Not the Raglan Ranges 12 – 16 March 2019

With the forecast for a lot of rain in the Nelson & Marlborough regions it seemed sensible to go somewhere different than our planned return to the Raglan Range. The Tararuas looked windy, but the
Kawekas were forecast to be fine and not much wind.
A look at maps showed what might be a suitable 4-5 day circuit, including Kaweka J, the highest point in the Kawekas (1724m), so a good spot to visit. After a longish drive we arrived at the Makahu Saddle road-end about 3pm, sort of ready for what we expected to be a 3-4 hour walk to Studholme
Saddle hut. The track was steep, even by Tararua standards, so it was slow going. Fortunately at around 1400m there was Dominie hut, a stand up 2 bunk hut, we all agreed it was a good place to stop for the night (Barry had the floor!)
Wednesday morning we woke to a gale shaking the hut, no hurry to go outside, but it did eventually ease off a bit and Barry suggested a day walk to the tops, we could always return if the wind was too bad. We made it to Kaweka J, past a memorial cairn to those from the Heretaunga Tramping Club who died in WW2, and north to North Kaweka where we found some shelter for a lunch stop, and time to enjoy the view over Hawke’s Bay. Then it was back to the hut, and a game of cards. That evening the forecast was for overnight gales, again, but easing early morning.
Thursday, we left about 9am with the wind easing rapidly, by the time we reached the tops (40 minutes) it was almost calm with some sunny patches. Thus the weather continued as we made our way north, the Kaweka tops are similar to the Ruahines rolling with not too many descents, once you
are up there! That night we stayed at the 4 bunk Ballard hut, along with a hunter from Whanganui and a solo tramper from Napier, Barry probably had the best sleep, outside under a fly.
Friday morning we woke inside a cloud, our hunter was expecting a “taxi” to fly in? Once again we left about 9am, starting with a steep 200m climb which warmed us up. It was still misty as we retraced our steps for the first hour or so, then we started our descent to Middle Hill hut. We were
soon out of the mist, and enjoying a rest in the sun, before entering the forest. This turned out to be a wonderful world of beech trees, moss, and a nice soft track covered in leaves, not a lot of birdlife though. We arrived at the hut mid-afternoon, and all to ourselves. So after a wash it was time to
relax and catch a few Z’s. That evening we heard a Kiwi, and Morepork.
Saturday, and home time, but not before a walk out to complete the loop. From the map it looked a bit like the Barra track with drops into streams and climb out again. The difference was that the descents lost much more height, some 100 to 200m, others only 50m. We were “over it” by the time
we reached the vehicle. On the way out I checked most of the 60 odd DOC200 traps which had been re-baited a few days beforehand and removed 4 rats and a stoat. In exchanging e-mails with DOC in
Napier they are experiencing an increase in rats recently, as we have been at Donnelly Flat.
A good trip, interesting country that none of us had been to before, not a place to be if it is wet and
windy.

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