Monday, January 26, 2009

Tararua Southern Crossing

There are many classic walks (or tramps as they are colloquially known here) in New Zealand. One of the lesser known ones - but very popular with Wellingtonians is the Southern Crossing of the Tararuas. I have since found out that there are many versions of the route - but we started at Otaki Forks and headed southeast to Kaitoke in the northern Hutt Valley. The problem with many of these crossings is organising transport, as you start in one place and end somewhere else. Aaron kindly volunteered to drop off Sam, Barbara, me and Rata (the dog) and pick us up, as he is still injured and couldn't carry a pack.

We set off after work on Friday - after a quick stop in Paraparamu for fish and chips. The walk in to the Field Hut for the first night takes a couple of hours. We set off at 7pm and got to the hut just after it had got dark at about 9:30pm. Just in time for a cup of tea and piece of cake. Surprisingly the hut was not very busy and there was still plenty of room (it sleeps 15 or so)- we had brought our sleeping mats just in case we had to roll them out on the floor. Rata has to carry her own stuff in her saddle bags - including water, food, her lead and her blanket to sleep on outside the huts.

Helen, Barbara, Rata (the dog) and Sam about to set off

Field Hut where we spent the first night - the oldest hut in the Tararuas

The second day is a walk along the ridge above the treeline. The weather was perfect, not a cloud in the sky, and we were rewarded with 180 degree views from Taranaki all along the coast to Kapiti Island, the north of the south island, Wellington and over to the Wairarapa.

Kime Hut - one of the few huts above the tree line, we stopped briefly and refilled water bottles

Sam and Barbara at the top of Mt Hector

Barbara and Rata walking along the ridge

There were a couple of sections where the ridge gets pretty narrow and you wouldn't want to negotiate them on a windy day. We had the opposite problem with no wind and quite warm - so we had to refill water bottles at Kime Hut. Rata also took any opportunity to drink and cool off in little tarns along the way.

On a hot day any little tarn was a welcome dip for Rata to cool off

We reached Alpha Hut, just back below the treeline at 4pm. We had taken our time along the ridge, enjoying the views. At about 5pm we had a bit of excitment as the rescue helicopter landed in the clearing near the hut and a policeman came in and asked us if we had seen a hunter and his dog that were lost. There are quite a few hunters in the Tararuas, hunting deer, pigs etc.. so quite a few of the huts have kennels for their dogs - so Rata got a nice kennel to sleep in at Alpha Hut.

Alpha Hut, our second night just back into the trees again

The final day of the tramp is through "Hell's Gate" and down the Marchant Ridge. For some reason the Marchant Ridge has a bad reputation for being long and boring - but no one we spoke to had actually done it! We didn't find it too bad. It was nice to be in the trees to keep a bit cooler than walking along the ridge. The track was pretty rough in places.

Last day was walking along the Marchant Ridge through the trees - which provided lots of good shade

Last proper view from the top of Mt Marchant

We had arranged to meet Aaron at 6pm at Kaitoke. He actually walked up the path to meet us, but we made it to the car park exactly at 6pm. We had pretty much run out of water and Rata was finally tired! We stopped for the compulsary ice cream on the way home.

The walk is only 35.4 km, with 2,250 m ascent, 2,475 m descent and it took us 19 hours (with lots of breaks) - so we were averaging less than 2 km an hour! They do this route as a race each year - the fastest time is 4 hour and 27 minutes - but I'm guessing they don't have many stops to admire the view!

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