If viewing this on your cell phone please note that the relevant photos will appear after the last report.
Sunrise Hut 4 November 2022
I met the club van beside the Tikokino pub and we drove to the Carpark to tramp into Sunrise Hut in the Ruahine Ranges.
It was a cruisy start having had lunch at the carpark. We started wondering how many choices we would have for beds given our late start. I was imagining I would be in the heavens again on level 3. This trip is advertised as an easy family trip and indeed, we have encountered primary school groups on the track before. However, it is still a push in with two steady climbs resulting in the walk taking a little over three hours. Towards the top we encountered very strong wind. Incredibly we were the first at the hut. Wahoo! A choice of booked bunks. Having quickly got ourselves organised and one member choosing to tent, it was very apparent there would be no going up onto Armstrong Saddle. Denys gave Dave a lesson in getting a difficult fire going then out came the cards and in between having fun, a weary eye was kept on the tent to make sure it was still there. More groups turned up as the evening wore on with the latest at around eleven pm. A very windy night ensued.
Sunday morning, bright and early, we waited for the sun to rise and were not disappointed by the display. The wind, if anything, was worse so we headed down to the carpark, after a small detour to look at Triplex hut, and onto Waipawa for a lovely brunch. A huge thanks to Dave for his driving over.
Participants Gill Tate, Dave & Jill Wilding, Denys Gayton, Donna Gordon, Jenny Verschaffelt
Getting High in Nepal: 10-29(31) October 2022
Brief would be a relief instead of wading through the runaway paragraphs ahead but trying to compress our extraordinary trekking trip into fewer words is like trying to pretend you can breathe normally at 4700 meters. Impossible! Herewith my summary in a longish and somewhat breathless nutshell.
When a gap on Jean’s long-planned trip to Nepal became available, I vaulted myself into the space with some ‘pinch myself’ disbelief. Her brilliant idea, conceived pre Covid and then frozen during global lockdowns, was finally able to thaw and became reality for some of us over-excited (and slightly apprehensive) maturing teenagers. The original intention to trek to the Rara Lake was disbanded due to a shortage of regional aircraft that were needed at short notice to evacuate 2500 trekkers stranded elsewhere in the Himalayas due to ghastly weather. Right up until the day before we set off, we had no idea where we were going to trek, but this dialled up the adventure ahead.
Queen Jean and her keen team left NZ for Nepal on Monday 9 October with great faith vested in Acclimatize Nepal, the same excellent husband-wife managed company Jean had used on her previous trek to Everest Base Camp in April 2019. As events turned out, she had chosen exceedingly well, so well that some of us are entertaining a return trip if legs and lungs continue to vaguely cooperate for those of us of a certain maturity. It was an epic experience for all 19 days of perfectly behaved weather—expectations exceeded, stunning views surpassed, bodies taxed to new heights.
There was a sense that it was going to be an extraordinary journey from the day we left Kathmandu to drive to Syabrubesi, the small town that was our trekking departure point. Driving there took our comfortable van eight hours to navigate a mere 140km. The sheer amount of traffic clogging up the roads out of the city was the first reckoning. The ‘jam’ in traffic jam has never been more apt as we snailed along, bumper to bumper. Wildly painted trucks as is customary here, the drivers’ compartments decorated with an eye-watering amount of bling, filled the roads like an endless circus on the move. Once out in the country and as we started to climb into the mountains, the road itself became an uncharted continent of ridges and valleys, a mini-Himalaya range all on its own. Coupled with the sheer drop off caused those of us on the left side of the van into clench mode until we eventually descended into Syabrubesi.
The trekking covered twelve days and involved two separate routes with 172 km covered in total. We tossed out the two scheduled rest days as the active options surrounding us were just too tempting! Altitude adds an entirely new perspective to the hiking equation, enough to shake the cockiness out of any tramping boots. Panting mode becomes the norm as one heads up into thinning air. The brain might desire more speed, but the body cannot always comply. There were three consecutive days when we ascended 1000m, a recipe guaranteed to zip the lips and divert energies where better required. Multiple photo stops are a discreet way to pause for breath. ‘Bistari, bistari,’ was the regular cry from our guides, a reminder to reduce pace and arrive at the destination intact and with more opportunity ‘to smell the roses’ on the way up some of those stunning gradients!
Langtang Valley trek:
. Syabrubesi 1350m-Lama Hotel 2340 m 14km
. Lama hotel- Langtang Village (rebuilt) 3480m
. Langtang Village- Kyanjing Gomba 3870m
. Rest day- hiked up Kyanjing Ri (4700m), Lindsay and Peter headed higher up to up Tsergo Ri (4984m)
. Trek back to Lama Hotel
. Lama Hotel- Thulo Syabru 1900m
. Thulo Syabru-Shing Gomba 3330m
. Shing Gomba- Gosaikunda Lake 4380m
. Gosaikunda Lake- via Lauribina Pass (4681m) to Tharepati (3610m)
. Rest day number 2 spent trekking to Chisopani (2150m)
. Chisopani to Sundarijal and back to the excitement of flushing plumbing in the Hotel Mulberry, Thamel, KTM.
The first trek was into the beautiful Langtang Valley situated in the national park of the same name. This park was proclaimed in 1976 in the central Himalayan region and is home to precious fauna and flora. The only way into the valley is on foot. On the first few days, we walked through lush forests of maple, oak, alder, bamboo and pine interspersed with dense stands of huge rhododendrons that turn the slopes into a spectacular technicolour garden of Eden in March. The forest grows profusely to a height of 3500m unlike our alpine regions. Animal residents include the red panda, musk ox, Himalayan black bear, snow leopard, and monkeys. Domesticated yak—the female is quaintly called a nak— and hybrid yak graze on the higher pastures. Yak are solid squares of beasts able to withstand the harsh winters ‘carpeted’ in thick, long fur. Jean, our unofficially crowned team ornithologist, was in her element identifying local birds. That she had packed her bird book in her backpack spoke of her dedication to the bird population.
The Langtang Valley suffered great damage in the devastating 2015 earthquake. This triggered a massive landslide completely burying Langtang Village and 243 people, including 41 trekkers, under 20 meters of rock. We walked over this landslide, a virtual rubble cemetery of epic dimensions. Tering Dorje and his impossibly young-looking wife, Kelsang, were our teahouse hosts at the Glacier Hotel that night along with their 16/12 daughter. His sad story is one of many similar in the area. After both his parents died in the landslide, he shelved his postgraduate studies to return to the valley and care for his surviving family. Foreign trekkers were understandably scared to return but the locals are dependent on passing tourism. Having rebuilt homes and teahouses, they are keen for business especially after Covid further squeezed their already compromised livelihoods. Our hostess the following night further up the valley at Kyanging Gompa, a woman widowed by the quake, was an enterprising businesswoman with a hothouse in one of the pastures where she grows salad and vegetables. In this same delightful village hemmed in by glaciers and peaks at the top of the valley, a chance encounter with a man washing his baby son’s small clothes at an open tap led to an afternoon tea invitation to meet his wife and baby. This random meeting with a nephew (on vacation away from his German studies) in attendance as interpreter, is the catalyst for a project to fundraise for the future education of this child. Kay Feather, who sadly was unable to accompany us on this trip, has very kindly offered to spearhead this campaign
On day six we started hiking the Gosaikunda circuit. The attraction to this hike is the string of holy lakes as one heads up towards the pass. Thousands of Hindu pilgrims trek up here in August for blessings. These are called oligotrophic lakes due to their minimal nutritional content. That night spent in the modest teahouse perched above the largest lake will remain unforgettable forever. Icy air to blew in through the many gaps in the wooden walls and floorboards, the small, the curtain fragment in front of our small, closed window billowing wildly all night. There was agreement that this was the coldest we had been for a sustained period. Swaddled in six layers of good technical gear inside my goose down sleeping bag, failed to keep me warm. We started trekking at 6.30am the next morning, a little desperate to regenerate some inner heat with a long day ahead and crossing over the snowy and icy Lauribina Pass just under 5000m². That same afternoon as we started descending rapidly, we stripped down to short sleeves again. Altitude is a great leveller when it concerns thermodynamics!
The teahouses we stayed in were modest, some more comfortable than others. Their names are often hilarious—the Himalayan Hilton, Me Very Happy Guest House, Bob Marley Guest House. There is no internal heating except for a firebox which is lit for only a few hours in the evening as wood generally must be portered up over days from lower down. Somehow, our wonderful hosts they always managed to produce excellent filling meals in basic ‘kitchens’ with none of the mod cons we consider essential. The choices were unvarying but always satisfying and included Thukpa (amazing noodle soups), pizza, huge spring rolls, delicious momos (dumplings), pancakes, omelettes, chow mein and the best belly filler, Tibetan bread drowned in honey, the ideal jet fuel before starting the day!
We ate our way through many dishes of dal bhat. This is the signature dish of Nepal which lives up to its popular description of powering up any sluggish legs, ‘dal bhat power, twenty-four hour.’ The meal comprises small containers filled with an assortment of vegetables (pickled and fresh, sometimes supersonically spicy), a mountain of rice, lentil soup and possibly a papadum and meat. The beauty of this meal is that it is pretty much bottomless, extra portions being offered until one can munch no more.
That none of us fell by the wayside with any gastric bug was a bonus that cannot be underestimated. Toilet paper is not provided so we carried our own and hoped for the best. Ablution facilities are basic, a typical hole-in-ground squatting option, no flushing plumbing (used paper goes into a communal bucket to be burned) and occasional showers or a bucket shower provided for a fee. Teahouses and all the villages have a ‘shop’ or shelving with handmade woven and knitted articles for sale. Most women do crafts with either commercial wool carried in or use yak wool to weave and knit into socks, hats and bags to waylay the passing traveller.
The gentle Nepalese living remotely are sincerely good and humble folk. Their beliefs are deeply rooted in their faith, either Hinduism (81%) or Buddhism (9%). They actively apply the tenets of compassion, charity and embrace a peaceful lifestyle, living subsistence lives as their families have done historically. They are enormously resourceful with provisions having to be carried in over a period of days by porters or themselves on their backs in mind-blowingly enormous loads.
The other transport option is mule trains. These are heard before they are seen, the sweet tinkling of bells worn around these little beasts’ necks announcing their approach. Many folk tend their vegetable gardens, may own a yak for milk and
cheese production if they can afford to buy one and have a few chickens for egg supply as most are vegetarians. Meat is a rarity given the Buddhists’ compassionate stance towards life forms means they don’t kill animals. I was happy to pay good rupees (200Rs the most, the equivalent of NZ$2.37) for the biggest of the three precious apples I managed to find during these twelve days, as fresh fruit and veg obviously must be carried in. The return of tourism to these remote corners is a huge relief to these folk two years later. This also applies to the city. As much as bargaining with stall owners within the pulsing alleyways of Kathmandu is the normal style of commerce, winning a good deal becomes unimportant when remembering that survival is a daily challenge for most of the population.
Keeping us all on the not-so-straight and very steep tracks, were our two wonderful guides and three magnificent young porters. Tashie was our excellent ‘number one’ guide, a master’s graduate in social science from KTM university and English fluent. He hailed from the Everest region, his grandfather and father having also guided. Number two guide, Sarkie, was a delightful father of two, always sweetly generous with his encouragement in his limited English when the going got a bit strenuous.
Our three young porters, Phurba, Pasang and Sonam were the real trekkers in my opinion. We were each allowed to pack a duffle bag of clothing and essentials weighing no more than 15kg. Each porter carried two of these plus his own small backpack on his shoulders attached by rope to a headband, the strain born by head, neck and shoulders. The typical Nepalese man is a small, compact powerhouse. Just looking at them loading up their considerable weights each morning was sufficient to make one’s knees buckle.
One of our porters had a narrow escape one morning and tumbled 40 meters down a precipitous slope towards the river. The local gods and spirits must have been out to spare Pasang. We were only told afterwards that this notorious segment of track claims a few lives annually. We were fortunate that none of us had to use our heli evacuation clause included in our mandatory travel insurance. The sound of rotor blades whirring overhead was a reminder that altitude or injuries can so easily wreck a trip. Sheer good luck and FOMO must have played a part!
Aside from the trekking focus, there were two days both before and after our trekking to explore some of the highlights of Kathmandu. In a city jammed with five million, it’s a mad juxtaposition of Asia colliding with the West, an insane network of psychotic traffic with little adherence to lane convention, tight alleyways crammed with stalls, merchants desperate for trade stepping into your path with wares for sale, well fed dogs sprawled in various relaxed poses, the occasional wandering cow, enormous piles of garbage as rubbish is collected on a random basis and the all-pervasive stench of poor sanitation threaded through with incense and cooking spices. The city’s infrastructure lags behind the insatiable demands of an expanding population. Coming from our tidy first world lives, it’s all too easy to pass judgmenton this perceived chaos but for the people who live there, an order exists within this.
The traffic, oh my goodness! There was a hair-raising taxi drive in a doll-sized taxi to our welcoming dinner on the first night. Christine and I sat welded at the hip in the backseat alternately sucking our teeth or trying to mute our hysterical shrieks as our driver roller-coastered with the other million lawless taxis, trucks, motorbikes and death wish cyclists as we hurtled towards our restaurant.
Among this inner-city mayhem, lies an oasis, The Garden of Dreams, 7000m² of unexpectedly gorgeous garden and peaceful landscaping. We visited this on our penultimate day, arriving early morning to enjoy that signature sound of women sweeping the dirt paths with handmade brooms, others hosing the lush shrubberies before the day heated up. It’s a century old now, originally begun as a private garden in the neo classical tradition with garden rooms containing pavilions, ponds, and an amphitheatre. After major damage during the 2015 earthquake, it was restored to an impressive standard.
There was also a visit to the biggest Buddhist temple, Boudhanath Stupa and the medieval city of Bhaktapur originating in the 8th century and still a living city. We visited the Monkey Temple at sunset and vied with innumerable worshippers who vastly outnumbered the apes, to take photographs of the city below.
As for the trip home, hear the collective sighs of six leg-weary trekkers here! You would think that after all our recent altitudinal experience, being up at 30,000 feet wouldn’t have been an issue but what should have been a 24-hour flight path home morphed into a three-day marathon, a memorable grand finale none of us could have imagined. The trigger was our delayed incoming flight to KTM. An eye-watering rerouting then took the six of us from KTM to Singapore, then, unbelievably, northwards to Taipei, followed by a southerly flight path to Brisbane and finally Auckland. As we crawled into our cheap motel beds that night, Jean and I discovered that our connection to Taupo next morning had been cancelled. No time even for a well-controlled meltdown but we booked ourselves on Intercity to get the two of us home the next day. This was not the return planned but the trade-off was yet more stories to tell, including the kilometres of foreign airport concourse covered on foot, chapters of chatting clocked up and many hands of cards played to stay awake!
It was a gift to be immersed within a vastly different culture for a short time. Preaching aside, our first world lives appear excessively excessive, comparatively speaking. One cannot but feel humbled by so much—the people, altitude, magical scenery, even my old body which had to dig deeper into previously unknown stocks! There’s something to be said about stepping out of one’s comfort zone and the self-growth it triggers, especially retrospectively of course.
With enormous thanks to Jean Caulton for breathing new life into an idea that became a dream realised for the rest of us so fortunate to be part of this special team- Christine Elmiger, Peter Staples, Trudy Haringa, Lindsay Brown, Claire Furniss.
Here’s to the road ahead for all of us in 2023 whether high or low, fast or slow.
For anyone interested, there’s an excellent three-part series on Netflix that showcases the real-time and post-quake impact of this on both Everest and the Langtang Valley.
13th & !4th August 2022
Rangawahia Hut (One)
Back on the road again. This time without the trailer and bikes but instead a full set of winter woollies and our tramping boots. Bernie (organiser extra-ordinaire), Sandy (his trusty side kick), Dave and Jill, Vanda and Elsie set off South. The mountains were spectacular with their shawl of winter snow promising us wide vistas from the lofty heights we hoped to climb.
We turned off SH1 onto Ruahine Rd just north of Mangaweka then turned into Te Para Para Rd following it through two closed farm gates to the carpark at the end. The bottom carpark was fairly full so we drove up to the top park to find even more cars. It looked like everyone else was out to enjoy the beauty and sunshine of the day.
The tops of the Ruahine Ranges were covered in snow so we were hopeful we might get high enough to enjoy the wonders of the “white Stuff”.
We left the carpark at 10.45 a.m. to climb steadily on a well formed track, stopping frequently to turn to look back at the view. This was different forest, dominated by big swathes of Horopito which a sign informed us is a “nursery or primary species”, one that enables the bigger natives to get established before the Horopito is over-shadowed and dies out. There were also beech trees and further up many Mountain Cedar or Kaikawaka, so distinctive with their conical shape and different bark.
About half way up the track, we zig zagged down to a gorgeous “humpy” bridge framed by beech trees and spanning a deep chasm. Bernie said it is sometimes called the Helen Clarke (ex - prime minister) Bridge as Helen over saw the funding for it. It reminded me of the pictures you see of Japanese scenery, the elegant bridge, surrounded by tiny leafed, elegant trees over a pretty stream, only the Japanese streams are not usually 100 feet below!
Further up we reach smatterings of snow with some dagger icicles hanging under the edges of the track. A waterfall splashed noisily down underneath another foot bridge. There were icicles above the fall, not hanging as daggers, but angled slightly upwards where the draft from the falling water had frozen them into a crooked stalagmite of ice – intriguing. We broke out of the sub alpine species here and onto the golden tussock tops and very soon we spotted smoke coming from the 12 bed Rangawahia Hut. We’d made it in time for lunch. We thought the veranda would be a good place to eat but the wind was freezing and we soon joined several chatty people at the table inside, where the warmth from the fire was so cosy and welcoming.
We had to visit the toilet and the woodshed to view the astonishingly beautiful artwork on the buildings. Delightful murals of Tui, Whio and Kereru adorned these out buildings. What a labour of love and a startling surprise!
We walked further up the track on the Deadman’s Loop until we could look out up over the tussock and away to where the volcanos should have been visible but there was a ribbon of cloud between us, blocking the view in that direction, bother….. We returned to the van down the same track, as those that had already done the Deadman Loop, felt there was nothing to be gain by tiring ourselves going that way just to say we had!
The Rangawahia Track seemed to be a “get fit” track for those who live in the vicinity and we met several runners, lean, fit models, travelling light, as well as people taking their family dogs for some exercise.
The sunlight changed the landscape as the day progressed and defined the hills and valleys more distinctly. A ridge to the north of us had a black stippled ridge above an icing of snow as if someone had stuck a row of black beading on its top. It took us an hour 45mins to climb up to the hut, and an hour 20 to come down.
We drove south through Apiti, where we did a circuit of the village and enjoyed the various sculptures around the Tavern. The road skimmed along through beautiful flat country then it would wind down into a deep gully to cross Oroua River then up the other side and off again over the terraces above to repeat the dive into another gully to cross the Oroua River again. This happened several times as the river and the road crossed each other’s path on the river’s way to its merging with the Manawatu.
Our accommodation for the night was A’Adobe Motel across the road from the Hospital in Palmerston North. We enjoyed a substantial dinner at the Rose and Crown, an English style Pub not far from the Motel, before turning in for the night.
Sledge Track (Two)
We were off and away in the van next morning at 7.30a.m. driving south out of Palmerston North and past Massey University, destination Kahuterawa Rd just 17 kms from the city. We parked in the huge carpark, just one of a handful of early birds parked there.
The first part of Sledge Track is a delight. It follows the true right hand side of a stream up a deep valley. The vegetation was different to that which we’d seen the day before. Here Fuchsia, Mamaku ferns, native Begonia and amazingly, I thought, Nikau Palms but then realised that we weren’t really that far from the coast and we were in a very sheltered gully. There were many deeply eroded gulches dropping down from high above the track where the water must run fast and furiously after heavy rain, but today only a few sported tinkling waterfalls. The sides of these were smothered in Begonia and were very pretty.
We popped down to have a look at the sign posted “swimming hole”, it wasn’t at all inviting at that time, in the morning, as it was still in the shade but when we passed by later in the day it was sparkling in the sunshine and on a hot Manawatu day I’m sure it would be most welcome.
After about half an hour we reached a swing bridge across the stream we’d been following but our path didn’t go that way. Ours went down and across a wooden plank over Ross Creek and then we began to climb up an area signed as The Elevation. Hmmm!! The track deteriorated and I likened it to climbing Mt Tauhara but without the big step ups that Tauhara has. We reached the top of Sledge Track at 10.00. Perfect. Morning tea with a view, and what a view it was. We could see the ocean, and Mounts Taranaki, Ruapehu, Ngaruahoe, and Tongariro and all the country in between. Unfortunately, the atmosphere was hazy with the seasonal pollen so the photographs didn’t do justice to the scene. There was a cold wind cutting across the conveniently placed table and chairs at the top, so we hunkered down on the grass in the lea of the trees and didn’t linger long before setting off on the first section of the Toe Toe track. The trees here were covered in hanging green lichen but also hanging from then was plenty of bush lawyer. A longing tendril snagged Bernie’s ear as if to earmark him for future reference and Dave sported a claret dribble down his hand for the rest of the day.
This area was all regrowth and the path dipped in and out of trees and grass and was quite boggy in patches. It didn’t take long to reach the junction with the Platinum Mines Loop. At that junction there is a rock that gives a great view out over the countryside. We had been told to note the excavation work going on across the hillsides in preparation for a new set of wind turbines. Big machinery, big piles of dirt, big job! Further out the flat Manawatu Plains ran uninterrupted to the mountains beyond.
On we went around the Platinum Loop. The first mine shaft was a 5 minute walk up a side track. We were all prepared with our headlamps and torches but the entrance to the mine was very muddy and just inside the shaft it was flooded, so that was a wash out. The next three mines were well shafts with steel ladders chained into them inviting the adventurous to climb down. Not too many adventurous ones in the Taupo Tramping Club! Actually, the side shafts in the first two were only short and the third one’s side shaft, though much longer, was flooded. The adventurous one came up out of the last hole totally disorientated and would have set off in completely the wrong direction if left to their own devises!
The last of the shafts was also a horizontal one. It was not very long. A handily placed shovel at the end of the shaft tempted would be platinum hunters to try their hand. The ceiling and the walls of this cavern sparkled silver in the beam of the torch light. Fascinating.
We completed the Platinum Loop at 11.30a.m. so decided we’d complete the Toe Toe Track Loop and return to our morning tea spot before having lunch. Bad decision. This section of the track seemed to go on and on forever, probably because our motors had run down and we were in need of refuelling. Eventually we were back at the top of the Sledge Track. It was 1.00p.m. We slumped down on the grass, again out of the wind, to eat our long awaited lunch. Then it was up, up and away for a final gallop, back down to the van.
We were surprised at the number of cars in the car park. Across the river from the Sledge Track is a Bike Park and as we changed and got ready for the return to Taupo, many lycra clad bodies set off, or returned from, riding the trails. We’d read the signs for the trail and they read as though the tracks were only Grades One and Two but Bernie chatted up a gentleman who said that there were tracks from the hardest Grade 5 downwards, so guess who’s bringing his bike next time?
And so back to Taupo. Two wonderfully different tracks explored, in two days, organised by two wonderful people (thank you both) and enjoyed twice over – out and back – by two couples, and two singles – such an enthusiast group.
Thorsborne Trail, Hinchinbrook Island, Queensland 29 July – 1 Aug 2022
Hinchinbrook Island is about a 3hr drive and 250km south of Cairns. It is very close to the mainland - a very rugged, rainforested, national park with the highest point Mt Bowen at 1142m. Its not recommended to swim in the sea or estuaries due to crocs, and there’s also snakes (not that I saw any), bush rats and lots of mossies. Jelly fish in the summer months too. And there’s no facilities on the island, apart from the odd long drop loo.
The starting point is Lucinda, a tiny place, famous for its 5.76km long wharf where they export sugar, and there’s great fishing around the island. My sister Janya , 2 of her friends- Ros and Alan and I stayed the first night at Lucinda Wanderer’s Holiday Park where we were able to leave our cars for the next 4 days.
Our first day was beautiful, getting up to a balmy 26-28 deg, and a spectacular boat ride of about 1 hr 15 up the Hinchinbrook Channel. We had the special bonus of a welcome to country by the captain’s mate, traditional owner Sam Backo. We were dropped off in the mangroves at the north western end of the island. From there it was a short walk across to Ramsay Bay on the eastern side of the island where we headed south along a gorgeous sandy beach. Then over a bit of a headland, through bush to Nina Bay- a lovely spot for lunch.
Leaving Nina Bay, we walked along the sandy beach to it’s south end, climbed a rocky headland to Boulder Bay, rock hopped the length of this bay, and then up and over a small bushclad ridge to Little Ramsay Bay, where we found the our first campsite beside a beautiful lagoon with a gorgeous mountainous backdrop. We’d only walked 6.5km but it had taken us about 4.5hours. To find ‘drinking’ water we walked about 10min upstream to a spot where it was also just deep enough for a lovely dip. We’d carried extra empty bottles so we had enough water for dinner and breakfast. Ros was carrying a battery powered UV steripen which seemed to work well (none of us got sick anyway!). She had also made amazing dehy meals- mains and desserts, which were rehydrated and heated in our little ‘kitchen area’ – a Trangia cooker and a bandana for a tablecloth straight on the dirt with a log for a seat.
Day 2 was another gorgeous day. We set off down the beach to the south end but struggled to find the route over the headland. There are markers but they are few and far between in places. Today’s 10.5 km took us about 6 hours. The terrain was fairly rugged- no track here, just a marked route over slippery rocky, root covered terrain with many slippery creek crossings, swamps and tricky spots. Eventually we reached beautiful Zoe Bay and it’s campsite at the south end by a big, but dodgy looking (think crocs) lagoon. It drizzled a bit here but we had the luxury of a picnic table and were able to set up a tarpaulin over it. Zoe Falls was about 800m upstream – a beautiful large swimming hole and our water source for that night. In the early hours, I was wakened by a scurrying sound and then something pecking on my head through the tent- a bush rat, I presume. Needless to say, I was in no hurry to get out of the tent that night. All the camp sites had big steel frames to hang your packs on at night and you’re warned not to take food into your tent.
The next day it continued to drizzle off and on which made the rocky terrain more dangerous. We hiked back up to Zoe Falls and ascended near the falls, using a rope in one spot, to reach the top of the falls, where we had amazing views. We crossed backwards and forwards over the river a few times with me slipping and landing on my butt at one point. Then up and over a saddle – 260m above sea level, the highest point on the track, where it opened up in to grass trees, she-oaks and banksias and more creek crossings till we got to the last campsite at Mulligan Falls. This was in thick rainforest and seemed quite dark but was very close to the lovely swimming hole below Mulligan Falls. It had taken us about 4.5 hours to cover just 7.5km.
The final day was much quicker. 7.5km in about 2.5hrs. After about an hour of the usual rocky, rooty slippery bush clad route, we emerged on to another gorgeous wide sandy beach and headed for George Point, our final destination. There’s one river crossing on this leg that you try to do towards low tide. Just behind the waves we crossed in knee deep clear water, keeping fingers crossed there were no crocs about. From George Point it was only about a 10min boat ride back to Lucinda.
We saw one of the threatened Beach Stone-Curlews, a very colourful Noisy Pitta and a goanna. Heard a Wompoo Pigeon and many other birds but actually didn’t see as many as I expected. Overall this is an amazing tramp to do - such a variety of terrain, views, water holes…… If you’re interested, have a look at https://www.queensland.com/nz/en/things-to-do/adventure/walking-hiking-adventure-queensland/how-to-hike-the-thorsborne-trail-on-hinchinbrook-island. There’s some great pictures there. The campsites need to be booked about 12 months ahead; they only allow 40 people on the island at a time. However, it’s definitely worth adding to your bucket list.
Tiritirimatangi Island Sanctuary 10th to 12th April 2022
Our trip to Tiritirimatangi had been on the program for many months with a full complement of 15 people eagerly putting their names on the list to go. Over the ensuing months those names changed and even in the last week Covid reared its ugly head and a couple had to drop out with insufficient time for replacements to be found
so just a dozen enthusiasts sallied forth on Sunday 10th headed for Gulf Harbour and a rendezvous with a Water Taxi at 1.30. Travelling in the club van were: Jean Caulton – organiser, Nigel Lloyd – driver, Jill Lloyd, Jan Harding, Ross Fletcher, Russell Watts, Bernie Hammersley, Sandy Fletcher, Kay Feather and Elsie Skelton. Peter and Vanda Marshall met us at Gulf Harbour.
Sunday was a glorious, summery day and we revelled in the trip across to the island. Penguins floated on the water, Petrels flew alongside, White Fronted Terns patrolled the skies, all a hint of the many feathered friends to come.
The landing at the island wharf had us co-operating in chain gang style to get the luggage safely up the steps and loaded into a trailer at the landward end of the wharf ready for the resident DOC Ranger to bring up to the Lodge for us later in the day. We walked up to the Lodge, selected our beds, had a cuppa then set off to walk the Wattle Track. Some caught up with a Volunteer who showed them three Giant Weta – Wetapunga, New Zealand’s largest insect (Adult female wētāpunga are heavier than males and can weigh up to 35 grams. That's heavier than an average house sparrow – thus saith Google)
The eagle eyed amongst the group became adept at spotting them and by the end of the trip all had been able to add a sighting to their list.
We saw Kokako, Stitch Bird (Hihi), Saddle Back (Tieke), Bell Bird (Korimako), Tui, Kakariki, Kereru, Fantail (Piwakawaka), Whitehead (Popokotea), Pukeko, Takahe, and Little Blue Penguin all on that first afternoon. One group also saw a Fernbird.
We reached the wharf in time to help load our gear on to the DOC Ranger’s trailer. Unfortunately, we had put our things in the wrong one and she’d had to off-load them into the shed, thankfully, Russell was there at the time, to help her. This time we had a good team and our baggage was soon dispatched to the Lodge with us in hot pursuit.
Talia gave us a briefing on the Do’s and Don’ts of Island life then left us to it. For all of us, seeing a Little Spotted Kiwi would be the pinnacle of our time on the island so; as Kiwi are nocturnal, long evening and early morning walks were a must.
Those of us with ordinary torches used, the Lodge provided, red cellophane and rubber bands to give us the red light that is less intrusive for the birds, then off we went Kiwi hunting, alert to every sound. We met a group who had come onto the island off their boat, which was moored in the bay. They obviously didn’t know about red lighting. They had seen a Ruru. They took us back to the spot and there it was all round-eyed and bedazzled in the big, white-light, spot light the chap was using!
Leaf litter crackling had our red lights flashing through the undergrowth to pick up quickly retreating Tuatara of which we saw five that evening. The Penguin nesting boxes were occupied and in a couple of other places we heard them “grumbling” in the flax bushes but we were not there at the right time to see them swimming in from the sea and waddling up the beach. Russell stayed later than the rest of us and was rewarded with seeing three Kiwi and more Penguins. We were very envious.
The next morning most of us were up at 5.45 to dress and have a quick cuppa before setting out Kiwi hunting once more. We split into smaller groups, some hunting the headland out past the Lighthouse as we’d heard calls from that direction during the night. Some went via the Wattle track and others out over the grassy knoll on the Eastern side of the island, then down a Link track to the wharf. None were successful. The full dawn chorus started up, Tui and Bellbird dominant but an occasional mewling call of the Kokako coming in over the top but the Kokako never got into full voice. We were all back at the Lodge around 7.00 where we set about having breakfast and making picnic lunches to take on our proposed circumnavigation of Tiri.
We were away again at 8.00 a.m. taking the Ridge Track to start with, then dropping down to the Wharf and enjoying the views over a calm sea all the way across to Rangitoto and the Sky Tower in Auckland. Hobb’s Track took us to Hobb’s Beach where we studied the foot prints on the beach and felt certain that one set were Kiwi
prints. We ambled up the boardwalk and many steps of the Kawarau Track, stopping to enjoy the bird song, the coolness of the gullies and the frenzied activity around the sugar syrup bird feeders where the Bellbirds and Stitch Birds had access to the inner sanctums of the feeder but the entries were too small for the Tui and they had to make do with whatever dribbles found their way to the underside of the feeder or were left on the footplates by the others. The sound was phenomenal. The birds were so tame we could feel the wind on our face as they flew by.
We checked out every track. A couple had been closed, notably one down to the Papakura Pa.
Tiritirimatangi’s eastern side drops steeply down to the sea, so the path also drops down to pretty coves and bays, then there is the inevitable climb back up the heights which has the heart pumping and the sweat pouring. We lunched at Northeast Bay where the cliffs have been sculptured into arches and alleys, all pock holed and gnarled. Sandy and Peter swam in the sea. It must have been warm as they lingered casually chatting in the gently surging tide. The sun was warm, the stomach well fed and sleep would have come easily except for the stony beach on which we lay.
For the majority “enough was enough” of sliding down only to climb back up and they returned to the Lodge along the Ridge track arriving in time to see the Takahe feeding at 1.00 p.m.
Four of us were determined that we had to see to the end of every track so walked down and across Fisherman’s Bay, back up to the ridge, hovered around the flax plantings hoping to see a Fern Bird or Spotless Crake, investigated every nook and cranny until we reached the Lighthouse where we matched the photos on the plaques
with the Islands of the Gulf and the Mainland Ranges.
It was time for some rest and fun so………
The writer was not present
For an afternoon most pleasant,
Where strummers strummed
The guitar hummed
And music filled the air.
A Maiden jived with broom in hand
To the rhythm of this merry band
The others tapped and sang along
Joining in this jolly song
And couple danced like Ginger and Astair.
Later that day we got a call from the Water Taxi man to say that he needed to get us off the island on Tuesday at 11.00 a.m. before the predicted tropical cyclone arrived and the weather turned nasty.
Many were out in groups Kiwi hunting after dinner that night. Jean and I had a mission to tag a couple of paper wasp nests we had seen during the day so that the ranger could eliminate them next day, so we set off together and later Russell caught up with us. We saw another five Tuatara and saw and heard many Little Blue Penguin on the beach. On the way back we met Jill and we walked up and over a wind-swept grassed area and we commented that no self-respecting Kiwi would be out on a night like this, when Jill saw a round shape hurtle out from in front of us and the spot light picked up the retreating, round, ball of fluff with sturdy, strong legs going like the clappers towards the cover of the bush. Yea ha we had spotted a Little Spotted Kiwi!!!
Only a few got up at 5.45 a.m. next morning. Some wandering close to home, others venturing as far as the Kawerau Track. The dawn chorus was a much quieter affair this morning, the birds perhaps sensing the on-coming weather. The high-light for the morning was seeing a tiny Brown Quail chick, not much bigger than a bumble-bee – so cute.
Our departure time had been brought forward another hour so we were soon busy packing and cleaning ready for a 10.00 a.m. departure.
We took our last walk around the Wattle Track and the eagle eyed one spotted another couple of Giant Weta (wetapunga) one of which was much closer down and more photogenic.
It was 9.20 a.m. when we arrived at the wharf, the others were already there as was the water taxi. The chain gang swung into action and we were loaded and heading back to the Mainland by 9.30 a.m.
We were sorry our sojourn had been cut short by a day but the day and a half we’d had were perfect and the bird sightings delightful.
Many thanks to Nigel for almost faultless driving, I think it’s fun going right around round-a -bouts and seeing all parts of a parking lot……
All credit and thanks to Jean for organising a brilliant Taupo Tramping Club outing.
GREAT BARRIER ISLAND TRIP 20-26 March 2022
Eleven Taupo Trampers met at Auckland Domestic terminal on Sunday 20th to fly to The Barrier. Stormy conditions with strong winds made a few of us more than a bit anxious that the flight may be cancelled. We need not have worried as we discovered that when the conditions are difficult Barrier Air calls up the “Silver Foxes”, older retired Air NZ pilots who are up to the challenge, with Jenny, Dave and Russell in the front seats making sure all was well. We landed while being blown sideways to the sound of stability alarms and sight of Pukekos and Variable Oyster catchers on the side of the runway.
Our hire van was waiting for us and ignoring dodgy brakes, an empty Waikato beer bottle and lots of chippy crumbs on the floor, it was excellent for our group.
We drove to Tryphena where we were booked into a 100 year old house right on the water. The Irish Pub in Tryphena was pre booked for our first dinner, and we had an excellent meal. We discovered it was also comedy night and we found ourselves quickly becoming the butt of jokes! We left at the interval as we all were finding the travelling left us weary and with lots of people, loud chatter and not a mask in sight it looked like a Covid 19 super spreader event.
The week’s weather forecast was for 4 days of rain with thunderstorms followed by two days of gales. Not flash, and most of us had packed at least two rain jackets.
The reality was on the Monday morning of our first full day on the Barrier we woke to heavy rain so after a slow start we got in the van to drive to Port Fitzroy on the opposite end of the island. This was our first introduction to the roads of the Barrier: winding, steep, narrow, with blind bends and locals in a hurry. How glad we all were to have Dave at the wheel, and he was very happy not to be driven by one of us!
Port Fitzroy was just so beautiful. The sun shone and the bay was blue green and flat calm. We walked to the Glenfern Sanctuary. Tony Bouzaid had gifted the predator proof fenced land for public access, and it was managed by a trust. It was the first time any of us had walked over a swing bridge into the crown of a large Kauri Tree.An extraordinary experience. It became hot and humid as we walked to Sunrise lookout but the views over the Little Barrier Island and the inlets of the Barrier more than compensated. We then walked the Bridal and Warren’s track which could be walked as a loop. The bush was lush and the waterfall had a good flow, we all enjoyed the walk down the stream to the road end where we could walk back to the van. The clear calm harbour water was just what we needed to cool off and most of us followed Gill by enjoying a wonderful swim.
Another winding drive home to Tryphena House to find our excellent host Peter had been fishing and we had two big plates heaped with freshly caught snapper. Dinner!
Tuesday dawned fine and warm. We drove to the Harataonga track a 11 km coastal walk. We split into two groups to walk a cross over with van keys changing hands halfway. It was an easy enough walk but high humidity and 27 degrees made it harder. One group missed a loop track turnoff which promised coastal views so suggested to the other group they try it out. Not to be recommended,00 after the second group found themselves grunting up a very steep hill to a Pa site and then struggling down a vertical hill using the wire fence as a support. They had the last laugh as the first group had to wait by the road for an hour due to the extra walking involved.
We then drove to the end of the most northerly road where a beach walk leads to the Graveyard for some of the 137 victims of the SS. Wairapapa which was wrecked in 1894. We read the sad history from the boards beside the graves.
We enjoyed a swim in super surf before heading back to the van and home again via the winding roads. More fresh snapper awaited us, and our host had prepared sashimi which was fantastic. Two adventurous trampers sampled the two hot bathtubs that were a feature of the house. Hardest part of experiencing the beautiful hot water tubs sited on hilltop, both looking out over the bay through old Pohutukawa’s, or under a starry sky, was having to get out again!
Wednesday we decided to spend time enjoying the kayaks and SUPs that were available for our use. Russell went fishing with our host. Tryphena House was such a great venue that we were happy to take time to enjoy it.
We left at midday to go to the local Pa Café for lunch before driving to the Kaitoke hot pools track. Dave and Russell decided to drive further up the road to explore an old mill site complete with steam engine. The rest of the group elected to walk the 45 minutes to the hot pools. It did not start well with a flooded track. We waded on and the track reached higher ground and we walked around the edge of the wetlands which was lovely. The hot pools were flooded and no hot water to entice us in. We explored further upstream, but still no hot water so walked up to the look out before walking back to van. It was good to walk slowly and listen for the Fernbirds that live in the wetlands. We could see the rat problems, but the highlight came when Carroll called us all to be silent and keep still. We had the most special treat of seeing two Ruru(Morepork) roosting in a ponga tree just by the side of the track, such a memorable experience for us all.
We returned home to hot swims in the tubs and a steak dinner.
Thursday dawned with the promised gale force winds which meant we had to cancel the boat trip we had planned. Plan B involved a drive to Whalers Lookout. This is the most southerly point of the island. We walked into Johnsons Bay and then up the hill to Whalers Lookout. The Colville Strait was wild and windswept. We looked out towards Coromandel and the Mercury Islands and could just imagine the whalers watching out for the Brydes and Humpback whales as they migrated through the strait.
It was then a short van drive to the hill behind Tryphena where we walked the Station Rock track. This track had two amazing lookouts and beautiful Nikau bush.
Home for more fine dining with Peter once again providing fresh snapper which we complimented with a salad made by the local café.
The gales continued to increase and the bay became a spectacular raging sea. The wind was so strong a gust blew the double kayak onto the beach. Enjoying the hot tubs in a gale force wind also was an experience with towels and clothes being blown away leaving those in the bath somewhat compromised!
Friday was the day we decided to climb Hirakimata (Mt Hobson) via the Windy Canyon and Palmers Track. This track was absolutely gorgeous, and we all said was the highlight of our time on the island.
We were in awe of the track quality although the steepness and number of wooden steps took some adjusting to. The windy canyon did not disappoint. It is steep sided and spectacular and worth just standing and admiring. We walked on towards the summit. The track is all board- walked and ladder steps rising to the 625 m of Hirakimata. The steps are built to protect the burrows of the endangered Black Petrels that nest near the summit. Close to the top we walked through virgin Kauri forest and although a small area it gives an idea of what the Kauri forests must have looked like before the loggers came. We all reached the summit and were able to see the incredible views of the island although it was misty in places. Dave and Russell decided to walk further to see an old kauri dam but found the 700 steps steep and narrow with the dams derelict. We walked back on the same track and enjoyed the chance to review all we had seen.
We visited Medland’s Beach on our way home and were impressed once again by the golden sand surf beaches that the Barrier is so famous for.
A fine dining night to follow with a steak BBQ and Raewyn wore a posh frock, accompanied by Russell in a bowtie with Buttonhole Hibiscus and Dave in his Hat. It was a fitting way to conclude our 6 nights at Tryphena House with Chef Dave creating a beautiful dessert to finish our fine dining experiences. We all felt Raewyn could not have found better accommodation anywhere on the island for the group. The house was in a magic site, with noisy kaka in the nearby trees. It was comfortable and our hosts Peter and Lucy could not have looked after us better. The Barrier is off grid so keeping power going for us all was not easy but we never went without and the staggering quantity of quality fish was such a treat.
We all raised our glasses to Raewyn for all her organisation and planning. We saluted great teamwork, unbelievably fine weather given the dreadful forecast and the deluging rain in Taupo and flooding in Waipukurau and Waihau Bay. It had been a special time for us all, we felt so fortunate to be there.
Our last day dawned fine and still windy. We packed up and said goodbye to our hosts before driving to the Pa Café for brunch and coffee. It was nice not to have to rush and we even called into a quirky museum in Claris which provided much interest and amusement. We returned the van at the airport island style by leaving keys in it. On check in, our pilot said as we were all there, we could leave 30 minutes early so we were on the plane and flying into Auckland before we were meant to leave.
The sign of a successful trip is when you hear everyone discussing how quickly we can return and just how many walks we haven’t done yet and just how much we would like to do them.
We will be back to Great Barrier. It is just the most precious place and we felt so fortunate to be able to spend 6 days there. Thank you Raewyn for making it happen and Gill for suggesting we go there.
We were…Dave the driver, Raewyn…planner and team leader, Russell…BBQ chef and fisherman, and Brian, Celia, Christine, Gill, Jenny, Jean, Carroll and Sarah H. We were sad that Sarah B couldn’t join us but we always thought of her and there is always next time Sarah.
ANGELUS HUT, NELSON LAKES 15-17 January 2022
We left Travers Sabine Lodge and took the boat across Lake Rotoiti to Cold Water Hut. Taking the Cascade Track we climbed to Angelus Hut via the waterfall on what we discovered the locals called the hardest route up. Initially following the Travers River in beautiful bush on a rough track, gradually getting steeper. From the bushline and waterfall it was very steep, on a hot 30deg day. After a long, hard day we popped over the brow to stunning views, any discomfort forgotten.
The 28 bed Angelus hut with 4 new toilets was great. However, the water pump was out of action requiring many trips down to the larger of the 2 lakes for fresh water. Swimming was confined to the smaller, shallower but warmer lake next to it.
The next day we woke to another beautiful day. After a relaxing start we ventured off towards Mt Angelus stopping at Hinapouri Tarn. Then back for a swim and exploring the area.
Day 3 was another hot stunning day. Exiting via Robert Ridge was an experience and a half, with a 200m climb out of Angelus basin onto the exposed rugged ridge that was very challenging in parts for around 10kms, but amazing views. Then a steep
descent zig zagging down the Pinchgut track in extreme heat to the carpark. Here we were met by our shuttle driver, John, with homemade delicious icecold lemonade and cookies. Gill T & Jenny V