The initial plan for Sunday had been to head to Poutaki Hut, however thanks to the weather forecast and access issues the decision was made to to head south instead in an attempt to find dryer pastures.
Ten of us set off heading for the Ruamahanga river, we nearly missed the turn-off for Ruamahanga Gorge Road, being just over the first bridge heading south of Mt Bruce, thinking it was just the entrance to a farm.
It was a cool day as we started walking, the clouds continually threatening rain but thankfully never eventuating more than the occasional shower throughout the day.
We headed over farmland following a fence on our left hand side until it started heading uphill away from the river and a gate could be seen that would lead us down towards the river where we believed we should be headed. Passing through the gate the track led downwards through the slightly overgrown bush which clad the rivers banks, however upon reaching it found no way to progress further as no one was keen on getting their feet wet.
We backtracked to the fence we had been following and resolved ourselves to climb up the hill through farmland. Once at the top we zigged our way back down the otherside through dead Manuka trees and then continued onwards, this time keeping to right following the river, passing through farm gates often surrounded by large puddles and deep mud. At this point after stopping for a snack we separated into 2 parties with 1 attempting to see if they could reach Cleft Creek.
Continuing on though farmland we, the Cleft Creek hopefuls, eventually hit a cross for Selwyn Roy Pawson overlooking the riverand at this point we left the farmland behind and headed off into scrubby Manuka and ferns. Following along the track through plenty of mud we eventually reached a sign advising we had entered Tararua Forest Park and moved in to proper native bush.
Based on maps we were about ⅔ of the way along the Ruamahanga Gorge section when we stopped for lunch at a spot where we could look down into the river below. While short of our goal of Cleft Creek we decided that it would be best to head back afterwards as the initial excursion down to the river had cost us time and we still had the drive back to Hastings ahead of us.
The second party walked past the Pawson cross and started up a muddy hill before deciding they would prefer to have lunch down by the river. They back tracked a bit and went down a fisherman’s access track near the Pawson cross and a private hut. It was a pretty site for lunch. Afterwards they tried to retrace steps back to the van but one went a bit astray crossing a swamp and ended up thigh deep in it.
Party: Nic W, Simon W, Robyn W, Murray A, Jude H, Colin J, Anne D, Susan L, Chrisitne L and Glenda H.