Totara Flats Hut – Cone Hut, Saturday and Sunday January 30 and 31 2010
Trampers: Ted Angove, Paul Exeter, John Dobbs, Les O’Shea, Jude Paton, Sue Martin and Julia Mackie
We left Napier on late Friday afternoon, heading for the southern Tararuas. Arrangements had been made for us to stay in the home of the Holdsworth Lodge caretaker, as the lodge was fully booked. A Mt Holdsworth running event was taking place on Saturday. We walked through the runners just before their start at 8 am. The day looked very promising for us and them, with hardly a cloud in the sky. Mt Holdsworth was in clear view from the track near the Rocky Lookout point.
We reached the turn-off to Totara Flats in an hour and within the last 20 minutes the front runners were heading down. We think that they were running the shorter Donnelly Loop track, and not part of the group doing the Atiwhakatu – Powell circuit. We were polite and always stepped aside for them to run past, cheering them on.
The track down to Totara Creek was relatively steep, with the usual tree roots providing good footholds at times. It was also a little boggy. On crossing the creek, the track sidles along just above it, with the occasional climb where the track has been washed away. The track finally opens out into a wider valley within half an hour of the hut, before reaching the swing bridge that crosses the Waiohone River. The hut is two minutes away, and is one of the new bigger huts with 26 bunks, and a lot of space. Totara Flats is a very popular hut on the Kaitoke – Holdsworth tramp and can be reached from either Waiohine or Holdsworth road-ends. On reaching the hut just after noon, just within the four hours, we had lunch.
Ted, Paul, Jude and Sue stayed for the night and had a lazy afternoon. Ted and Paul took a stroll down the river flat track, and Jude and Sue sunbathed and rested on the huge verandah surrounding the hut.
John, Les and Julia left at 1 pm for Cone Hut. We were not sure how long it would take us, with advice stretching from three to four hours. The track followed the true right of the Waiohone River, and we enjoyed the walk. Shortly after crossing Makaka Creek, the track climbs to the junction for Cone Saddle. At 3 pm, we started the steady climb for the saddle through bush with many large rimu trees. It was hot and very humid, and so a few drink stops were necessary. Just before reaching the saddle, we got the GPS out, and checked our position. After working it out in conjunction with the map, we knew we were within 200 metres of the saddle. The GPS is wonderful for this, and we vowed that we should get to know and use all its functions. At the saddle junction, it is a right turn, then within 100 metres, a left turn for Cone Hut. The descent was a relief for tired legs.
We reached the hut at 5.45 pm and there were two people already there. With us three, there would still be beds for everyone. That idea lasted for one minute, when another couple arrived. John decided to pitch his tent fly while Les and I got cleaned up and made our hot drinks. The historic hut has an earth floor, an open fire and a bench bunk sleeping arrangement. Water is from a creek down a steep slope near the hut. Pity there were no water containers to make this easier. I guess plastic containers are not historic. The Tauherenikau River is five minutes further down the track; there is a grassy camping area where the track crosses to Bull Mound, and a good swimming hole. When a little drizzle started, a fly was set up over the outdoor table. Dinner was prepared and eaten outside on this table, and the stories flowed.
The predicted rain started during the night. Ted and Paul at Totara Flats had kindly agreed to return to Holdsworth road-end to bring the van around to Walls Whare road-end, for 1 pm. Jude and Sue would leave Totara Flats Hut and walk the river track, taking four hours, while John, Les and I had a 45-minute climb and then steady descent to the Waiohine River. We reached the suspension bridge (takes eight people) and were out in 2½ hours. Luckily the local Lions club has erected a toilet/shelter there, so we were able to change into dry clothing and get a billy going for a hot drink and biscuits. We settled down to await the others and the van.
We had plenty to amuse ourselves, as a group of venture girl scouts arrived in stages, from tramping from Totara Flats Hut. We ascertained that there had been 29 people staying in the hut overnight, so it certainly warrants its size. Ted and Paul had slept on the verandah with Jude and Sue inside.
We were all were pleased with the tramp that we had achieved and enjoyed.