Daphne Hut, Saturday August 15 2009
Trampers: Alex Thomason (leader), Colin McNatty, Murray White, Geoff Donkin, Ray Slavin, John Dobbs and Denise Payne (who kept the boys in line!)
The forecast was for considerable rain coming through the southern Ruahines, where the day trip was originally planned. So, since 2009 is the year of “Plan B”, an alternative trip not so far south was agreed on, for maybe better conditions. So a diversion to Daphne Hut was decided and Alex assigned as trip leader.
On Friday night, it had rained a lot, but was luckily only threatening as we gathered for the drive south. There was only a little drizzle when we got closer to the Ruahines, so it was looking good.
Ray decided he would only go as far up the ridge track as he felt like and then would come back down and stay at the van. So we all waded through Moorcock Stream and followed the white marker posts that led to the formed ridge track. Then it was basically up and up and before long, several layers of clothing were removed. The track is clear with some lovely bigger trees, mainly beech but with scattered totara and the odd rimu further along.
Arriving at the signpost and track junction, there are options south to Longview and of course north towards Daphne. There was no real rain and the sun was clearly shining through the cloud cover at the top, so we were happy despite no views and little bird life, but good tramping conditions.
Eventually the steep descent down to the Tukituki River began and we had a few little slides but no dramas. Denise decided she did not want to get wet feet, so remained riverside for an early lunch, while the boys walked up the river towards the hut. River levels were up a bit, but still clear; 20 minutes later, at 11.55am, we reached Daphne Hut (now painted an odd shade of yellow) and sat inside for a pleasant lunch. The usual rubbish was discussed and as we soon cooled off, we were on our way back in the direction of Denise again. Interestingly, the hut book recorded the weekend before, a lady from Palmerston North doing a longish solo trip in the area and up to Howletts.
Denise had left arrows, cairns and her time of departure, so as we puffed our way back up the ridge again, we caught up with her, waiting near the turn-off to the old track no longer maintained by DoC. We decided it would make a more interesting circuit to return this way, although it does cross private farmland and we would effectively be trespassing.
The track was still easy to follow and soon emerged into open farmland, but we needed to take bearings and descend through cloud cover to see the correct angle across the farmland. Dodging cows, sheep and possible tricky gullies, we did rather well on the descent and the route became more obvious. This led to a patch of bush and back to the Moorcock Stream. The weather did come at us with light drizzle by now though, so we donned the coats just for the last stretch.
All were safely back at the van where Ray was relaxing, by 3.35pm. The whole trip had taken exactly seven hours and was a very nice circuit, a good workout and enough variety to keep us interested – actually, quite a good Plan B.