Kumeti Road to Keretaki Hut, August 15-16 2009. Map T 23
Trampers: Sue Marshall, Ted Angove, Simon Hill and John Gray
At 08:45, four ‘real’ trampers left the picnic area car park. Low thick cloud hung above us as we made our way up the dry streambed. Paradise ducks flew overhead, squawking madly, as we marched through their nesting area. The old Kumeti Hut site was reached – and the first sign of water. The actual stream had disappeared underground from that point. A few minor stream crossings later, we were at the start of the track.
Keeping a steady pace, we ascended into the mist and humid, still air; the ghostly silhouettes of long dead trees dominated any view. We had a photo shot of Simon at the water gauge and not long after that we popped through the mist and into glorious sunshine! Ahead was the largest unbroken expanse of leatherwood in the country with the track winding up to the Opawe-Keretaki junction where we had an early lunch at 11:30. Great views above the cloud layer, brilliant blue sky, snow-covered Ruahine range; to the south off in the distance, the spire of Wharite Peak pierced up through the cloud layer and somewhere under all that lay our destination: Keretaki Hut.
Ready to confront a very steep descent, we left the sunshine behind and dropped back into the mist. Conversation ceased as we concentrated on every step. The only sounds were of our clothing scratching against the leatherwood, the drippy wet flax slapping against our legs and the squish of boots as they hit the mud. We took a quick breather at the last high point before dropping down to the stream, a spot where we usually get a view across the valley to the hut, but we had to visualise our little orange hut, which was hidden by the mist.
Large greasy boulders had to be negotiated at the river entry (the old track that sidled to the left is now overgrown) so it was just a matter of careful foot placement as we made our way around a few bends until we spotted the sign high on the bank – Keretaki Hut 30 minutes. A huge tree had come down about eight metres above and landed on the track, blocking our way. Once over that obstacle, it was up – and a very steep and slippery up it was, too.
We arrived at the hut about 2:15pm, enjoyed a hot brew and before we got too comfortable it was out and about to gather and cut firewood. In no time, the fire lighter had worked his magic and had a great blaze going – we settled in for a cosy evening. The silence of the night was broken only by Ted and Simon fighting off attacks of cramp, the rain on the roof and a rat scratching at the door.
On Sunday morning, it was decided to walk out via Oruatere Stream, even though we’d need to walk about 5km along the road to our car, or maybe we’d get lucky and a car would materialise so one of us could hitch a ride around to pick up the vehicle. By 07:45, in light drizzle, we were away down a very good track to the stream, bouldery and very slippery for the first hour of travel, opening out to widening river terraces and eventually farmland and across to Fairbrother Road to face the long trudge back to the car.
Ten minutes into it, and along comes a car and trailer – a dad and son collecting firewood from the road edge. As we passed, he wound down the window to check out our wet and bedraggled group. It turned out the gent was a retired Manawatu tramper and he kindly offered to drive us back to our car… thank you… thank you! John found a pozzie on the trailer amongst the wood and packs, the rest squashed into the back seat. After a quick visit to his property to drop off the trailer and exchange vehicles, the son – keen for a bit more driving experience – dropped us back at the car. Then it was into dry clothes and off to Dannevirke for lunch at 12:30pm and safely back home in Napier by 2 o’clock.