Saturday 25 August, 2018. Makahu Saddle, Kaweka Flats, Iron Whare, and off track down to Makahu River and up to the Fire Pond/Reservoir. Kaweka FP, Map: BJ37
Banner pic: The ranges from the scenic lookout/fire pond
The walk from Makahu Saddle car park at the end of Kaweka Road in the Kaweka ranges to Iron Whare is a straightforward, reliably easy day-walk. But what’s the fun of easy? Something was needed to spice up our day’s excursion.Stepping out of the van, five layers of clothing were insufficient. My legs painfully stiffened from blood and flesh to solid icicle sticks as we listened to Julia’s briefing. The feeling passed in five minutes of walking, so this was not to be the aforementioned ‘spice’ of our trip.
The walk to Kaweka Flats Bivouac was pleasant. The sun shone. The wind had lost its chill. The stream crossing was feet-dry. Morning smoko at the bivvy felt somehow undeserved after a shortish tramp. We had passed a number of DoC 200 predator traps. These are designed to capture and kill rats, stoats and hedgehogs. Trap number MM54 had managed to kill a possum. Julia, always well equipped, had the required No. 2 Square Drive for removing the trap lid to extricate the rotting corpse and re-set. John was our man for this task on his return trip.Lunch at Iron Whare was most pleasant; very warm and sheltered, even though snow-clad Kaweka J was a short distance behind us. We were comfortable, strong, and warm. A return trip the way we had come would be too easy. But there was an alternative. Geoff and Julia had thought about this and a plan for looping back to the forestry fire pond near the road was explained.
It was not a track. It was a route. We drop down into the Makahu River and climb out the other side to near a quarry and that pond by a lookout. Someone would need to return back the way we came to the van and meet us at the new pickup point. John and Jude kindly volunteered for this. One or two were a little hesitant at first but convinced themselves to go the alternative.
This turned out to be the spice. It changed a tramp into an adventure. The route was a fight through tree-fall from the snowstorm of two years ago. The event damaged many tracks and routes and this one had not been cleared. The descent to the river became a battle within the laws of physics. We had gravity versus not much boot traction and body purchase from rotting tree branches. Often, the tree branch’s shear resistance would fail as we clung desperately. When this happened, our body mass plus pack would accelerate in a downward direction at Sir Isaac Newton’s calculated 9.8m/sec/sec. That is, until the free-fall was arrested by another tree trunk or branch not quite so rotten as the previous.This is how it was until we reached the river 350m down. The cold and treachery of the river crossing was blessed relief. The next phase had to be simple. We had good bearings; it was just up for about 500 vertical metres of bush-bashing. There were times when it took us about 10 minutes to gain 10m. The scrub was dense and in places impossible to get through. We kept tight because visibility was just a metre or two. We were able to follow each other by the blood trail left by the person in front. At one point, when I was stuck up to my chest, being shafted in the buttocks by a broken branch, I turned to see one of my companions (the leader, in fact) lying prostrate high in a shrub, stuck, bush lawyer vine tearing her hair, and mumbling the F-word. I knew then that we were having a good time. The bush-bash took it out of me. We found clear ground about two thirds of the way up and staggered to the finish line, where John and Jude welcomed us with the sight of a big white van. This was a fantastic day. Thank you to Julia and Geoff for leading us so well, and John for moving the van.
Trampers: Marie (possum and KFB photo), John, Juliet, Geoff, Lynette, Jude, Julia (photos) and reporter Bruce