Roaring Stag Hut, Tararua Range, 27 August 2016. Map: BN34
The weather forecast wasn’t brilliant, but still there were eight hardy souls intent on a weekend in the Tararua Ranges.
Two carloads left town at 7am and made the way South. It was a rather uneventful trip until Woodville, where the local constabulary were breath-testing at 8.30am. They had changed from just asking the driver to give a name and address, to setting tricky questions. Our driver Simon’s evasive but innocent response was seen as just a tramping club joke and not an indication of a drug-ravaged brain. They let the car through. From there, the drive grew even more surreal when we sighted a group of six marooned sheep on a hump in the middle of a flooded paddock. It looked like something out of a Fellini movie. They were huddled on the top of the hump, as if daring each other to jump into the water. We wondered where the farmer was – and then we realised that his farmhouse was also surrounded by water, with the people inside possibly acting just like their sheep! This serious flooding gave us an indication of what the track would be like.As expected, even looking at the signboard at the start of the track involved standing in a lake. It was mud, followed by more mud, followed by track turned into river from that point on. But it wasn’t actually raining and we all enjoyed the walk along the river.
Observed wildlife consisted of one giant earthworm with the body about a thumb-width and length about 20cms (probably a native earthworm) and a slightly dishevelled weta which we couldn’t decide to be drowned or sleeping. Assuming it was alive, we gently removed it from the track and put into the bush to have a chance at survival.
After about an hour of undulating track beside the Mangatainoka River and over a couple of swing bridges, the track changed tack up the hill. It was quite a slippery climb up and over the other side to reach the hut, which was down in a valley. Getting to the hut involved crossing a river which, because of all the rain, was running very swiftly. It had to be dealt with individually because of the gorge-like nature of the terrain. Everyone crossed safely but Robyn took a nasty fall afterwards, head-first onto a rock. Luckily, we weren’t far from the hut and the weather was fine enough to take our time moving on to it.
The hut had two beds already taken, leaving plenty for us. While we were out collecting and cutting firewood, the beds’ occupants returned from their hunting. They hadn’t been successful since arriving the previous Thursday. It had rained continually until Saturday morning and there was no sign of deer. After noting our invasion of the hut, they decided that – although they had planned to exit the next morning – they might as well go home right away. Perhaps the prospect of sharing with eight loud trampers after two frustrating days of no prey was just too much to bear. Wise move, we thought.
So we enjoyed the rest of the afternoon and evening with much laughter and banter.The next morning, we were up and about when it was light enough to see, breakfasted, cleaned up and were out of the hut by 8.30. After a rainless night, the track was amazingly dried out compared to the previous day. The bush looked fantastic, with sunshine now streaming through, unlike the overcast inward trip. We even had some views of snow-clad hills and managed to take off the jackets. There were no more injuries on the way out and we made great time on the outward leg.
We hit civilisation at lunch-time and decided to break the homeward journey at Pahiatua’s Black Stump Café. It was a fine ending to a great weekend tramp.
Trampers: Alison Greer, Julia Mackie, Sue Martin, Rachael Cowie, Robyn Smith, Bruce Hodgson, Simon Hill and reporter Juliet Gillick