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Normal Topic Kaweka Hikoi - yarn/pictures (Read 990 times)
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Kaweka Hikoi - yarn/pictures
Jan 10th, 2020 at 5:31pm
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Spring had been a disappointment. I hadnt spent nearly enough time hunting as I would have liked. Well, not nearly enough to keep me from sneaking the odd restless glance at the Kawekas and Ruahines when I was supposed to be working anyway. Eventually it got a bit too much for me and with no great plans for the Christmas break it was a great time to go walkabout.

I got on the phone to Chris Crosse and proceeded to pick his brains. This trip was going to be about covering new ground, and trying for the Kaweka double of a sika and a trout.
After getting some great advice from Chris as usual, I settled on a one-way trip into a part of the park I knew reasonably well, with a view to explore new country after a couple of nights in that area. I was going to walk out over the main range to Makahu Saddle after 9 days, and drag my dog Finn along for the walk.

The last few days of the working year flew by and the day of my flight was on me rather quickly. There was no doubt about us getting in the air, so with a very excited dog in tow we jumped in and were in the park in no time.

Exiting the helicopter, Chris shook my hand enthusiastically.
Ill see you in 9 days! Good luck!
I nodded eagerly and the dog and I watched the yellow 44 whirl around out of sight.






We arrived to an empty and very clean hut.





I had been here in late April chasing stags and the hut book hadnt been written in much past my last entry. As I read the book the entries were mostly from tramping parties passing through and I took this to be a good omen for the trip. We soon strolled off into a very handy creek head that fed into the Omar
Stream, as it looked as good a place to start as any.





Fresh sign was in abundance, the faces on either side of the creek had good visibility, and it was fairly green underneath the canopy. However, nothing was sighted despite the area having all the indicators of resident animals. I wasnt too worried though, and after a fruitless evening glass over the Ahurua tops it was back to Mangaturutu to make a plan for the next day.

Day 2 dawned and I had a plan. Hunt the head of the Makino river. I had done a little bit of tracking tunnel work out of Mangaturutu in the past and I remembered walking a line that ended near some nice southerly faces. I figured that would be perfect given the hot conditions, and if I sidled the right way Finn would be able to pick up a deer laden updraft or two on the way.

At the end of the line, Finn immediately perked up. After an extended period of sniffing the air, he looked over his shoulder at me. I shrugged at him with open palms. He took that to mean it was time to go to work. With me at his back he picked his way down from the mountain beech to its natural border with the red beech, his footfalls becoming a little more hurried as he worked the wind from left to right.

Twenty minutes later we were overlooking a small gut that started somewhere above me and ended nowhere in particular when the dog began to shiver in excitement. I took a step to get a new line of sight on this strange gully when I saw the orange flash of a sika deer erupt from its bed under a big red beech. The deer bounced out of my view with a clever little step that any All Black would have been impressed with. I sighed, scratched the quivering brown mess that was my deer dog and carried on with the wind.

The rest of the day in the Makino heads was a test of my patience. The rest of the area I ended up stalking was all new to me, and as a result I kept getting bluffed out. After about the fourth instance of a large greywacke cliff obstructing my path I noticed that the deer were using the gaps between the bluffs as highways to travel up and down on. With that in mind I thought that maybe I could get low enough to nab an animal near one of these chute systems.

It proved to be a smart move, as at one of these chutes the dog locked up on full point looking down into it. Following Finns gaze I spied a stag trying to sneak down the chute to make his escape! I got a glimpse of a big animal with good length and width as the deer leapt down the chute to vanish from our sight.

While I was annoyed at not seeing that stag sooner, I was ok with leaving it as that stag would be a pretty good one come March for some lucky hunter. After a big day in that catchment it was back to Mangaturutu for my last night there.

I got up at a gentlemanly hour to make the trip to my next stop, and arrived there after a couple of hours walk.





With the sun beaming down I flopped down onto the hut lawn with a map and made a plan for the afternoon. I then went into the hut for a nap, where I was rudely awakened by the dog licking my ear. I swore at him, but the reality was that hed woken me up at a good time to go for a bush hunt. I could hardly stay mad at him for long.

I flung the hut door open to see a yearling standing right next to the water tank! Im not sure who got the bigger fright but the yearling reacted first and took off down the Mangaturutu track out of sight. Cheeky bugger! There was no point in chasing it due to safety concerns so Finn and I dropped into the faces behind the hut for a quick look.


We hit some bush like this..





But with only old sign present it didnt seem too popular with the deer.

We ended up here for the evening..




And returned empty handed having enjoyed the day but not seen a single animal.  I decided then and there not to waste any more time around VT and carry on to the next area on my list.
Tira Lodge is also known as the Kelvinator Lodge, and I could see why at around 2am that night. Although the temperature outside was in the 20s all night, the hut was a cold hole and as soon as day broke I was out of there and moving to Rocks Ahead Hut.
The long, steep ridge was slow going for me in the heat, and I made it down in about 2 hours, my calves and knees aching lightly afterwards.





Rocks Ahead is nothing short of spectacular, as far as locations go and with the fabled Ngaruroro River nearly on the doorstep its bloody hard to beat for fishermen and rafters. Even the Rocks Ahead bivvy across the river would be a nice spot if the hut happened to be full.




It had been a long time since I had fished water as nice as that so after setting up a bunk for the night I was straight into the river chasing trout.

I promptly hooked and landed a lively rainbow jack of about 2lb on my second cast, and being the first fish of the day I let it go. After that, Murphys law came into effect and while I hooked another 5 fish of varying sizes I let them all go. Its not always about killing something and I came back to the hut satisfied in what I had accomplished that day.


The hut had gained two new occupants while I was gone. They were hunters from Tauranga who had flown into Manson Biv, and by all accounts had had a very successful trip having shot 3 deer on the Manson tops. They were good sorts and when a bottle of port made an appearance out of a pack somewhere they were only too kind to offer me a glass or two as well as some real food in homekill chorizo sausages. I gladly took them up on their offer, and halfway through the first sip I had a brainwave..


Chris had mentioned at the hangar that someone had left a few beers at Rocks Ahead and I opened the cupboard to find a chilly bin full of Heineken cans! It was like a second Christmas for us as we set to consuming a couple of these and spinning yarns while we were at it.  One of these yarns concerned a certain area of the Manson tops where the guys had seen a few deer. I was well and truly roped into heading up there and so I resolved to pack a couple of nights gear and camp up there the next night. I figured a trip up to Mt Manson would be a fantastic way to spend the last day of the year too.
Not long after I spied a dog outside that I knew well, followed by a familiar face. It was my old workmate Nick and his dog Rico. This intrepid pair had spent a lot of time in the park over the years and they were fresh out of Omar Bivvy, intending to spend a month in the park roaming around on a bushmans holiday. I greeted them with a beer and a handshake and Rocks Ahead was a busy place that night!


The 31st dawned an absolute beauty. No wind, no cloud and just the right temperature for a walk up to the tops! Nick showed me how to use the cable car and kindly winched us across the river.  I waved goodbye at Nick and together Finn and I started the steady grind to Spion Kop.


It had been a couple of years since Id been up there and it was just as nice as I remembered.





After 3 hours of grovelling up the hill in steadily ascending heat both Finn and I were fairly stuffed by the time we got to our intended fly camp spot. After setting up we both immediately fell asleep awaiting an alarm to tell us when to glass the favoured gully heads.



The alarm blared out at 7pm and it was time to put in some time looking for a fat sika or two! I had planned to visit a gut near Spion Kop peak but with the Kaweka westerly blowing the wind was perfect to send every sika in the bush heading for deeper cover. I took a punt and decided that a slow cruise up around Mt Manson looking for tutu beds was going to be the way forward.

We moved unhurriedly around the tops, glassing likely spots as we went. If nothing turned up after 30 minutes I moved to a new place to get new lines of sight on the bush edges. By 8 pm I had written off a good chunk of country after glassing simply by moving upwind of it. I was running out of spots to look over but I was saving a hotspot off the western side of Mt Manson for last light.

As the dog and I moved down from Mt Manson he began to wind strongly as we approached a patch of bush on the track. We moved at a snails pace, taking one step every minute or two. The dogs wind had shifted slightly south and we ended up sitting just inside the bush overlooking an attractive little hollow in the tussock and scrub.

Twenty minutes passed, and Finn was telling me there was a deer close, shivering intermittently and winding constantly. It was getting hard to see into the hollow from our perch as the light began to fade and after much internal debate I let Finn take me to the bush edge properly. As he stepped out he locked up on point looking down to his left.
I took one step, closed the bolt and spun to the left to spy a spiker feeding right in the bottom of the hollow. He raised his head to look at us and I could see grass hanging from the corners of his mouth as I lined up his shoulder blade and fired.
He fell where he stood, and Finn stayed pointing the entire time. I gave it five minutes for Finn to work on steadiness and then let him lead me to the deer.



Everything had gone perfectly and we had been rewarded with a very nice spiker. His skin was beautiful and as I removed the cuts of meat we needed I was somewhat conflicted about ruining it, even though I knew I didnt have the space to carry it out. It was a late night by the time we got back to our camp with all the good bits, and I celebrated the last hour of 2019 by cooking up an eye fillet with onion and garlic and drinking a beer I had carried up from the hut.





It was with great contentment that I crawled into my sleeping bag that night as the trip was already a success!

The first day of the new decade reared its head and I decided that there was no point in staying the extra day I had prepared for given that I could probably only carry one deer out to Makahu. After watching a silly hind and yearling on the side of Spion Kop at 10 am, a short heavy walk had us back at Rocks Ahead. I put the meat in the meatsafe and whiled away the afternoon trying to catch a trout for dinner with the dog.





It took until dinner time but I eventually ended up with a muscular rainbow hen of about 2lb. I quickly sorted her out and half an hour later I had her wrapped in tinfoil with garlic and oil over the fire!







As I shared a few bits of trout with Finn I reflected on the trip so far and the words of Fred Dagg drifted into my head. With the fire spitting and crackling in the fireplace, a belly full of Ngaruroro trout and a sika in the meatsafe I knew exactly how lucky I was as I drifted off to sleep.


Day Seven was a day of movement. I had never been to the Back Ridge area before but I had heard that the track up from Rocks Ahead was a bit of a slog. That assessment was annoyingly accurate as I puffed my way up the hill to arrive at this nice little biv.





Id been told of another good gully down toward Kiwi Mouth that would be worth looking at, and so spent the afternoon and evening glassing into various spots along Back Ridge.



We were halfway to Kiwi Mouth when I spied a hind emerge into a small gap amongst the manuka. I felt like an intruder as I watched her feeding away quietly, and we snuck off back to the biv without her ever knowing we were there.

Day Eight rolled around and I was pretty knackered. Still, I wasnt in the Kawekas to waste time and I spent a morning in the beech following Finn around. After some mucking around with a swirling wind he led me to another hind in a patch of fern not too far from Stern Saddle. She was alert and decided to tell the rest of the catchment about us before tiptoeing out of there quietly. I was puzzled as the silence of her exit was the exact opposite of the vocal display shed given us but I gave Finn a good pat and nipped back to the biv to collect my gear.

An hour or so later I was here for a visit.










And two hours later I was here..



I had picked a perfect day to summit the J for the first time with a light breeze and not much cloud around. I thought about going right down to Makahu Saddle Hut but in the end I was a bit weary and stayed at Dominie Biv for my last night.  I hardly slept a wink as strong winds battered the little biv all night. I left the hut at 7 to even stronger winds, and was getting blown off my feet most of the way down the hill. I eventually sat down, exhausted, to see my chauffeur coming up the ridgeline towards me! He kindly offered to take my pack, and after a bit of protest I eventually gave in. I practically floated down the hill after that and I was stoked to arrive at the carpark in one piece!



I had shot one deer, caught a few fish, bagged 6 huts, and walked 108.5 kms for my trip! What a way to see out 2019 and bring in 2020.
  
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Re: Kaweka Hikoi - yarn/pictures
Reply #1 - Jan 10th, 2020 at 9:12pm
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Nice way to end/begin a year stretch. Good yarn
  

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Re: Kaweka Hikoi - yarn/pictures
Reply #2 - Jan 10th, 2020 at 10:39pm
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Nice thanks for sharing. Does not look like things have changed much except all the huts look to have much brighter paint jobs than when I covered all those same areas back in the late 1970's. Cheers
  
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Re: Kaweka Hikoi - yarn/pictures
Reply #3 - Jan 11th, 2020 at 7:21am
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Awesome report! Big walk. Great adventure! Cheers.
  
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Re: Kaweka Hikoi - yarn/pictures
Reply #4 - Jan 11th, 2020 at 7:56am
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Enjoyed that.
Thank you 😊
  
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Re: Kaweka Hikoi - yarn/pictures
Reply #5 - Jan 11th, 2020 at 8:28am
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Great pics, great read. Really enjoyed that. Thanks for sharing.
Been awhile since I was last up Manson/Spion Kop area.
  
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Re: Kaweka Hikoi - yarn/pictures
Reply #6 - Jan 11th, 2020 at 2:13pm
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choysa
  

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Re: Kaweka Hikoi - yarn/pictures
Reply #7 - Jan 11th, 2020 at 2:19pm
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Cheers to the post & your successes.  Smiley
  
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Re: Kaweka Hikoi - yarn/pictures
Reply #8 - Jan 11th, 2020 at 8:07pm
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epic.  Smiley
  

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Re: Kaweka Hikoi - yarn/pictures
Reply #9 - Jan 11th, 2020 at 8:24pm
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That bought back a flood of memories ,    Great story and photos
  
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Re: Kaweka Hikoi - yarn/pictures
Reply #10 - Jan 14th, 2020 at 9:01am
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WOW, that's what I call big adventure in backcountry, I can only dream about stuff like that at the moment...

I should get a dog  Smiley
  

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Re: Kaweka Hikoi - yarn/pictures
Reply #11 - Jan 14th, 2020 at 3:28pm
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Awesome. Thanks for posting.
  
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Re: Kaweka Hikoi - yarn/pictures
Reply #12 - Jan 15th, 2020 at 8:38am
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Great read thank you.
  
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Re: Kaweka Hikoi - yarn/pictures
Reply #13 - Jan 15th, 2020 at 5:48pm
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Great read, sounds like a great way to sort out the end of year
  

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Re: Kaweka Hikoi - yarn/pictures
Reply #14 - Jan 18th, 2020 at 12:42am
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That was great.  I did Rocks ahead/Makahu 40 years ago. The huts and bivvys look just like I remember them.
  
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