Saturday, 4 December 4 2016. Kaweka FP. Lakes car park, Kuripapango, Smith Russell Track, Cameron Hut track, or Kiwi Saddle Hut track, and loop to Kiwi Mouth track. Map: BJ37
Banner photo: the Long-tailed cuckoo. Adult perched, viewed from rear. Blowhard Bush, Hawke’s Bay, November 2014. Image © Adam Clarke by Adam Clark. nzbirdsonline.org.nz/species/long-tailed-cuckoo
The day started by heading up into the cloud to Kuripapango. We had looked at the DoC signboard at the car park and I suggested that we do this loop in the anticlockwise direction, i.e. via Kiwi Saddle Hut. The others would make up their minds once they reached the decision point at the junction.
The day was still with no wind, quite a change from the last two months where the equinox winds have been blowing for what seems like months (but only since October).
Whilst walking along the bush ridges on the Smith Russell track, a long-tailed cuckoo was within metres of me, and almost flying alongside. We exchanged hellos before it disappeared. At the Kiwi Saddle Hut/Cameron Hut junction, I scratched a direction arrow and ‘J’.
On reaching Kiwi Saddle Hut after I waited 30 minutes, before realising that perhaps the others had decided to go clockwise, I headed off and stuck with my plan.
There were a few tree falls, but all were negotiable. When emerging from the bush to cross some open clay pans, the open tops of Manson 1448 could be seen in the distance. Soon you pass the junction that goes to Kiwi Mouth via Kiwi Creek. However the ‘high level’ track drops down to a small tributary, and then up onto some more clay and scree areas. It heads up to the junction, just before the high point 1238m. A lunch break was deserved after reaching the junction, with views to the track up to Castle Camp and Back Ridge. The day had become very sunny with a blue sky. The heat was drying off the moisture in the ground, with mist rising from the soil.
Setting off again at 12.30pm after a 20-minute break, I soon came upon the others lunching in a spot with views west. They were within 500m of the junction.
After an brief discussion about the track conditions, I continued on. There is more windfall on this part of the loop, but it was still navigable. A small climb up past some rocky crags, and then quickly reaching the Kiwi Saddle/Cameron Hut junction. I had completed the loop, so after scratching my second direction arrow and ‘J’, with the cloud increasing, the final steady walk began back to Kuripapango and the Lakes car park.Apart from my fellow NTC members, I met no other hunters or trampers during the day.
This loop is challenging – it takes 7.5 hours – but there are great views from the tracks, making it a good day walk.
Trampers: Clockwise: Alison, Ali, Juliet, Jude and Geoff. Anticlockwise: Julia (reporter).