We planned a 7pm departure from Bracken Ave for Putaruru overnight. Because of traffic
delays leaving Auckland we had chosen to leave later than normal (although in fact we left 6.35pm) and
not drive as far as Taupo, so that we would not be too late. This worked out well as we arrived at Putaruru
9.25pm.We were welcomed into a spacious church lounge (carpeted) where there was also heating. Large
At 8am we departed Putaruru to travel to Turangi (9.50am), had
coffee, left cars and got dropped off at the start at 11am. The carpark was crowded with about 15-20
vehicles – many of these likely to be hunters (it is the peak of the deer hunting season). We started
our four hour tramp through lovely bush then across Mt Urchin where we had panoramic views of the central
volcanos, Turangi and the Kaimanawas. The first of our special Easter devotions was presented by Ali.
After descending into the Waipakihi Valley we walked up the Waipakihi River for 15 minutes until we found
a good grassy camping spot about 4pm. The club Zeus tent (2.2kg) was very suitable and roomy for two
of us and the other four trampers had their own tents. It was a pleasant social evening eating and sitting
around on some logs with our hot drinks before retiring early.
By 8.20am we
had packed up our tents and were ready to depart northward up the river valley to the Waipakihi Hut.
Although the DOC estimate for this day is 6 hours, we took 8 hours including lunch and short stops. Again
there was a clear blue sky and with the river running gently the valley was a beautiful sight. Paul gave
an Easter devotion after lunch beside the river.
As expected we needed to cross the river many
times. Often the river was deeper and so it was not always possible to walk in the river. Therefore we
had to traverse the land alongside the river which unfortunately was often thick with scrub or forest.
Sometimes we could identify trails, however, there were no DOC track markings and mostly no trail and
no clearing of trees or scrub. I had tramped this route 30 years earlier and could not recall such problems
with the trail. My memory of the detail is not clear but I suspect that 30 years ago there was much less
forest and probably more grassland which was easier to access. Eventually the range on the eastern side
of us tapered away opening out into a broad valley, with the hut visible in front of us on a low plateau
and Junction Top visible to the east.
Waipakihi Hut is a standard 12bunk but there were already
almost that many at the hut when we arrived – so much busier than my previous stays in the 1980s and
2001 when there was a distinct sense of isolation. Very graciously a group of 5-6 hunters volunteered
to sleep on the veranda under a tarpaulin – which they said they like to do! More trampers arrived including
6 from the Auckland University Tramping club and several of these slept on the floor.
We were awake early and some of us made a start at 7.30am with the others following soon after.
On this day the morning mist did not clear due to some high cloud but we were fortunate that the forecasted
rain and high winds did not eventuate. So the ascent and traverse along the Umukarikari Range was not
difficult, although we were still needed extra layers and on this day and we missed the extensive views
that we had on the previous two days. We ate lunch together and enjoyed a hot cuppa (courtesy of Phil
and Bev) just before descending to the bush line. Everyone was out at the carpark by 2.30pm and we were
able to call Don (Turangi Coachlines) so that he picked us up at 3pm (instead of 4pm planned). Our delight
was to meet Peter and Val Osborne in the carpark. They were holidaying with family in Turangi and knew
we would be coming out that afternoon.
Driving back to Taupo we got some takeaways and settled
into Taupo Baptist Church. Two of us spent an hour in the De Bretts hot pools. We were fortunate to find
mattresses at the church for a very comfortable night’s sleep.
By morning the
predicted rain showers had finally begun. Departing Taupo around 8am we were all back in Auckland soon