Hinerua Hut, Smith Stream Hut, Waipawa River, Saturday December 4 2010. Map: BL36/BK36
Trampers: Ted Angove, Paul Exeter, Gordon Tapp, Matt Green, Marc Marchal, Phil Enticott, Geoff Donkin, Murray White, John Dobbs, Les O’Shea, Murray Goss, Sue Martin and Julia Mackie
We have the key to cross the farmland off the Hinerua Extension Road, so it’s all go this time around. From the Super Bin, we headed up the farm’s four-wheel-drive track to the walking track proper. This first 15-minute stretch is a climb, and Gordon opted out after his first taste of tramping again after being overseas for several months.
The rest of us carried on to Hinerua Hut, and had a break and re-group. Ted and Paul decided to go to Tussock tops and then return to move the van, whilst the rest of us headed for Smith Stream Hut. The track down the ridge shortly passed a huge slip, and we soon dropped down into a small tributary stream. We ducked under branches and waded through the stream, making our way down. We were not sure if we were on the right track, but some branches had been cut with a saw, so guessed we were in the right place.
On reaching the main Smith Stream, Gossie and Julia had a plunge. The water was lovely and cool, what a treat. The rest of the group gazed in amazement. We worked out that we needed to head upstream, and so moved onwards. Lunch at Smith Stream Hut was the next stop, arriving right on noon. The stream was not too deep, and no vegetation hampered our progress as it had on the tributary. Just a matter of gauging which was the best route upstream and crossings.
On reaching Smith Stream Hut, I announced that this was a 30-minute lunch stop. No complaints, so all was well among the group. During lunch, we checked the map, as we had seen the sign by the hut indicating Waipawa River – 4 hours, heading uphill. It must be right, but we knew that we had to drop down into another tributary that we had passed on the true left, just before reaching the hut, and head upstream to the bottom of the track which would take us up to the saddle.
This track took us across a recent slip, and then shortly dropped down into the stream as expected. Some more river walking, and then finally the marker. Gossie and Julia had another plunge, whilst others kept walking up the short climb to the saddle and junction marker. From here, we sidled along until coming out into the open scrub. The regenerating manuka is just below the waratah standards. We expect that, in time, a track will need to be cut through. We stopped and looked at the Three Johns, and located the track crossing the Middle Stream Valley heading to the Waipawa River Valley.
The track is now downhill to Middle Stream, where Gossie and Julia had their third and final plunge. Onwards, to the junction of the Middle Stream track, and then onto the farmland.
The weather had been glorious all day, and perfect for the river tramp. At last we had succeeded, after three previous attempts.
Postscript: This trip had been put onto the list by Colin McNatty, who was unable to join us, as his foot is in plaster due to an injury. It will go back onto the list again for another summer tramp soon.