Left Auckland at 5:30am for the 4 hour drive to Te Iringa campsite (Clements Mill Rd). Started walking at 9:35am. Easy going along Te Iringa Track, which is mostly a well-formed path. One view of Mt Ruapehu but otherwise just beech forest. 3:15 hours to Tikitiki Stream, where I had lunch. Another 45 minutes to the Kaipo swingbridge. Found a tranquil gravel bar beside the Kaipo River to have a rest for half an hour. Kept my eyes peeled for a swimming hole but found nothing suitable that I could get to easily. Pretty hot! Reached Oamaru Hut in 6:26hrs. There were 3 young mountainbikers there, and two guys out fishing. It was only 4pm so I decided to carry on up the Oamaru Valley. Very hot across the grassy flats. Head high grass and thistles in places. Just as well there was a worn path as the markers weren't visible from a distance. Stopped at a nice campsite 1 hour up valley beside the Ruatea Stream. Had a wash to cool off. Delicious dinner of muffins and scrambled eggs. Drank 2.25 litres of water over the 7.5 hours of walking. Didn't bother using a bivvy bag - simply put my sleeping bag and thermarest straight on the ground under young beech trees.
Didn't get much sleep last night. Was disturbed just after midnight by a possum a metre away from me and eyeing up my pack. Chased it off three times before it finally moved on. After that I was on alert for further invasions. Warm night until 2am, when I finally put a hat on. Was using my puffer jacket as a pillow so didn't put that on even though I wasn't warm. Glad to see dawn breaking. Breakfast in bed at 6am, on the road at 7am. Waded the Ruatea Stream barefoot to keep my shoes dry. Lovely walking up the Oamaru Valley. There is another campsite 45 minutes up from Ruatea Stream. 2:15 hours to Boyd junction. Long, steep 500m climb onto the ridge. 4 hours to pt1254 (first high point). Had lunch on pt1316. Very hot and no breeze so had frequent rests.
7 hours to Maungaorangi. Found geocache at the summit. Long way down the other side! Feeling tired & stumbling a bit so ate 1/2 and Em's Power bar which set me right. There was a lot of debris on the Maungaorangi track so route finding demanded concentration, constantly on the lookout for the next marker. Rationed 1.5L of water for the 7 hours along the ridge - ran out just as I reached the first side stream near the Cascade. The cool water was bliss! Found a spot in the Cascade to have a refreshing dip. Spooked a sika deer on the far bank. The track down valley to the Kaipo Saddle junction was difficult to follow due to treefall. Past the junction is an amazing smooth, sculpted gorge with a waterfall which sounded like a helicopter.
Reached Cascade Hut in 10:20 hours. A father & son were cooking dinner on the porch, although they camped down on the river flats to hunt. Soup followed by couscous and salmon for tea. Hut to myself for the night, which is not what I expected on a long weekend. I was hoping for some pleasant company tonight but there are not as many people out as I expected. Oh well, I guess no company is better than bad company. Cascade hut is surrounded by bush and has no view. Can hear the stream but can't see it. Lots of native wasps and flying insects although not many sandflies. Hut is a bit dingy inside but at least it ought to be more comfortable than my thermarest last night.
Slept the sleep of the weary! Woken at 10:30pm by a deer walking on the deck. Set off at 7:30am and immediately got wet feet crossing the Cascade Stream. Saw a blue duck at the confluence of the Cascade & Tauranga-Taupo River. Half an hour along the flats to the start of the climb. Thin mist was hugging the hills, keeping things nice and cool. Steady climb but nothing difficult. Was glad to be tackling it in the cool of the morning. Lots of spiderwebs!
Enjoyed being able to stride out along the relatively good track over into the Hinemaiaia. The track along the stream had a surprising amount of uphill considering it heads downstream. A few very steep climbs in and out of gullies. Reached the end of Clements Mill Rd in 4 hours. 5 minutes break before heading off down the road. Walking the gravel road through the forest actually wasn't too unpleasant as most of the time there was shade and a little breeze. Hard on the feet though. After 1:45 hrs, and an estimated halfway along the 12km stretch, I had just decided to find a spot to rest when a ute came around the corner. Hitched a lift the remainder of the way back to my car with a friendly hunter from Auckland. Very pleased to skip the last 6km of road which was sunnier and hillier.
If I had to sum up the route in one word it would be 'non-descript'. Sure, the river valleys have lovely spots, but the track is mostly through beech forest and there are not many particular points of interest en-route. Maungaorangi is the only place where you get a decent view (and that was so hot that I didn't tarry). Maybe I didn't enjoy it as much because I was on my own. This trip was an experiment to see how I find solo tramping. I really enjoyed the freedom to start and stop at will, look at things, rest, and swim without consulting or inconveniencing anyone. On the other hand, with no one to share things with it all seems a bit pointless. No discussions, no one to encourage or to give encouragement. No banter.
Birds seen: whiteheads, tomtits, robins, riflemen, kereru, kaka, whio, grey warblers, blackbirds. Not huge numbers of birds and there was no dawn chorus. Notable by their absence were tui and bellbirds.