Friday, 1 August 2008

Tararua Forest Park: Penn Creek/Table Top

It has been far too long since my last post. I have not been out tramping a recently, the last time was in the first weekend of August, where we managed to get out between severe storms that created a lot of carnage in the Tararuas. Having been too slack to pen my account on this trip,  below you can find Fraser's version that he e-mailed me, and some of his friends who thought that the weather was too severe to head for the hills.

You may also like to read Mike's account of the same trip.

Fraser writes:

After eating a bowl of soup and drinking an ale in Byron's Resort on Otaki Beach (that had no power due to the storms having blown the power lines down), I set off to meet the WTMC trampers. On my way to meet the WTMC people, I found two people and their dogs wandering about in the dark on the gravel part of the Otaki forks road. I asked them the situation, and they said that they'd been wandering in the dark for two hours, that there were major slips on the road and I would not be able to continue. They also said that anyone that wanted to tramp would need spikes and be in serious trouble due to the weather. Due to their distressed state, I gave them a lift back to Otaki Beach, calling Craig to inform him what was going on. Cellphone reception was very poor, so I had trouble talking. It turned out that the people I'd picked up were very stoned from smoking oil spots in the hut, and knew nothing about tramping, so after much hero worship for saving them a long walk (and a cheeky spot!), I returned to meet the trampers. 

They were parked up just before the slip, and because I was late I had to change out of my work clothes and pack properly all in a couple of minutes. We began tramping with head torches a little before eight, and it was very hard to communicate to the trampers what I had heard from the people I had picked up due to the mild conditions and the fact that there was only one slip. Once I managed to tell them them what had been said, there was much laughter about us 'needing spikes' on the hill. Our party consisted of a dour Scotsman named Pete, (who comes from somewhere that sounds more like a cough than a placename) ; Mike from Treasury (somewhat reminiscent of the character Choo Choo from the cartoon Top Cat), and Craig McGregor, who was tramping for "red lines on the map". The first night's walk felt like little more than a walk in the park, yet we reached Field hut after eleven due to the elemental chaos that had been unleashed on the hill in the days before. Spectacular scenes abounded... At one point, more than forty trees had fallen onto the trail, which was blocked in several places. Mike and I appointed ourselves pathfinders, and used night tramping experience to find the best ways to follow the track. The other party of trampers that had gone ahead of us had become disoriented and walked half an hour in the wrong direction, meeting me coming up the hill. It seemed they had accidentally turned around only a minute or two away from the hut. In some places around Field Hut, the earth and trees looked as if a giant hand had crushed everything together, creating a huge mess of earth and trees. Everyone bedded down at Field hut that night, keen for a good night's rest. 

On the next day and after the two trampers who were going mountaineering had left, we decided that the best destination would be Penn Creek Hut to see if the river was too swollen for us to cross into the mountains. We set out Penn Creek Hut. Craig decided the river was too swollen to cross, and we were too lazy to tramp to Kime hut (also known as the freezer) so we spent the rest of the day hanging out at the hut playing cards and generally joking around. We pondered such philosophical statements as 
"You know, those who know enough to be able ignore D.O.C signs are usually competent enough to handle ignoring D.O.C signs... While there are those who are insane enough to think that they know enough to ignore D.O.C signs... They're weeded out by a process of natural selection." - Mike McGavin
I cut apart an awful feminist paperback novel to make a deck of very interesting cards, which provided such hilarious quotes as "The doctor opened his surgical bag, removed a scalpel, and began to cut away the man's pants". We ate well (Craig made Tiramisu!)  and slept for twelve hours while heavy rain pounded on the roof.

On the third day, one of the small streams we had crossed to get to the hut had been replaced by a raging torrent of white water and doubled in depth. We decided it would be best to climb through the dense bush to tabletop using compasses and maps to navigate our way. I led the way up the hill, and came upon a 'tramper's superhighway' which turned out to be pig tracks, and took us up to six hundred meters in a little more than an hour. After this, the forest gave way to dense Tararua leatherwood, which we forged a path through taking ridiculous amounts of time. We came to the trig of Tabletop in high winds and very thick fog, and quickly found the track to Field hut at around two thirty. The track after Field Hut was spectacular in daylight. Two hundred year old trees had been uprooted and blown by the winds.The track was covered in foliage, and Mike and I split off from Craig and Pete to move at a 'fast pace' to meet the other party back at the van, getting overtaken and beaten to the van by half an hour : }. The fog had cleared, and the way back to Otaki forks had some really good views. You guys missed a really good tramp. 

We tramped for about nine hours today, and I'm feeling pretty relaxed and good. Don't know about next week. I recommend tramping in the western Tararuas due to the changes in the forest from the storms. Very exciting stuff!

-Thanks for the awesome tramp guys,

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