Saturday, October 13, 2007

More Huts and Thoughts........

I must preface this continuation of showing the huts of the Ruahines with a thank you to RTC member Nigel Robson for the many photos he has sent to me of huts we have visited. Friendship is another topic I will address at some point, and it can certainly be said that Nigel and I formed the basis of an important friendship, at least writing for myself and in my life, through our discovery of a mutual love of the mountains, amongst other things, and that it was on many a Ruahine journey where a strong bond was cemented. Nigel is pictured above overlooking the Pohangina river and Leon Kingvig hut, already pictured previously. I put this shot in for two reasons, one being I love the photo, and two, it properly captures the true environment, and beauty, the river huts are located in. Most always in a river flat area which is the only possible location for a structure in this rugged country. And as can be seen by how high Nigel is above the river, in a relative short distance above the hut, how steep the country is in the mountain valleys. Descending down to, or climbing up from, any Ruahine river is a daunting prospect.

This is Triangle hut, located at around 800 meters near the headwaters of the Oroua river, between the Whanahuia range and the main Ruahine range beneath Te Hekenga. One of my personal favourite spots on a beautiful river, but also because of the very diverse nature of the walk to arrive at the hut, which involves a western side forest walk to the open tops of the Whanahuias and Rangiwhahia hut, then a stunning open tops walk of 3 hours before the descent to the river. Just an enjoyable tramp to a very cool spot. I have done it 7 times now, and will no doubt be there again. I have seen many Blue Ducks in this area, and heard the call of the even more rare Kiwi bird on a few occasions as well. 3 hours down from this spot is Iron Gates hut, with another 5 hours out to Heritage Lodge and the road end. A great 2 night tramp.

This is Barlow hut on the Makaroro river, 3-4 hours down from Upper Makaroro - though the day this photo above was taken of Taylor and his mate Jake, it took us 7, and we stayed an extra night at the hut. The picture does not do the hut justice, and it has since had a wood room and porch added to it. A large hut, with Maori bunks for 12, and a separate kitchen area on the other side, it is about another 2-3 hours down the river to the road end. As a matter of fact, as the river from here down is wide open and braided, it is possible to get a 4 wheel drive vehicle to within 45 minutes of the hut.

Pourangaki hut sits above the Pourangaki river in some very rugged Ruahine country, between the Whanahuia's to the south, and the Hikurangi's to the north. Waterfall hut is accessible via the tops from this point. Coming down from the Whanahuia's to here involves one of the steepest drops down a spur that I know of in the Ruahines, and equally daunting going back up! A very cool spot located on perhaps the only flat area around in a little hollow with a wide open "back yard", and an excellent spot to sit in and listen to the bountiful bird life and river muttering far below. I have been here twice,the first time being on my own and an amazing solo experience, and again with John where we stayed here two nights doing a day trip up to the Hikurangi tops on one day and exploring the lovely Pourangaki river. A long way to get here from any direction and mostly used by hunters,

Taylor pictured at Sunrise hut, the most visited hut in the Ruahines. A veritable highway to get here, compared to just beyond the hut, it is still a steep 2 hour walk to here, but offers quick access to the waiting interior. Top Maropea is an hour away via Armstrong saddle. Very few make the trip beyond the safety of Sunrise. Since this photo the hut has again been enlarged to sleep 24 and another kitchen room added. With gas cookers and gas heater not really my cup of tea in terms of a true mountain experience, yet I have stayed here a number of times. Some because of weather, gale force winds, preventing me from crossing the saddle, and a number of times walking up late in the afternoon or at night so as to get an early start in the morning. Aptly named Sunrise, on a clear morning, for its stunning view of the sun rising in the east over Hawkes Bay and the ocean.

Both photos above are of Longview hut on the main Ruahine range. A three hour walk up from the road end. We, John, Nigel, and myself, arrived from Daphne hut after a thwarted attempt at Sawtooth ridge. A pretty stunning location, hence the name, it sits not far from Pohangina saddle and the very headwaters of the Pohangina. It sleeps 15 and has a gas heater, but the location makes up for the lack of true back country ambiance in terms of accommodation.

John, Nigel, and Robb at Top Gorge hut. Perhaps one the most remote and least visited huts in the Ruahines. The hut book when we visited in 2003 went back to the 1980's and was still far from full. This hut is scheduled for removal in the next 10 years, or will simply be left to deteriorate. It is only a rough two bunk shelter, with an open fire, but a very cool spot. The day this photo was taken brings back many memories of a superior day, we climbed down from Longview and traversed the Pohangina from its source to the hut on an exceptionally fine day - in all ways. Notice the boots and socks drying in the sun on the wood shelter, a dead give away of a river walk! This hut is hard to get to, and I cannot honestly say I will return here again, though should I do a complete traverse of the valley I will. Even when this hut is gone, or not worth staying in, it is still an excellent camp site. What I recall most about the hut book was reading of 4 generations of the same family who often hunt in this area, and with great success. As I have said I find the Pohangina valley to be a very spiritual place, with many finding a strange, yet compelling, connection to it.

Above is Mid Pohangina hut. The last hut on the Pohangina river, 2-3 hours down from Ngamoko, and 5 hours out to the road end. The Pohangina by this point is a fairly substantial river, big pools and good swimming! Not to mention ample trout as well. A six bunk hut with an open fire. I have been here twice, once with Nigel, and once I stopped here en route from Ngamoko after an enforced weather stay there. As the weather had not improved and I was overdue I decided to come out via the river so as to alert Tara. I stopped here to dry out a bit and fire up the billy. No sooner had I left the hut when I heard a helicopter coming down river from Ngamoko looking for me! I was a bit flabbergasted but took up their offer of a ride back to my car, saving me quite a bit of hassle as coming out the river would have left me a long ways from my vehicle. It was a fantastic perspective from which to view the Ruahines, though a bit deflating to arrive back at my car in 15 minutes from a spot it had taken me 4 days to walk.

Iron Bark hut is located on the Whakaurekou river, which is the confluence of the Maropea, Waikamaka, and Mangatera rivers as they roll out of the ranges. Beneath the Mokai Patea and about 3 hours or so from Lake Colenso it is mostly visited by hunters helicoptered into the hut.

I have been here once, but Nigel has been here, I believe, on 3 separate occasions and the hut has been virtually rebuilt from the above photo.

No one gets to Lake Colenso hut, above, unless in a helicopter, with out earning the right to put one's feet on it's lovely porch. The day I arrived with John and Nigel from Maropea Forks was another long and memorable day. The hut sits not on the lake, but rather the Mangatera river, or a branch of it anyway, as this area is really a natural bowl with various streams and creeks all draining into the Mangatera or being held in Lake Colenso, a very unique area. The lake itself is about a 15 minute walk from the hut and down to the lake. Surrounded by bluffs it is a remote and mysterious place. The hut is just a lovely spot and just reward for the effort expended to get to it. If I ever do get back to it, you may rest assured I will be spending more than one night in it's charms.

Around 4 hours along a ridge of the main range and descent to and up the Tuki Tuki river is Daphne hut. A big spacious hut, sleeping 15 Maori bunk style, with a grunty Fat Boy wood stove and plenty of bench space for billy boils and cooking, a popular destination for tramping club large groups and other bigger parties. Though I have encountered no soul at all in my 3 visits there. Just across the river is Daphne spur, an extremely steep route up to the main range and Howlett's hut, noted previously. I was here with Taylor when he was fairly little, and with Nigel and John on our epic 6 night adventure. However the most memorable trip was with John, when we went on a winter trip to scout out the routes for the summer trip with Nigel. We arrived at Daphne in fine sunny weather, but when sitting out by the river enjoying the evenings libations it began to rain and got very cold. No problem with fire master John and the Fat Boy. We awoke to discover over night the rain had turned to snow, and we were amongst a winter wonderland. The walk up that day to Howlett's hut and the ensuing beautiful day spent up there frolicking amongst the Himalayan looking snow covered peaks was a very much spiritual type experience for me. And the next day, on more fresh snow, we literally "skied" down to the forest and made it back down to Daphne in less than an hour.

I remember arriving at this hut above, Otukota hut, with Gustav in July 2000. We came over from Maropea Forks via Puketaramea ridge and the drop down to a very high Whakaurekou river, and crossed to climb up to the hut. We were a bit disappointed in the hut, 6 bunks, open fire, very tidy, simply because we had come from Maropea Forks and its special charm and allure. Yet by the end of that night I appreciated this place for its own special ambiance. By the light of Gustav's hard earned fire it looked cozy and welcoming to our tired Souls. And to compare Maropea Forks to anyplace, particularly after our struggles to get there, was just blatantly unfair. Somewhere in my mind then was planted a seed that eventually sprouted saying to me all these places are special and unique and I am simply lucky and blessed to have been put in a position to discover the mountains. It occurred to me that to get these precious gems is such hard work, why just pack up and leave such a spot after only, really, a few hours. It impacted my entire philosophy of mountain travel, especially as I grow older, and the aches and pains of age begin to emerge. Stay! Enjoy! You have Earned This!! So I do, and I will.

I cannot say I will return here, unless I come down, and go back via the Maropea river to Maropea Forks, or the the ridge. But to go out via Mokai Patea is a long, and now dangerous walk, as huge slips have wiped out portions of the anyway brutal track out of the steep forest to the Mokai. It was hard enough when Gustav and I did it. Writing this though, thinking it would be cool to come down from the forks, spend a night and go back to the forks, would be an interesting way to expand our horizons. I wonder what John thinks?????????????????????????

Finally, we have Waikamaka hut, pictured above. Just above the headwaters of the Waikamaka river and some brutal country heading up to the main range and Waterfall hut. John and I came up river from Wakelings hut, spending a night camped on the river due to an impassable gorge - at least then because of high water which dropped over night, allowing us to carry on to the hut. We dropped some gear here and carried on to Waterfall, returning here the next day in a huge deluge which got all the water courses raging. John and I literally witnessed a river born high on the tops turn from a gentle little brook into a muddy torrent within minutes. A very humbling experience. John and I spent an excellent afternoon listening to the rain pound on the tin roof, the wood stove cranked under John's expert tutelage, talking, firing up the billy, reading old Reader's Digests, napping, and enjoying our last day in these special mountains. Later, as the sun began to set, the rain stopped and we went outside, tin cups in hand, to watch the muddy river now, literally again, clearing and dropping before our eyes as the fading light painted the tussock tops in purple and golden hues.

This is another hut actually owned by the Heretaunga Tramping Club. So the HTC maintain it, again for a bit of Koha, and I distinctly recall member Nash sending them a cheque for 50 bucks, so the RTC is in good graces. Again, Maori bunks for 12, excellent wood fire stove, with bags of coal stocked by the club, and far enough away from any where to make it a crowded destination. The most straight forward route would be right up the Waipawa valley and over Waipawa saddle and drop down to the stream which is followed to the hut. Or over Te Atua Para Para, via Armstrong saddle and then to the stream. Either way the drop to the stream is not for the faint hearted, as it follows an ever eroding narrow tussock mini spur from the saddle to the creek. Best to not look down!!

Thus ends this portion of the huts of the Ruahines. No doubt I will update the hut page from time to time, as there are many huts I have visited and have no photos available, and new ones to visit. Gold Creek, Sparrowhawk biv, Kylie biv, Awatere, Iron Gates, and Wakelings are the ones which I must find photos of, or return to, which jump to mind. No matter, these are all VERY COOL spots. Some which I will return to many times, for my own personal reasons, some perhaps not. I must choose my Ruahine destinations wisely as time possibly grows short in terms of physical and mental ability to deal with Her ever changing Nature. No matter what I shall consider each Journey there a True Blessing and appreciate it for each second.

The following poem was written in 1962, by a deer culler working in the Kaweka range, separated from the Ruahines only by the Taruarau river, and I believe totally sums up the feeling of seeing a hut come into view. When I first came to the mountains I disdained huts, in my know it all American superiority favouring camp sites and tents. I knew little of the volatile nature of southern hemisphere mountains. I have learned to love each hut as its own special sanctuary.

"Kiwi Saddle Hut"

This here shack might be about the roughest

In the whole of the Kaweka range

Strictly designed only for the toughest

The architecture is rugged and strange

Obviously built by someone desperate

For shelter away from the storm
With facilities only barely adequate

And cuisine of a curious form

The plumbing is a little faulty

There's little chance of too much ventilation

Chances of service are definitely slim

And the wall linings need renovation

But when I come here staggering over your ridge

Exhausted and half dehydrated

This hut looks to me like a publicans fridge

And my belly will soon be inflated

Written by Harvey McCullough, Kiwi Saddle hut book 1962. * Note, a Publican in New Zealand is the same in the states as a bar tender, or bar owner, the serving of beer, as it were.

Well so what, ol' Harvey was no Wordsworth, but then again, Wordsworth was no deer culler. So who is the better man?

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