25th-26th March 2023
We departed 7:00am from Te Aute Road heading for the Kaweka Lakes carpark in the southern Kawekas for an overnight tramp to HTC’s Kiwi Saddle hut. This was the first time out to part of the Kawekas after cyclone Gabrielle. Crossing the Ngaruroro river at Fernhill and then through Omahu all the way up to Matapiro road on the Napier – Taihape road, we saw evidence of where the water had flooded homes, wrecked crops & fences. The closer we got to the old Forest Headquarters the more slips we saw. Beyond the old Forest Headquarters there had been substantial slips on the side of the road and there currently exists about 6 washouts reducing the road to single lane access. The start of the road into Kaweka Lakes carpark from the Napier – Taihape road has a slightly eroded surface, but this soon reverts to a good gravel road surface.
Arriving around 8:15am at the carpark, there were 3 other vehicles and we were to meet others over the next 24 hours at the Kiwi Saddle Hut. Out of the group of 5 heading to the hut, 2 had never been to the hut before. We departed towards the hut around 8:30am and climbed up to Kuripapango peak and along the Smith Russell track. The weather was slightly overcast with a cool westerly wind on the tops. For some, it was interesting to see Robson Lodge where HTC had previously held a training weekend, from a different perspective way down in the Kuripapango valley to the south. Mount Ruphehu and Ngauruhoe were partly visible through a cloudy horizon to the west.
The track in had no major damage and only two very small branch obstructions needed to be shifted to clear the track. We arrived to an empty hut about 12 noon. I say empty, but there was a 8 cm weta clinging vertically under the porch roof. After lunch and a period of rest, our group carrried out some housekeeping; cleaning the toilet, gathering/cutting wood, cleaning gutters/windows, cleaning gauze mesh on down pipes into water tank. A spare section of chimney flue and wood were found lying close to the bottom of the hut rear. Was it due to strong winds or was it some animal playing games ?
During the afternoon two hunters stopped briefly while on a day hunt, heading via Castle Camp, Kaiarahi Peak, The Tits and back to Kaweka Lakes carpark. The rest of the afternoon was a time to lie in the sun, doze off, play a card game of Monopoly, explore the bush/tracks around the hut and light the hut fire. While exploring 50m down the hill beyond the old toilet site, a fenced off area of bush about 1 & 1/2 times the enclosed area of the hut was discovered with wire linked fencing mesh placed up to a metre off the ground and several parallel rows of fencing wire above that. There was evidence of deer being in the area, but it looked like deer had broken through into what was supposed to be deer/pig free piece of bush.
Late afternoon two more hunters arrived with a dog carrying its own double sausage roll pack. One tented and the other used the hut. They were looking to be out this way for two nights. After tea and on sunset our group headed down the track just past the edge of the bush to catch a glimpse of the sun setting behind Mount Ruaphehu. A great view with a cool breeze and different members using others as wind breaks. The night was no different to other nights with nocturnal activities inside and outside the hut.
Sunday morning, after breakfast and tidy up of the inside of the hut, the group set off back to the carpark. Just a slow grind back up to the top of the ridge, again slightly cloudy and gusty wind on the tops. The return trip was uneventful and the time taken about 30 minutes less than what it took to get to the hut. The track had evidence of deer and pigs being around. Lunch was had at the Blowhard bush shelter about 5kms back towards Napier down Lawrence road. After lunch an attempt was made to see if we could drive to the Lawrence reserve, but at least two slips have obstructed the road. The Lawrence reserve is another access point to the Mackintosh Hut. We were home by about 2pm.
Party : Janice L, Jude H, Anthea C, Nic W & Simon W