Work sucks, so when the winter weather promised a couple of clear days and Cameron was on school holidays (again, as always) it seemed like an opportunity too good to turn down.
But time was tight. We had a variety of plans for overnighters.
Baldy Loop: a return trip from the Holsworth Road-end, to Atiwhakatu Hut, up to Baldy and back via Jumbo was one option.
Quoin Ridge-Alpha Hut-Marchant Ridge was another.
And we also toyed with Kapakapanui-Renata-Kaitoke, which would have been a long way in winter daylight.
But what we landed on in the end was a very cruisy trip to Field Hut for the night. Neither Cam nor I had ever stayed in the Tararuas’ oldest hut, and the reopening of Otaki Forks seemed karmic.
So we locked it in and loaded up.
And boy did we load up. The inevitable temptation when journeying only a short distance from a road end is to take everything and then some. Instead of nice, lightweight, dry food I took a piece of last night’s mince pie. Cam took an entire vegetarian curry. We both carried DSLR cameras. I was toting my new Aeropress and nearly half a kilo of coffee.
It was a little bit ridiculous.
Driving in from Otaki we passed the newly cleared slip. It’s massive.
Just as we crossed the newly constructed road we were waved down by a nice couple who told us that a new slip, just after the Roaring Meg (Pukeatua Stream) bridge, has blocked the road. Bugger.
Fortunately the nice couple lived nearby, and let us leave the Touareg at their place overnight. It meant a couple of extra kms to walk in, but a safer night for the car.
I often forget just what a fantastic spot Otaki Forks is. The spirits get a real lift as you cross the massive swing bridge and climb up onto the river terraces.
The slog up to Field Hut offers some awesome views of the Otaki and Waiotauru river valleys, followed by classic Tararua mid-level bush. The track was in great nick and even with heavy loads and a stop for lunch we rolled up on Field in two and a half hours.
The only other folks at the hut were a young couple from Kapiti. Dave was an interesting bugger who worked for an Antarctic expedition company and spent six months a year in Antarctica. Pretty choice. His missus was a nurse who seemed lovely but was very quiet. I think Cam scared her.
Cam and I dropped our bags, had a brew, and then grabbed our cameras and made a trip up to Table Top to justify having carried the bloody things all the way in. It was a spectacular evening, with views from Kapakapanui in the South all the way around to the Main Range in the North-East.
The day’s only negative was finding that there was absolutely no wood at Field Hut. And it would seem from the log book that there hadn’t been any for quite some time. A cold night beckoned.
Cam cooked up his korma, I reheated my pie (note to self: add oil to the packing list) and we cracked open the half a litre of (now quite cold) Taylor’s Fine Tawny. Nothing posh this time around. Just a Karpet staple.
I broke out my nearly 20 year old Macpac four season sleeping bag. Climbed in about 8pm, and was out for the count rapidly. That old sleeping bag still kicks ass and despite the grass outside frosting up I had a toasty night. I woke up just once to a deer feeding on the grass right outside the hut. Cheeky bastard.
The next morning dawned gloriously, throwing light over onto Kapakapanui. Sitting on the helipad up above the hut and watching the sun come up with a hot brew is just about my idea of heaven.
And that was it really. A bit of brekky, an easy walk out, and some fish and chips in Otaki is all that remains to be reported.
Good times on another Karpet expedition. A little less good for the lack of Richard who was in Germany arguing with some black belt nerds, but otherwise tremendous.
I give it an 8/10.