A November Crossing
By Sandra Smith
The first serious tramp I did was in 1977 when we tramped the Southern Crossing of the Tararua Range.
For us it was a two and a half day trip.
It was November. It should have been mild weather but we had a 3 day southerly blast upon us and the weekend was not looking good.
On Friday it had eased and by lunchtime the call was made that we would go ahead with the trip.
I was ecstatic! For weeks we had been looking forward to this and now we were off.
Otaki Forks to Field Hut
Mid- afternoon we entered the Tararuas from Otaki Forks and the hike up to Field Hut took about 3 hours.
It’s a bush track up to Field and it’s a lovely surprise to suddenly see the orange hut roof through the trees. This is an old hut with just a fireplace and a long bench to sleep on – no mattresses back then – and of course the long drop a few metres away.
The hut was quite full that night and even after we had all settled down for the night, newbies came in and we had to squash up some more.
Field Hut is famous for its other inhabitants – the bush rats! Throughout the night there were the sounds of thumps and expletives as someone had to retrieve their food that had been left out on the bench or at the top of a pack.
Out of the bush and on to Kime
The next morning we got up earlier than most and headed off. Through the damp musty bush still and by mid-morning we had reached the bush line and were then onto the tussock grassed tops.
The first thing that hits you here is the silence. No birds, no rustling bush – just beautiful silence.
By now the sky had cleared and we walked on in the watery sunshine through this awesome landscape towards Kime hut. The views are magnificent in all directions – mountain tops to the coast.
Although the day was clear the wind was biting and for a respite we took a break and hunkered down into the tussock grass.
Feeling sheltered from the wind and warm from the sun and to look up at the blue sky that day is a memory that I cannot erase. A feeling of just perfect peace…
Round the Dress Circle and on to Alpha
Navigating the narrow ridge after climbing over the Beehives (1485m) was a bit unnerving with sheer drops on both sides but we had no mishaps.
The day was long and we were a bit surprised when we reached Alpha hut for the night to find that it was full. The only alternative was to sleep outside. I remember thinking that this was not going to be a good experience – I had never slept out in the open in my life!
However, we found a sheltered spot, gathered up the dry bracken and made a bed fit for a king. After lying there snug in the sleeping bag and trying to name the stars for about 4 minutes I ‘died’ and never woke until morning.
It was one of the best night’s sleep I have ever had and it sure beats sleeping on a hard hut bench!
Our walk out the next day on the Marchant Ridge through the lovely beech forest was a long hike but I was in no hurry for it to finish.
Although I’ve been on many tramps since, this one is the one I remember most. It was my initiation into tramping and it set something into my psyche that is hard to describe.
I think it is a feeling of well-being – to walk in the native bush and up on the tops, pack on your back, feeling free and totally self sufficient….
I’m losing the words here but I’m sure many of you will know exactly what I mean!