Penning an ode to Kareao
As I walk down Lambton Quay on my way to work I blend into the stream of beige suits and frowning faces. For all intents and purposes it is an ordinary Monday morning. But I have a secret. Beneath my buttoned shirt and suit pants I harbour a thousand cuts, markers of a struggle less than 24 hours old against a forest intent on swallowing me up. This is the story of Penn Creek. This is the story of killer kareao.
On Thursday I had been feeling down, no one was around to go tramping with me. After a bit of prodding and a look at what was a stunning weather forecast I decided I would go regardless. Penn Creek had been a spot I had been meaning to visit for a while, a cosy hut penned in by the main range of the Tararuas on three sides and the Ōtaki River gorge on the other. The plan was to walk into the hut via the well worn route up to Field Hut and Table Top, before the steep drop to Penn Creek itself. The following day I would follow the old sidle track out to Ōtaki Forks. Thus the scene was set.
1. Into the field
Ōtaki Forks to Penn Creek Hut, via Field Hut
As I packed my things into the car my eye caught the bike in the corner of my garage. On a whim I bundled it into the car, keen to test it out on the out of commission Ōtaki Gorge Road. I was greeted by the familiar smell of the bush when I opened the car door at the Shields Flat carpark. I shouldered my pack and saddled up, enjoying the feeling of freedom as I glided past the complex of old stone walls (these were built by relief workers during the Great Depression using river stones). Before long I reached the slip that rendered the road unusable for vehicles. Hoisting my bike onto my shoulder I climbed the formed track before descending a set of stairs onto the road on the other side. Despite putting the brakes on my old bike to the test on some of the downhill sections I managed to reach bridge over the Waiotauru at the forks. Here I cached my bike and began the 1,000m climb up to Table Top.
The ascent was well graded but hot under the Spring sun. I reflected that things could be worse, I could be wearing a suit and carrying three large courgettes. Courgettes aside, I made good progress. Soon I was…