I went through an anticlimatic experience on the weekend. Richard, Amanda and I were meaning to get to Wakelings Hut in the Ruahines, starting from the end of Makino Road on the western side, which is about the next road north of Kawhatau Base. I found myself not feeling too well. After being up for much of the night between Friday and Saturday as we stayed (by arrangement) on one of the nearby farms, I decided I wasn’t exactly fit to go.
In some ways this worked out for the better. With oncoming weather it was uncertain if Amanda and Richard could get all the way around to Wakelings Hut and back over the Mokai Patea as planned, so with the new arrangements I was able to drive the car around to Kawhatau Base and collect them the following day. As I waited, I spent two exciting days in Taihape, which is a nice little town and I saw three steam trains drive through it, two of which were the Overlander  and one of which was a special excursion by Mainline Steam . Unfortunately it was one of the few weekends in Taihape without a gumboot throwing competition, and for most of the time I did still wish I’d brought a book to read.
It was probably for the best that I stayed where I was, though. I tried out the short 15 minute loop walk up the small hill behind Taihape, and felt dizzy at the top. Richard and Amanda, meanwhile, spent most of Saturday trying to navigate up the spur between Otukota Hut and Piringa (1317), which someone from DoC had apparently done a couple of years ago and reckoned it was completely do-able. What they found was completely smothered in nightmarish bush lawyer, and it was a very long day in the rain. I still think I’d rather have done that than sit in a motel in Taihape watching TV and expending all my energy blowing my nose, but not really if I’d been sick…. that just would have been inappropriate and probably unsafe for everyone. 🙂 Sometimes you just can’t win, though.
Instead, I leisurely found ways to waste time, then very slowly drove south to Mangaweka and in-land looking for every excuse I could find to stop along the way, but eventually arriving at Kawhatau Base, where the Upper Kawhatau River was conveniently much more easily crossable than it had been on the previous occasion . The cable-way is also fixed thanks to helpful people from the Department of Conservation, not that anyone needed it on such a day. I have to admit that sitting next to the river was a nice break after enduring all that television. Richard and Amanda turned up bang-on-time at 3.45pm, albeit quite cut up and exhausted from the previous day.
Yeah, they finally showed up. An up-side to my day was that being in a blocked up condition, any stinky sweaty tramping smells weren’t an issue.
I threw together a speedy welcoming sign as I waited, but alas it went unnoticed. It’ll have to wait for the next random people.
I’d not realised until speaking to a couple of people in Taihape about tramping that many people there relate much more to the volcanoes on the Central Plateau than they do to the Ruahines. I guess it makes sense because Ruapehu and Friends are not too much further up State Highway 1, and that’s probably where many of the people who travel through Taihape are going. The Ruahines are parallel, not clearly visible, have more obscure access roads, and are certainly less well known. While I was having quite a sheltered experience, Richard and Amanda were struggling with some quite freezing gale-sorts of gusts that I couldn’t even guess existed from what I was experiencing, apart from having seen the forecast. Wakelings Hut is within a day’s walk, but they were the first to visit (and write in the book) since April. Around the corner at Crow Hut, only one person had visited since we were last there in June . I think Amanda’s correct in stating that people just avoid the Ruahines in winter, for some reason.