Kowhai - Hapuku

24-25 April 2010

The scheduled trip, Ranger Biv in Arthurs Pass, was off-limits with rain forecast so we elected to do the tried and true Kowhai Rr, Kowhai Saddle, Hapuku Rr walk.

With a short first day there was no hurry to get away, though we did have to secrete a bike at the Hapuku end and navigate the changed road layout at the Kowhai end. We were walking by 11:30 on a cool, grey day. Soon we had wet feet as we made the first of many easily managed river crossings. Our first lunch was by a rocky section as we attempted to escape the cool wind. Jade, our guest tramper from Auckland was carrying his cell phone but that wasn’t as silly as it seemed as the device sported a useful 5 megapixel camera. Early afternoon, rain threatened but limited itself to a mere drizzle. Carefully looking for cairns allowed us to take occasional shortcut tracks through scrub and avoid rock-hopping. An hour from the hut a good track goes into manuka scrub alongside the left bank of the river. By mid-afternoon we’d arrived at Kowhai Hut where we lazed. Dan and Kerry tried to chop into a very knotty log and gave up. Margaret read an FMC article on mining in national parks. Jade posed questions such as—the man taking the lift to the 14th floor and then having to walk to the 20th. We failed to guess why he had to do this.

Early evening, a family of five arrived complete with red spaniel. With 6 bunks and a total of 10 people in the hut they knew some of them would need to sleep on the floor. They elected to do their cooking on the wooden porch of the hut and then came inside where Jade kept the kids amused with card games. Margaret had reservations about allowing the dog to come inside but the quiet, well mannered animal won a place on the floor with its family. Overnight a NWer came up so we woke at daybreak to a very mild Sunday.

We dined and packed up in good time, took group photos of the tramping family and our foursome and headed for the upper reaches of the Kowhai River. The bush section of the track is getting overgrown and notes in the hut book have complained that the track is hard to follow. The saddle isn’t the high point of the Kowhai River. The river arises a few km further inland on the flanks of Uwerau. We took photos on the saddle and headed steeply into the headwaters of the Hapuku River. Older maps show the track descending a spur but it goes down the gully. Lower down a good bush track begins and goes all the way to Hapuku Hut. After a brief mid-afternoon break at the hut we set off on the last leg—a short stretch of river, bush track, a river crossing, then a climb in bush to bypass a gorgy section and finally a broad expanse of gravelly river. Back at the river, we crossed easily in low-flow and walked along an impressive gravel terrace.

Back at Hapuku Hut Dan and Kerry were plotting how best to retrieve the car quickly. We reasoned that Jade, being the youngest by a long margin would be fastest and the obvious candidate to walk ahead and then ride the bike 18km back to get the car. Jade agreed to do the deed and set off without his pack. A noble Dan agreed to carry the extra pack. The three tail-enders arrived at the Hapuku car park well behind Jade and brewed a cuppa. Soon after we’d downed the drink Jade rolled up in the car—a plan well executed.

We chose a café in Kaikoura’s tourist locale to stoke up and then motored on home. This is a good trip and ideal when rain threatens on the main divide. We were Margaret Clark, Dan Pryce, Jade Wood, Kerry Moore (KM)