By DominicOberhumer, 02 September 2014
Most trips into the Kawekas involve clear skies, good views, lovely hot pools and relaxing with a choice beverage or five. This was nothing like that at all.
This was the third club trip I’d been on, the first was Freshers which apparently didn’t really count and the second was an overly ambitious trip to Maungahuka and that didn’t work out so well. The plan this time around seemed flawless in its simplicity; there were hot pools and we were going to them, marvellous. The car ride was long but I spent it asleep so can’t really complain there.
Trouble started when we reached a river we were supposed to cross in the cars. I later learned that there was a metal pole in that river: bottom half painted white, top half painted red with the implication that one should not attempt to cross if the water reached the red. We could not see said pole on this particular day so plans had to change. We agreed to head to another road end from where we could head out along the tops and ridgelines of the Kawekas and there was a hut five minutes from the road we could stay in that night. Things still sounded pretty good, we just accepted that we wouldn’t need our togs after all and tried to put out from our minds the reason for the rivers being so high.
We didn’t sleep in the hut (Makahu Saddle Hut) but for a cause still unclear to me decided to set up flies to sleep under. There were nine of us but we had large flies and tarps so we figured it’d be fine. We cooked up a meal and got into our sleeping bags at 6pm, we didn’t get out of them till 8am the next day.
It had been wet throughout the night, it hadn’t been raining or anything, it was just wet, really wet. We packed up, had breakfast and started walking, the weather decided to remain wet. We strolled up to Kaweka J and in the process experienced several types of the “are we there yet?” question: first joking then genuine then desperate. When we reached the top there was nothing to see and it had started to rain in that most fantastic of directions: horizontally. The next four of five hours were a complete blur. There was rain, there were rocks underfoot, there was rain, there was a complete lack of views and there was rain. We may have stopped to eat at some point and we may have talked a little but mostly we just put our heads down and walked. For not the first and certainly not the last time on a tramping trip I thought to myself “Am I actually enjoying this? Is this supposed to be fun? Are the people around me having fun? They don’t look like they are. Is this perhaps a little dangerous too?”
I learnt two things that day 1) Good friends are made in bad conditions. 2) Calling anything waterproof is laughably arrogant… and just plain incorrect.
We finally ended up scrabbling down a rocky slope towards Ballard Hut, sure it was a four bunk hut and there were nine of us but we were bedraggled and it had a roof and better yet a fire. I arrived at the hut first and put my head through the door. Two hunters stared back at me, clearly bewildered that anyone would have the audacity to walk here and join them in this weather. “Uhm, would you guys mind if another nine people were to come in here?” I asked trying to sound as unimposing as a person can under such circumstances. The bewildered stares were now accompanied by hanging jaws as a response. “Well ahh, six of them are girls if that, um makes it any better” I had no idea what I was meant to say but felt that somehow that fact might help things along. One of hunters retained his blank stare whilst the other gave me a more interesting look. It was a look that suggested that not only did he believe that I was pulling his leg but that at this point he thought the entire universe was taking the piss. “Ok, well, we’ll just let ourselves in then” I said quietly as I realised there was a queue forming behind me outside the hut. So in we walked and that was that.
We hung up or wet clothing, went about making dinner and then sat around the hut drinking and chatting and laughing until we went to sleep. Two of our group slept outside in a tent, some of us double bunked and some of us slept on the floor.
The next day was miserable in the morning but much better from just before midday onwards, we still got no views but we were lower down and everything was just far more pleasant. There were river crossings and valleys to walk into and out of and it was all just quite nice. Someone assumed that I knew how to navigate by map so I ended up doing a bit of that though I’ve no idea when or where I learnt to do so. We got back to the car park in reasonable time and though we were a little tired everyone seemed pretty pleased with the experience. It was a good trip.
With: Pia, Dana, Sacha, Joe, Ashley, Mae, Dom, Anita and Anna.