Manawatu Gorge, Saturday 22 April, 2023.
Banner Photo: At the Whatonga
Our original tramp was the Southern Crossing of the Ruahines. Eleven of us set out from Park Island with high hopes but low expectations due to the bad weather forecast for that part of the North Island and uncertainty of the track conditions after the cyclone.
Our plan was therefore to just all go up from the Eastern side, get as far as we could, then back down again. The weather was fine in Napier but the sight of the rivers we passed over on the way to Dannevirke made us aware of how much rain there must have been in the hills. At the turn-off, Alison stopped the van to have a discussion.
It was agreed that getting up to the Ruahine tops would probably be impossible as there is a 20-minute walk up-river to start. There was the odd suggestion of a café crawl home but the main impulse was to at least get out and do something. So it was agreed that perhaps the Manawatu Gorge walk was the best bet, considering the conditions. Campbell and Elly very kindly offered to take the van from the car park at the Ashhurst end, drive it around to the Woodville side and climb up to meet us for lunch.
At the start of this walk, the weather was showery but light enough not to need jackets as it was quite warm. The bush looked beautiful and lush in those conditions, although we did see two widow-makers on the track which just goes to show that no track is entirely safe. One especially was well endowed with the smallest of native orchids.
We met quite a few people on the Ashhurst end of the track, but we guessed by the lack of wet-weather gear that they weren’t going very far. We were passed by a few runners as well. The track itself was in excellent condition when you think how much rain the countryside has had in the last few months. As we moved further into the track we basically had it to ourselves apart from the returning runners.
The rain got heavier so we ended up with a quick group photo stop at the statue of Whatonga, an ancient warrior, which stands guard over the forest, and another short stop about 11 am for a bite to eat; we decided just to carry on through to the track-end, rather than a stop for lunch in the rain.
We met up with Elly and Campbell about an hour and half from the track-end. Everyone was moving quite fast so we made it back to the van about 1pm. It was a bit of a juggle trying to get out of our wet-weather gear and change into dry clothes for the trip home. Some decided to do this in the shelter with the sign-boards at track-end. Unfortunately for Julian, however, he was sprinting out of the shelter back to the van after getting all his dry clothes on and ended up slipping and landing heavily in a vast puddle – swathes of mud and water all over him! His trip home involved having to sit on his pack-cover to keep mud off the seat.
We stopped in Woodville for coffees and food for some and it was lovely to be able to sit down in the dry comfort of the café. We all enjoyed the day as it has been a very long time since some of us had done any walk of significance.
Thanks very much to the drivers – Alison and Campbell.
Trampers: Campbell, Sue, Di, Elly, Simon, Alison, Lynette, Julian, Andrea, Nelia and reporter Juliet
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