By Ivan Andrews, 26 May 2019
In my mind Carkeek is a special place, something of a church to Tararua tramping, requiring a lot of walking in and out and offering a sense of remoteness through the sheer number of route options.
Last week I was feeling like I hadn’t done any real exercise for about two months, and was constantly getting enticed onto climbing trips instead of more honest activities which result in more sore legs. Optimistically I chucked a trip on the app, and promptly decided I couldn't come to the meeting to publicise it. I was stoked when Rob and Achim signed up, and amused when both of them also felt they were not really as fit as they could be, and could probably do with stretching legs.
Driving in we discovered a lovely little cart which sold delicious wood-fired pizza in Carterton. I can highly recommend it, but also suggest ordering ahead. A hungry 30-minute wait made us feel a bit daft after having left Wellington with unexpectedly high efficiency. Walking into Miter flats that evening was the slog it always it, and I am left with growing doubt if it is possible to walk that track in daylight. If anyone has done so recently please spill the beans on how.
Saturday dawned bright a clear, and we excitedly set off up Miter, with a vain hope of glorious views and clear ridges. What we got instead was 50 km wind and cloud which rolled in from the west and obscured all views between Tarn Ridge and Carkeek peak. We arrived at the hut about four PM, thankful for some shelter, and the coal which had been choppered in.
That evening, while quite sore, I reflected on the strange significance the place holds for me. I had only previously been there twice, and never actually slept there, but it feels sacred, a place of power for the gods of these hills. Carkeek if far from the most remote hut I have been to, but it is in the Tararua, a region which has shaped me and my engagement with nature very deeply. The hut represents the equivocation, challenge, beauty, and unreliable weather of the Tararuas, and is a place where I can ruminate on the ways these are imprinted on my soul.
Sunday was decidedly manky, with drizzle throughout the morning. We decided to bush bash almost the whole way out on sunday, which took some time. We found a direct route to Dorsite via a creek is probably not as slippery in summer, then heaved over Dorsite ridge, up South King and down Baldy. From the Saddle, we took the first tributary to the Waingawa and met the track about halfway between Miter flats and the carpark. The lower half of this unnamed creek has been hit by some huge storm damage, which surprisingly made travel very easy going.
I will end this report on a note which might make me seem like a grumpy old codger. The rout down from South King to Baldy has been marked by someone spray painting fluro pink fuzzy dots of carns about every 20m. These seem a bit like an eyesore, and were by far the least attractive track markers I have seen in the tararuas; the bright pink clashes with the colour palette of greens yellows and browns which the land is made of. It is probably a good idea to make the kairn near South King as visible as possible, but after that is just seems like the owner of the spray can just got carried away. If you do want to paint rocks, wholy paining one rock in a kairn rather than making fuzzy polka dots is a much more aesthetic method. To make matters even sillier, there was also a lot of flagging tape tied to tussock and harikiki flower stems, which was sometimes on a totally different route to the sprayed rocks. We removed as much of this tape as we could as none of it would stay in place come the first snows of winter. You cannot tie tape to tussock, and the flower stems fall off each year.
With that rant over, I encourage everyone to get out into these hills and to let them make their mark on you.