Day#1 (10/6/08): Arrived at Marchant Road end after hitching surprisingly quick ride out of Upper Hutt with fella heading over Rimutaka Hill to help his brother in law out. Weather fine. Made fairly easy work of The Puffer and continued along track sidling Smith Creek. Bumped into a fellow mid-week wanderer much to my surprise and yacked for a bit about photography and the zen of tramping. A 50+yo with a kindred interest in photography he was getting in some practice for a several day hike somewhere down south hunting. Note to self - put trip to South Island on lilst of things to stop procrastinating about! Sounded like the scenery down there is spectacular.
Anyways - moving on. Decided that since the weather was so clear and there hadn't been any significant rainfall in the ranges for several days would try my luck dropping off the track and boulder hopping down the rest of the way to Smith Creek shelter through the creek itself. As it turned out there was a significant amount of deadfall littering the creek. Most of it slippery and difficult to navigate. After about an hour of splashing about and humping under, over and around these decided that I would drag my wet boots and sorry self back up onto the track - call me soft but that ain't my idea of fun :)
Stopped for a breif smoko at Smith Creek Shelter. It's a pretty sorry sight now with all the windows gone and even the top bedding shelf removed. I can see the day when this building goes the way of Dobsons Hut and the kaitoke Shelter. Just too close to road end (apx 2 hours) and a temptation for vandals and drop kicks who revel in destroying/defacing what would otherwise be welcome rest-stops for the rest of us. Oh well - won't harp.
The next 3 hours (yes - I AM unfit!) were a fairly leasurely affair with the track rolling along down the Tauherenikau River valley. It's a little up and down but nothing too taxing and you get to follow the river for the most part with Tuis, wood pigeons and fantails in abundance. The new (well 2006 some time) bridge is a solid and attractive number now situated nearer the Marchant Stream convluence with the Tauherenikau River. The new track follows the true left of the riverbank and eventually comes out over a couple of open, rocky river flats which make a nice change of scenery from the bush you're in for the most part.
Tutuwai Hut has always held a special place in my heart and it was good to get there a little cold and looking forward to a cuppa. I had the hut to myself and was chuffed to find ample dry firewood and even some decent reading material. DOC have taken to leaving some of their publications in the Tararua huts so I caught up on some of their conservation efforts and what not before a quiet night with just me and a few rats/possums doing sprints up and down the veranda in the wee small hours.
Day#2: Dawned bright and clear and I made the effort to get up onto the top of Mt.Reeves in the hope that I could snap some decent pics. I'll let you be the judge of how good the pics were but I can assure you that this spot is simply amazing on a clear sunny morning as a few whisps of cloud wreath the distant Tararua Peaks and the world is still and quiet. The track starts up behind Tutuwai Hut and is quite steep for the first hour. It breaks out of the bushline fairly quickly though and as I said the views are well worth it!
I managed to leave my camera hanging off the fork where the trak splits heading down toward the Wiohine River and had to back track 15 minutes after a breif arguement with self about the pros and cons of leaving it there for someone else to find. No brainer really but I was tired and getting a little sore around the knees by then. Never mind - retreived it, got a little more exercise for my money and exited at the gorge with a minimum of fuss.
The last hour of this track is pretty rubbish with a lot of gorse, a LOT of slippery spots and a grassy half cut track through pine above the farm you end up exiting across. Then you've got about a 5km walk to the nearest train station (Woodside) if you haven't arranged a pick up. Still it's not too taxing and you get to take in the pretty Wiohine River and some quirky little homesteads along the way.
If you do plan on catching a train home make sure you know when they run! There are few of them on the Wairarapa line and it's another 5 or so kms to Greytown. I made the mistake of thinking I could wander into Greytown and back in time for the next, and last, train at 4.15. Fat chance. Ended up hitch hiking home. But then I got a ride in no time with a facinating lady who practioces EFT for trauma victims. She also introduced me to a genuine fish smoke house in Fetaherston. One for next time I'm up that way for sure.
In summary I'd say that this is a great little hike with some hard work and much lovely scenery. I hope my tale and pics will encourage others to share this experience of the wonderful Tararua Forest Park. =)