Banner pic: Ready for the off (or, at least, one of us looks like he is…)
Waipakihi Hut via Urchin and Waipakihi River, returning via Umukarikari Range, 22-24 February 2021
This was always going to be an exciting three-day trip: good weather, good company and beautiful scenery. Geoff was the only one in our group of eight to have been in the Western Kaimanawa area.
Our start point was down Kaimanawa Road off the Desert Road, 15km south of Turangi. We left my car at the finish end; then we piled into Lynette’s ute and headed to the start point.
The Urchin Track begins in bush dominated by mature beech and healthy undergrowth. It climbs and opens to the tops and continues up to The Urchin. From this high point were fantastic views of the Central Plateau, mountains and Lake Rotoaira. We traversed the range before dropping to the Waipakihi River to find a campsite for the night.
Conditions were idyllic for tenting. We set up early afternoon in the warm sun, and some of us swam in the river. It felt like a leisurely holiday.
We walked up the river to Waipakihi Hut. This was a tiring trek, with multiple crossings, the track not always easy to find and much bush-bashing. One in our group said it was the hardest day’s tramp he’d done in a long time even though the distance wasn’t great. We were glad we had broken this leg into two days.
Now, it was reasonable for us to think that – since we had arrived at a remote hut deep into the range and hadn’t seen anyone else – we could spread out, having the hut to ourselves.
We could not have imagined that two hours after we arrived, we would be embroiled in a Yoga class with 16 twenty-two-year-olds. This tramping trip was in the curriculum for year two students studying for their Sport and Outdoor Recreation Bachelor Degree from AUT, ably led by Charlotte Jellyman. We were invited to join the class and enjoyed the company of these lovely young people. Most had tents, apart from one who slept on the water tank. He said it was warm.
Even though this walk was as long as day one and two put together, it was the most enjoyable. We climbed to the Umukarikari Range and found cold wind, cloud and mist on the tops. This was the exhilaration I’d come for. We layered up and were able (mostly) to spot the next marker pole in the barrenness. We were glad we hadn’t camped here, as the students had done the night before. The weather cleared and gave us fantastic views over to Thunderbolt and beyond.
We lunched in a sheltered spot below Sharp Cone and shed some clothing for the descent back. We had started early and walked briskly, arriving at the car park at 1pm. We had the keys for the student’s van to shuttle to our start point (their finish point), saving them about an hour of road walk at the end.
This was an excellent way to spend three days.
Trampers: Sue Trotter, Fiona Bryant, Lynette Morgan, Robyn Smith, Barrie Ridler, Mark Jenkins, Geoff Donkin and reporter Bruce Hodgson