Peter Firth on 26 September trip to Upper Hutt
Last Sunday the Clinic had a bus trip out to Te Marua/Maymorn in the Upper Hutt valley. On this trip an event occurred that is surely unheralded in the history of the Clinic. Those who were not there may find what I am about to reveal unbelievable but it really happened. If you doubt me, ask any of the group who were there. For the very first time the runners finished at the same time as the walkers. We could all go to the cafe together! Yes, I know. You have shake your head in wonder. In a world dealing with a lethal pandemic, global warming and climate change, and a potential world war between America and China looming, all that, and the runners finished their runs at the same time as the walkers finished their walk. We do indeed live in strange times.
On a blue sky Sunday morning the bus arrived under the control of Mike, the 600-plus-marathons runner who we last met on the Titahi Bay bus trip. The man with the fluorescent green underpants who shared the course with us. No outrageous male lingerie display on this trip though. We arrived deep in the rainforest between (I think) the parks of Kaitoke and Pakuratahi. I could be corrected on the name of the exact location but we drove to the end of a road and disembarked into a deep valley surrounded by bush – beech forest type bush. While a number of us gathered around a big sign with a large map of the area scratching our heads at the myriad of tracks shown, the powers-that-be (Leader and Navigator – aka Jane and Bruce) pored over a paper map, deep in discussion, occasionally looking up at the forest walls and pointing in various directions. Eventually a consensus was achieved and the powers-that-be smiled, shook hands, fist and elbow bumped and stuck their thumbs up. We were off!
The route led to a patch of bush with a human-sized hole into the blackness. “Ooohh – looks dark in there,” worried Shiranthi, immediately sparking fears of wetas, bush spiders, ferocious rats and possums in my mind. Cringing into the opening with a hand over my head, I found that it was not too bad, in fact, it looked like a baby forest – well, skinny trees that were not very high – quite attractive really. You were right Janet, it was very scenic.
The fairy forest came out on to a sealed road and the leader strode confidently off down it. “Is this a real road,” asked Dennis anxiously, “one that cars can use?” Before anyone could answer frantic cries came back from the front, “car! car! car!” We all dived off to the sides in panic as the offending vehicle swept past. “I think that answers your question Dennis,” someone said. Picking ourselves up from the ditches, we walked on. Soon Bruce, a man who has more experience of the bush than Tane Mahuta himself, was drawing our attention to a small group of plants on the side of the road. They looked like baby lupins. Not so, said Bruce, these little plants are actually a moss. Called tree moss because they stand up so tall. And indeed these monstrous mosses did stand up – to all of 2.5 centimetres. Bruce said that their botanical name was Pyrrhobryum bifarium, or was it Mniodendron comatum? I get so confused these days.
We walked on down the road to a time rather than a destination. After 30 minutes we were to turn around and retrace our steps to ensure that we had had a suitably long walk. Janet and I walked on behind the main group fulfilling our usual role of being “tail end Charlies” in order to succour the fallen and the wounded. After a while we spotted the group stopped ahead, about 100 metres further on. Reasoning that they would soon be coming back our way and that there was no point in continuing walking up to them, we turned about and sprinted off back down the road (well, what we call sprinting). In a few minutes the group walked past us. We stopped to catch our breath and the main group was soon a hundred metres ahead of us as usual. Oh, well. Speaking of the group, it was massive, some 18 strong, including the fast walking group (both of them) and a few assorted walking runners. Once past our starting point on the road we veered off onto a real bush walking track. A well-maintained gravel track up and into the beech forest proper. We wound along through the trees, admiring the big ones and looking out over the bush covered valley. It must be said that it was a lovely scenic walk although I found it awkward what with keeping one eye above on the weather (see the last Clinic newsletter) and the other eye also above for fear of a massive epiphyte dropping off a tree and falling on my head. Fortunately Daniel was there to keep me from wandering off the path.
At some point bushman Bruce stopped to show us a rather rare tree in this forest, a Matai. “ You can tell a Matai,” he said, “they have a reddish hue to their wood,” casually tearing off a couple of square metres of bark to show us. “Also, the bark has a sort of hammered look.” Indeed it had. A sort of ball peened look (a technical way of saying that the bark looked as if it had been struck repeatedly by a hammer). I wondered who would go into the bush to beat up a Matai tree with a hammer and why? Before I could ask Bruce the group had moved on.
This bush trail opened out onto a little picnic area full of young eucalyptus trees and, more importantly for the women, toilets. “Woo hoo!” they shouted, moving forward as one to form an orderly queue in front of the door. Meanwhile the men stood about admiring the beauty of this small rest spot. No, it is not true, as some alleged, that my nearly falling over backwards was due to my head-back searching of the tops of the eucalypts for Koala bears. I was merely admiring the beauty and gracefulness of the trees. Much relieved, the ladies at least, we moved on walking along a smooth flat trail, flat enough almost to be a railway formation. Railway formation was right. It was clearly a track bed as a railway tunnel loomed up straight ahead. This was the Mangaroa tunnel dug by hand and lined with beautifully crafted stonework. Mind you, it was hard to see the interior walls because there were no lights and we had to walk through with a few torches and many lights on peoples’ cellphones. You could see the far end of the tunnel but it was too far away to shed any helpful light. The floor was wet underfoot but not enough to cause any difficulty. On the far side there was a placard telling the story of the construction of the tunnel with a picture of a dozen or so of the 1880s tunnel workers. Hatted, bearded, strong looking men and leaning on their picks and shovels. Some things never change.
Walking along the track bed we passed a devastated little valley that had recently been logged and the slash left to rot. What a sorry mess compared to the beautiful native bush that we had just walked through. It wasn’t long before we came to Maymorn where the bus waited. The main Wellington/Wairarapa train line was near the bus and very soon a train roared past with a long line of empty log carrying wagons heading for the Wairarapa. These two little vignettes, the ruined valley and the log train, gave a glimpse into the vast industry that is modern New Zealand logging. Gordie and the runners were there having arrived a few minutes before us, busy changing from running wear into eating wear. We all collapsed in shock! The bus driver was there too. I have to admit that we were all too stunned at the sight of the runners to ask Mike whether he had performed another underwear run.
Daniel, who is very knowledgeable about this sort of thing, told us that we had been walking for 2 hours 22 minutes and had covered just shy of 9.5 kilometres. He could also have told us how far up and how far down we had walked but we were all too busy getting onto the bus to hear.
In less time than it takes to type we had driven from Maymorn over to Te Marua. They are surprisingly close together, notwithstanding the mountain range that we had just trekked through between them. Our destination was the restaurant of the Te Marua Golf Club. Somewhat spartan in character with the look of a factory canteen, it was nevertheless spacious and had a glorious view over the neatly manicured course backgrounded by the tree lined Hutt river. Although Gordie had warned the staff that we were coming, it was clearly something of a shock as two dozen masked and hungry walkers/runners stormed in. I am afraid to report that we did not help them to cope because we formed two distinct queues at the counter, coming at them from both left and right. However, they did manage in the end and everybody got fed and watered in due course. Sure, there was some delay but we were all in elevated spirits after the exercise and did not mind.
After a bit of a struggle to order at the counter, I joined the Campbells, sitting somewhat glumly in front of their uneaten scones. “You shouldn’t have waited!” I chirped. Silently, Bruce handed me his scone, turning it over to show the bottom. “Best before 2016,” it said. “Oh,” I said, “what are you going to do?” He told me that he and Janet were intending to take the scones back home to place them in the banks of the Owhiro stream so as to stop the banks eroding. Across the table Dennis was served two enormous toasted sandwiches. “Good man,” we all said, “nice of you to get a toasted sandwich to take home to Chris.” “Yes,” he said, “and I’m going to eat hers for her,” which he did, scoffing it down. Further down the table Leang and her group had ordered a very large plate of potato wedges, generously covered with all sorts of other edibles. It was too much for all of them they said, and asked for help. Thoughtful and ever ready to help as he always is, Dennis volunteered and was soon hoovering up the wedges at a rate that would have had a Dyson vacuum cleaner looking puny.
It was relatively easy to roll Dennis back out to the bus when we were leaving, but it was the Devil’s own job to push him through the door and into his seat.
Taken on the whole, looking at it in the round, and considering all aspects, it was a great day out.
With warm regards,
Fresh Committee Faces
An update on the Clinic’s overall operations and personnel
There have been DISCUSSIONS on the Clinic’s committee! Long story short, we’d been chatting about representation and skills.
For instance, half the club are walkers. Yet our committee sports precious few walkers. The rest of us are a tad concerned that the walkers might feel a wee bit left out.
So this right here is a call for representation. Are you, or have you ever been, a member of a walkers’ group? We and the Clinic as a whole would love your greater variety of perspective and opinion. Walkers are cool. Walkers are incomparable. Walkers are gnarly. Walkers are effervescent. We’d love you aboard.
As well as walker representation, now that Julie has stepped down as Accountant, we’re also on the hunt for a replacement. Are you decent with numbers and dollar signs and accountancy? Please do drop us a line. Reply to this post or email us, we’d love to hear from you.
Thirdly and more broadly, we’re making a general call out to our membership as a whole, to get involved helping running the club. We’ll definitely need and love to have more people for next year; we’re after any ranges of skills, outlooks, interests, experiences, and commitment levels.