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Heels 1968

Urewera Strolling (or Eight Warm Wet Feet)

Urewera Strolling (or Eight Warm Wet Feet)

At Ruatahuna the car skidded to a halt alongside the two figures squatting on the roadside, and Lo, who should they be but the rest of the party waiting to be led far into the wilderness by their intrepid leader. Unfortunately, there was no intrepid leader to be seen or found handy so alone they set off into the unknown. After 3-4 miles of tortuous highway the cars had to be abandoned and to the accompaniment of much griping the four bods were seen to hump packs. In their quest for local knowledge the aforesaid bods, that later turn out to be trampers, engaged the local natives in conversation and were informed of the unsuitability of opossum for good. To quote "No eat 'possum. Like cat." After closing the conversation with some cheery words relating to the seaon of the year (for it was but 3 days to Xmas) they proceeded to manufacture a long line of bootprints in the direction of the Whakatane River. Words were uttered describing the extreme heat and the length of the exhausting roadwalk. Two warm but slippery river crossings and a low saddle later they were seen to enter Manatihono Forestry [unclear: Hut] kindly vacated by the forestry personnel but a few days [unclear: prior] to our heroes entrance. They seemed overly tired for their page 72-3 hours walk so it was correctly assumed that the packs were indeed heavy. (It wasn't that they were not fit!).

The sun rose next morning (for it was observed through a gap in the clouds) and after a decent interval our heroes emerged into the open once more looking much worse for their breakfast of macaroni cheese. A swift hour's tramp brought these heroic venturers to the old abandoned Maori settlement of Ohaua, the only sign of which was an old iron horse drawn plow. After the inevitable "horsing" around, a hot humid overcast toddle brought the recently completed Tawhiwhi hut into view. Investigation revealed that the last occupants had been the local wild cattle. The efforts of the track improvement men were noted here in a new section of track that was complete except for the white dotted line down the middle. Fortunately this did not last long and the salubrious stroll down the riverbed (waist deep in water) was enjoyed in the knowledge that this was the best (and fastest?) route. Ngahiramai forestry hut was noted as the trail blazers consumed their hardtack rations therein. The early afternoon saw our heroes proceeding steadily down river and finally, as the guide book says, up onto the Hanimahihi Flats.

This gross error was realised after a couple of miles of battling thru' gigantic tic infested, massively pig rooted elephant grass. This fact was pointed out in the, at that stage unread, notes at the end of the guide book. However, much patience and determination saw the venturers get their just reward in the form of Hanamahihi forestry hut.

Another day dawned whether by accident or thru' design I cannot say, but it dawned anyway and forced our heroes to rise and face the new day. A wrong decision caused them to climb a thousand feet or so to the ridge to save having to go thru' the most "picturesque section of the route", so they missed it - more fools them. A less humid day allowed a better speed so the Waikare Junction forestry hut was achieved in time for a luxurious bathe in the warm waters before a sumptuous lunch of hardtack. At this point a masterfull stroke of navigation enabled the explorers to follow the signs and proceed up the Waikare River hoping to reach the Waikarewhenua Hut before dark. However, fitness must have been catching up with them as in spite of numerous swimming stops in the heat and drizzle they reached the hut by mid-afternoon. Much oo-ing and ah-ing was heard as the extremely pretty unspoilt countryside was admired.

Once again the day (Xmas Day) dawning forced the intrepid explorers up, to a meal of macaroni cheese and, as a special treat, watercress. Regret was expressed at having eaten all their Xmas goodies on the 23rd to save carrying the extra weight for two days. The attraction of a car load of goodies page 8must have proved too much for our heroes as they were seen to head rapidly up Motumuka Stream in the direction of the Tawhiwhi hut. This stream is typical of the Urewera back-country streams in that its flood level shows plenty of evidence of the high rainfall the Urewera endures. The rain fall is also reflected in the huge trees and luxuriant undergrowth that covers the sand and mudstone of the Wairoa Basin. Having passed thru' the Takarua Forestry Hut the trail blazers crossed the ridge at 2100 feet and descended to Tawhiwhi Hut down an extremely steep track. The remainder of the trip was child's play to our heroes since they had travelled this way just two days before. Arriving back at the cars later that day they were seen to raid the trip food for their next excursion and celebrate Xmas with a can of apricots each. Never was so little food enjoyed so much by so few. As the sun sets over the hill we see our heroes fade in the distance leaving their dust to settle over the last few bootprints.

- W.D.R.

Party: Bill Radford, Keith Jones, Mike Clear, Neville Lupton.