dawdling meant he’d have to lug it around longer. Admittedly, I found going up that hill to be a real challenge – and I made a game out of the orange arrows that pointed us towards our destination – but we eventually made it to the top.

We then had a fairly cruisey walk across that hill and then had to make our descent to get to Cone Hut. Of course going downhill was just as terrifying as going up hill. I had work hard to remove images of me sliding down a slope out of my head – that wasn’t helping my confidence level – and just focus on getting to Cone Hut. We managed to get to Cone Hut only to find out that it’s already occupied. So … change of plans – we trudged on to Tutuwai Hut (which is just about an hour’s walk away) hoping that there’d be some place for us to spend the night.

We got to Tutuwai Hut (we thought we got lost because we couldn’t find one marker – it was just well hidden) and thankfully there were available bunks so we hunkered down to get a bit of rest. We had a cream cheese and smoked salmon snack when we arrived – just to stave off hunger. And then, after about an hour or so, we had a sumptuous dinner of couscous cooked in pumpkin soup with rehydrated mushrooms and bacon. I went to sleep right after that. I felt I deserved it. 🙂

Day 2 – Tutuwai Hut and Cone Hut

I had a bi of my wits around me the following day and was able to take a few more photos of Tutuwai Hut. We had a really laid-back day – we got up at about 10:00, had breakfast, chatted with 2 other trampers and then plotted our schedule. We decided to forego going up Mount Reeves and just go back the way we came in. We didn’t think walking from the train station to the car park would be a particularly good idea.

We left Tutuwai Hut at about midday and, after I refilled my water bottle from the river (the water is so cool and refreshing) we walked back towards Cone Hut, which was now unoccupied. We stopped for lunch (cream cheese and bacon sandwiches), had a nana nap and on waking, decided that we’ll spend the night at Cone Hut instead. I was a bit wary because I’ve never really been out in the bush like this before, but hey – there’s a first time for everything, right?

So we went around the area and looked for twigs (no chopped wood in this cabin) and tried to make a fire. My companion’s hopeless at making one (hehehe), good thing I was around. I mean, would you believe I managed to get a fire going? I tried to remember the tips BK gave me before, when he was teaching me how to light a fire in the fireplace at home. Those tips, plus my natural ability to control fire (NOT) helped a lot. We got the cabin all warmed up. It was a good thing we stayed the night because the wind was blowing quite strongly from late afternoon to well into the evening.

Scary evening – I couldn’t sleep because it was too dark and I kept hearing things go bump in the night, but I was reassured that the Tararua Ranges is a safe place and the animals outside (possums and rats, most likely) are more afraid of me, than me of them. With that in mind, I drifted off to never never land.

Day 3 – And now, the end is near

We got up early on Monday morning and, after tidying up the fireplace (see picture below, I stacked the firewood nicely on one side of the hut – sadly, even out in the wop-wops, I’m still a neat freak), and refilling our water bottles from a nearby stream, we went on our merry way – that was at about 8:45 or 9:00 am. We had to get to the swing bridge before midday because the forecast said that gale-force winds would be felt in the Tararuas in the afternoon. There’s no way in HELL I’d walk across the swingbridge when the wind’s that strong. So … we walked back up. I had paced myself well for the return trip. I didn’t rush up the way I did the previous day and I guess it helped that the incline wasn’t as steep as that area when we were coming out of the gorge.

We stopped for a breather and have a drink (and on one stop, found out that one of our water bottles had a leak and all the water we had to last us the rest of the way was about 200 ml), admired the surroundings and basically just appreciated the beauty of nature a couple of times. We talked about other tramping areas and what tramping gear I probably should invest on (yes, there was talk about going on another tramp – who’d have thought, huh?). We managed to find ourselves crossing the wonky swingbridge (it was already swaying in the wind) at about 11:30 and were at the carpark, changing into clean clothes by midday. And all of a sudden – the tramping weekend’s all done.

After having a well-deserved meal break at Greytown, we drove back to Wellington. We got back at about 3:00pm. Somewhere between Greytown and Wellington, it was decided that I need to buy decent tramping shoes and socks so my feet wouldn’t hurt when I do the Tongariro Alpine Crossing sometime in mid-March (yes, this year). It’s also somehow been decided that we’ll be going on other tramps in the Tararua area, and perhaps venture south and do some walks in the Abel Tasman region. HUH?

But honestly, it was fun. Yes, I absolutely LOATHED going up that gorge but, according to other trampers (from work, of course I shared this with them) they’ve felt the same way too and yes, they find themselves going on other tramps afterwards. So yeah … I guess I’m going on another tramp soon.

Finally – yes, I did have sore feet afterwards, and a sore back. But the trip was well worth it.

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