Ellis Hut, Ruahine FP, Wednesday July 4, 2018. Map BK37
Photos: Marie Deroles
This was a trip to the historic Ellis ( Murderer’s ) Hut via the Yeomans track on the Eastern side of the Ruahines. The trip began on a fine, calm but frosty morning. While assembling at Church Road, our leader and van driver, Hilary, discovered she had left her boots behind. Alarm and consternation! Profuse apologies as we drove into Napier to retrieve said boots. The triumphant Hilary brandishing said boots is captured on camera.
Errors compound when we strike roadworks and lines of stationary traffic on the expressway. At last, normal service resumes and we make our way down State Highway 50. As we progress, the frost on the side of the road becomes increasingly evident. However, the compensation is a clear blue sky and a lack of wind. Our first glimpse of the Ruahines reveals a heavy coating of snow resembling a a spooning of meringue on the higher peaks. The buzz on board the van is all about how cold the river crossing of the Makaroro River will be.
We drive down the Wakarara Road bordered by the rolling green hills and remnant stands of totara. Apprehensions rise as we start to descend steep and winding sections of road where ice could lurk, but fortunately we negotiate that successfully and continue along the gravel road and onto the farm track which leads down to the old mill site. This section of road has scoured out in some spots and proves a challenge to which our driver rises. We park near the river bank, disembark and organise.
The old Mill site, of which there is little physical evidence, serviced the logging industry which commenced there in 1924 and which, according to DoC, resulted in about 50 million feet of podocarp forest having been milled in the area. The logging and milling ended more than 30 years later.The river was running swiftly and the old time trampers such as Ted and Murray elected to keep their boots on for the crossing, while the newer members elected to opt for alternative footwear so as to have dry boots on the tramp. The crossing proved challenging, with difficulty in retaining footing in the freezing cold waters.On reaching the other side, footwear was changed and we set off along the remnants of the old logging roads which now form the Yeomans track. There were significant tracts of blackberry at the side of the track but the gradient made for easy climbing. As we moved further into the area, we could see from the slender size of the tree trunks that this was the regeneration following the logging. We also came across barriers which we had to squeeze through – placed there by DoC to prevent trailbike riders venturing into the area, following a fatality some years ago.
Everything proceeded pretty well until we reached a point in the track where Tane had fallen and taken down a number of his smaller brethren, which proved difficult to negotiate. Was it better to go over or around?
Our next challenge was the slopes where papa clays were lubricated with flowing water and you needed to watch your footing. Another significant tree uprooting on a downward slope provided an escalator of mud to ride down to where the track could be rejoined. As we came to the two-hour mark, we were rewarded by numerous rimu trees bordering the road. At one point, we came to an open clearing where the remnants of an historic fireplace stood, complete with some grub’s rubbish.After 2 1/2 hours, we finally reached the logging road which is being used for the pines of Gwavas Forest, with a couple of hundred metres more to Ellis Hut. According to the history section of a DoC website, Ellis Hut was first built in 1884 for mustering and animal control for a local station. Ellis was a farmhand who was employed at Te Awate Station but got sacked for shooting a deer without permission. He threatened revenge and in 1904 his employer Leonard Collison was shot and killed. Ellis was hunted for 10 months before being found in the hut which bears his name, and arrested. A jury trial found him guilty and he was hanged.
Back to the present, and we had an enjoyable time in the sun while eating our lunches while Hilary and Murray lamented the lack of interesting circus characters in a non-PC attempt to shock. Unfortunately, no one bit!
Following lunch the party split, with five trampers electing to return via the same route while the others chose to return via the road. Ted and Tony had traversed the road option before and Tony insisted that it was all downhill. What he didn’t tell us, until later, was that his memory could no longer be relied on. Thanks a lot, Tony! Turned out there were some uphill sections after all. The road walk overall proved to be relatively enjoyable and it was quite an achievement for the two teams to reach the road junction at the same time.
Next, it was down to the river to the crossing. If anything, the current was even stronger and colder with the snow melt. Ted and Murray chose to link up and picked what they thought was the better crossing point, but were still challenged by the current which meant there were some interesting moments. Watching others cross, and their chosen points, showed that all experienced challenging moments. Maree and Pauline were the last to arrive and Denise, Murray and John Bennet waited at the river’s edge to see they got accross safely, which they did, with the odd wobble. Then it was off to change and geriatric Murray struggled to pull his wet socks off until our intrepid leader Hilary stepped in and assisted. Is there no end to your skills, Hilary?
We headed for a brief refreshment stop at the Tikokino Pub and then home. Another good day in the bush. Thank you to Hilary as leader and driver.
Trampers: Vic, Marie, Ted, John M, Tony, Pauline, Hilary, John B, Alison, Sue T, Denise B, John Bt. and reporter Murray.