Traversing the Kawekas   (3-7 December 2016)


The steep and often hard tramping in the Kawekas and the Kaimanawas have for a long time been an attraction for the Club. It was to this playground that five members headed to complete a traverse from the Boyd hut in the Kaimanawas to Middle Hill hut and onto Makahu Road on the Napier side of the Kawekas four days later.

A chopper ride from Poronui station to Boyd hut made the first day a breeze. Thanks to the chopper dehy food was not on the menu and I have been reliably informed that even red wine was enjoyed with the evening meal. Harkness hut was the intended second night’s stop but to get there we had to climb a spur, descend bush tracks and cross open tussock country with the tussock grass covering the tracks. This lead to the Harkness valley where forty stream crossings later the hut came into sight. Relief, the door was bolted and six empty bunks welcomed us.

Day three saw us crossing more streams, yes wet feet again, and navigating past windfall trees bought down by the storm last August. Past the survey trig at Te Pukeohikarua, lunch at the Te Puke hut, and it was on to Mangaturutu hut for the night. One hunter in residence, but still five bunks for us. Maybe only one hunter but if he can shoot like he could talk then he would never miss; over four hours I think he only came up for breath three times.

Morning delivered fine weather for what was to be the longest leg, two big climbs and descents, travel along the top ridges, 17km and nine hours to reach Middle Hill hut. After two hours and a good climb we reached possibly the only hut with three names, Tira Lodge, Venison Tops and Kelvinator Lodge. I would not like to be there on a cold night and no fire. Where else but on the tops could you see Tauhara to the north, Ruapehu to the west, the Pacific Ocean to the east and the Ruahine Ranges to the south. Waiting for us on almost the highest peak in the Kawekas, Whetu, was our pickup driver, ‘Mr Kaweka’, Hugh McKeesick, 81 years old and still too fast for us to keep up with heading down from the tops. Raewyn spotted an orange dot on a distant hill and Hugh advised us that it was Te Puke hut. Seeing where we had come from and how far we had travelled gave us a real buzz and helped us to forget the tired bodies.

The amount of windfall as we neared Middle Hill hut was amazing. Seemingly random areas just flattened. How the meat safe survived at the hut was nothing short of a miracle.

An easy two-hour walk on the last day and the van was reached; dirty bodies but clean clothes and it was off to Tarawera for flat whites, long blacks and muffins, a great end to a great tramp.

Ken has described the tramp as the ‘Kaweka Death March”. I await with great interest as to whether he comes when we accompany Jenny on her Kaweka bucket list tramp later next year. Thanks to Raewyn Rush, Christine Elmiger, Ken Sutcliffe and Dave Wilding for making this such a memorable trip.                                                       – John Marshall




Taupo Tramping Club       PO Box 650 Taupo 3351