ruahine tops longview-howletts tramp part 3

(Link here for Part 1) (Link here for part 2) Next morning the goal was to get an early start leaving Howletts Hut – early enough to see a promisingly warm sunrise.


This was the weather we’d been waiting for. As the day progressed it became quite warm and still. Warm enough to work up a sweat jolting down the knee-jarringly steep spur from Howletts Hut to the riverbed and Daphne Hut.


Past Daphne Hut you have to walk along the riverbed, crossing several times. Great to take off the shoes and feel those rocks with your bare feet.


Then bask in the sun on the other end – at a bend in the river that looks like a nice camping spot (for future reference).


Hey why not just leave those feet au natural for the rest of the tramp. It’s warm enough.


Now more ridge walking – good views, in exchange for steep ups and downs. The track was well-formed and well-travelled. This time in beech forest – providing welcome shelter from the sun. Here are some things that caught my eye.



A possum skull.


A wacky fungus growing on the side of a tree.


And a tree that thoughtfully moved out of the way of the path.


At the high point of the ridge, we stopped for lunch in a spot of sun. Shortly along trundled some folks from the tramping club coming to check in their hut. We gave them a positive report on Howletts!

Back to the car, where the customary “after” photo was taken – then on to the village of Ongaonga where we celebrated with a ginger beer and an ice cream from the general store, then parted ways.



ruahine tops longview-howletts tramp part 2

(Link here for Part 1)

Next morning we took our time and were last to leave Longview Hut. Gave us time to watch the others walk down the ridge the way we’d come the day before. Can you spot them below?


This day’s walk definitely qualifies as a route – as shown in the map. Because it mostly followed the ridgetop, and was mostly marked by poles, it was not too hard to stay on track, but we really had to watch our step as the way was mostly hidden by the tussock. The previous days’ rain made for some squishy walking across Pohangina Saddle, and made eroded sections slippery. Here’s the view across Pohangina Saddle toward Otumore.


After a short rest at a sheltered spot just past Otumore, we headed on down the ridge. Great views down into the headwaters of the Tukituki River, and west across the plains toward Hastings as well as east across the Ruahines.

Then a steep climb down to another saddle – this one with a huge active landslip on one side. Great spot for a stone-rolling competition. Whose lasts longest before smashing to smithereens?

Across the saddle was a steep climb up to Taumatataua point on Daphne Ridge. Tussock provides good handholds when climbing up a slippery clay bank. The wind was whipping around up top, but a few minutes walk further and we found a nicely sheltered spot to break out lunch. There are some odd ditch type features up there, that look a bit like seismic faults. Good for shelter from the strong northerly.

The rest of the walk along Daphne Ridge was a real treat – all along a steep ridgetop with great views. Some interesting old bleached-out tree stumps and sub-alpine plants. I wonder what the history of this area is. Much of this area has no mature trees, only tussock and short shrubs – although there are carcasses of old trees up top, and some beautiful native bush between here and Kashmir Rd. I guess there was a big forest fire here some decades ago.

All of a sudden – we were literally on top of Howlett’s Hut. This one is not managed by DOC, as the signage made clear, but anyone is welcome to stay. What a gem of a hut – nicely situated with a view and yet sheltered from the wind – and clearly well looked after by the local tramping club.


The hut has lots of windows, all well-placed for views. Even a view of the long-drop toilet – which in itself has a great view from the throne.

Jean was keen to find some firewood, and after a short walk down the track after the hut, and a scramble downhill, we found an old snag that gave up its limbs to us. Back in the hut, we fired up the woodstove, started warming up the yummy chili, and vegged out. We had the place to ourselves, such luxury. Good chance for two friends to catch up with each other again.


Good food heated on a crackling wood fire, good talk, a colourful sunset, and a restful night. Just what was needed.

(Link here for Part 3)

ruahine tops longview-howletts tramp part 1

For this year’s traditional ANZAC weekend tramping trip, we got off the beaten path and headed for the Ruahines. To catch better weather we shifted the start of the trip back by a day – which proved to be a wise decision.

The plan was to park the car on Kashmir Rd, walk to Longview Hut the first day, walk along the Otumore and Daphne ridges to Howletts Hut the second day, and walk via Daphne Hut back to Kashmir Rd the third day.

May 2016 tramp

We parked at the Daphne trailhead, walked to the end of the road, and had our lunch. The clouds were obscuring the tops, but appeared to be lifting, suggesting we’d have some views from the hut.


The shoes quickly came off. Mud’s a bonus pleasure when tramping barefoot!

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Steep climb, but entirely on the ridgetops, with mist flowing around and clearing from time to time to show dramatic panoramas.



Longview Hut was visible from some distance away. The tussock on the tops glowed in the afternoon light.


It only took a couple of hours to walk to Longview Hut, we arrived by around mid-afternoon with plenty of time to rest and watch the light fade. A couple had arrived beforehand and lit the fire so it was warm and comfortable. He was American and she British. Another couple arrived not long after – she Dutch and he French. The Dutch tramper had some interesting tales about walking the South Island portion of the Te Araroa Walkway. She was currently doing the oddest post-graduate study – tagging kiwi to track the ticks that live on them! (?!)

The massive full moon rising that evening must have angered the weather gods – because all night the hut was battered by ferocious northerlies. The noise and shaking was awesome.


(Link here to Part 2) (Link here to Part 3)

snaps of tonga

I was very fortunate to be able to take a work trip earlier this year to Tonga – specifically Tongatapu, the largest island in the group.

Each morning I drove the length of the island to the work-site. And the length of the island in the evening. Literally… I could not have driven much further.  My sleeping quarters at the resort were within a few paces of the western shore, while the only background noise at my remote work-site (besides the occasional thud of a coconut falling), was the waves crashing on the coral reefs.

So anyhow, I had plenty of experience driving in Tonga. Something like 600 km on an island that at its widest point is only 30km. First note to self. Avoid driving after dark. There are no reflective road markings – that I recall anyhow. There are few street lights in many villages. But more importantly, the roads belong to everyone…cars, bicycles, pedestrians, oldies in wheelchairs, soccer-playing children, pigs, dogs, cats, chickens. Literally, the road belongs to everyone…equally.

I was driving along one afternoon, enjoying the music and the warm breeze, and had to jam on my brakes to avoid a dog napping on the centreline. He looked at me with an irritated glance, got up, shook himself, and sauntered off.

Tonga has marked pedestrian cross-walks, just like in New Zealand, but of the hundreds of people I saw cross the road as I drove, I only recall one person who crossed at a cross-walk. And it could very well have just been coincidence that he crossed at that cross-walk rather than some other point on the road.

I did suffer my fair share of bouts of spoiled Westerner frustration with the random hazards and the slow driving pace (the 40 kmh speed limit was sometimes clearly too high, especially after dark!). But eventually I came to realise – this situation with the roads perfectly reflects what I saw throughout this culture – that above all else, it is about the people. It’s not about getting places fast. It’s not about who has what “rights” at what place on the roadway, and at what time. It’s about the people you are with, and how good of a time you are having with them along the way. It’s about honouring them, and giving them the benefit of the doubt, whoever they are. I realised: I can respect that.

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The below photo was taken along the waterfront walkway of Nuku’alofa, Tonga’s capital city, just a stone’s throw from the fence of the king’s palace. (Yes, those are chickens in the background.)

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goodbye to an awesome workplace

I’ve been lucky to work in this unique, funky, character-full building for more than seven years. They really knew how to build stuff in the olden days. It may not have been the most efficient, or economical, but it is an outstandingly beautiful, complex, and intriguing place. It has an old boat buried underneath it, it has an old clock that operates every hour with animated figurines, and it has a rabbit warren of passages which I have still not fully explored. Now it is time to move on. But one last parting shot first before we go – the view from my desk up through the skylight to the clouds flowing past. This is a view that I will definitely miss. And I will also miss the sound of the rain/hail/wind on the roof. Ah well. Next tenants, whoever you be, consider yourselves very fortunate.