By Colan Balkwill, 18 March 2022
We didn’t find Ruapae Falls because we slept in
Party members: Chris, Colan, Dugal, Isaac, Meike, Sophie and Tommy
Location: Northern Tararuas
Date: 18 March 2022
I seem to have an attraction to full moons. A disproportionate amount of my trips happen to fall on one – and without prior planning. An unconscious connection perhaps. Lunar ESP. This was another.
The original plan was to camp in the flats near Ruapae Falls and have a swim, before heading up and over Herepai the next day. The promise of a full moon and clear skies, however, had us loony and we decided instead to make a line directly for Herepai. We’d held vague hopes of camping on the tops, even looked at map for something flat. A good amount of faff put an end to that, however.
After briefly stopping to take in a moonlit view over the valley below, clouds wafting like glowing spectres below, we spotted a tent in the bush. Meike exclaimed “it’s a tent!”. We rolled into Herepai Hut at somewhere around 22:00, 6 kebabs deep. Rounding the corner we found a hunting party setting up camp on the porch. They immediately put their fingers to their lips proclaiming “ssshhh”. There was fear in their eyes.
Why was Herepai so full? Its not exactly lux and it’s a random frikken Friday. No bother, we found a freshly chopped helipad, about as flat as Wellington. With space for a few bodies we set up our tents in great spirits, laughing hysterics at Isaac’s cheapo mattress with its very own integrated squishy balloon pump and pillow. The peak of technology. It’s all downhill from here.
Little did we know Meike’s astute observation had woken a dragon. What had left four sizeable hunters quivering had just emerged.
Sheepishly we cowered from the fire emerging from the dark. It expressed great disdain at the fact that we’d so rudely awake a group of hut maintenance workers. One of us let “get some earplugs” slip. This didn’t go down well. Nevertheless, we quietened down, stifling our giggles and made our way to bed. Meike got prime spot in the middle.
We crawled out our tents the next morning to the sound of hammers and saws and the sunrise. It was easy going up to East Peak. Of course we’d carried a watermelon to eat as the animals do -bashed open on a rock and smeared on our faces . There ain’t no cutlery in the bush.
The next bit was the crux – scouring trip reports we knew that we needed to follow the streambed down to the old biv site between pts 1332 and 1127 if we were to avoid the leatherwood limbo. From here there should be tracks leading up and over pt. 1127 to follow the south westerly ridge down to hidden lake. Sounds simple until your staring down a mass of leatherwood and the tracks you’re looking for turn out to be tunnels. After poking around and overshooting the entrance to the streambed we finally made it to what seemed like a biv site, and sat down for lunch. I shot off trying to find a way out, but nothing was obvious. Eventually we opted for a bush bash straight up the side of the hill.
Bush bashing through leatherwood is a special kind of fun. While I enjoy the alpine and cliff faces, Tommy and Dugal seem to like to battle with gnarled life-forms hell-bent on standing in one’s way. The fact that both are well-over six foot makes this all the more challenging. Well, at least I know I can go where they go.
Finally the bush opened up. Relief, we could see our feet. Chris remarked that he couldn’t see his phone though. He’d lost it in the leatherwood. Yeah nah I’m not going back. We hung about while he retraced his steps for a bit. Nothing. Poor fellow. After a bit of faff to make sure we followed the correct spur and a descent of the upper end of a few hundred metres we hit flat ground and sauntered in to hidden lake.
Did I say lake? Perhaps marsh is a better description, I’d sunk up to my calves within three metres of the shoreline. The mud put Chris and Dugal off.
The lake was everything I had been hoping for; beautiful brown waters, cheesecake textured mud to sink your toes into, and the beautiful still bush that hung around us. Shoes came off and we waded through the reeds. Out of the corner of my eye I saw Tommy swimming out to the little island, and that was all the boys needed to dive into the lake. Me, usually the local fish of the tramping club, was not sure about freeing my tits to the world (I am a free spirit but also minorly conscious about shoving my overly naked self into people’s lives where it’s not wanted). The boys confirmed they didn’t care, the tits were free, mud was slathered over everybody, eels were felt brushing our legs, the world was a great place once again. Although we were in fact in a lake getting the mud off ourselves was surprisingly difficult. Once we made it to the river a fire was lit and us dirty folk got into the river to clean ourselves off. A liberating experience, the water taking your breath away the minute you get in, but it’s all about remaining calm.
I watched Meike laying in the same water that had caused everyone else to scream a pitch that’d have them inducted without question into the soprano section of a choir. I was fearful for her safety. I waded in. She told me to breath. Meditation never came so easy.
The rest of the evening was spent around the fire, eating black pepper tofu and watching Chris drink Raro and vodka.
I swear Isaac didn’t leave the tent until 10:00am. Neither did Meike. Heads out and legs in staring up at the beachy canopy (“The best cuddle session of my life” – Meike). Dugal was propped up against a tree as if he needed medical attention. Sophie and Chris sat on a log. Tommy was off starting a fire. Breakfast was prepared, we packed up and sauntered to Roaring stag, had a swim, hugged some big old trees and finally headed back to the carpark.
Ps. Wouldn’t recommend the kebab shop in Greytown and Chris is a lucky bastard. A couple weeks later some bloke hit us up and he got his phone back.