Following the 40-minute drive around to the Putara road end, we parked amongst about a dozen other vehicles.
The plan was to travel a short distance in on the standard track to Herepai, and then climb up to high point 655, before following a route down to the river on the north western catchment of the Herepai ridge, then using part of the Bottles track to reach the hut. We would then follow the marked track back at the end of the day.
Soon after the first bridge crossing the leader started to look for the turn off point to start the climb, however after about 10 minutes of walking, it was apparent that the point in question had been missed! An apology to the group, and a quick decision was made to simply travel to the second bridge and then to climb from that point.
We climbed steadily, with a bit of bush bashing, though once the angle of the hill rounded out, it made for relatively easy travel. We fell onto a main track with some marking just short of the summit of 655 where we elected to take a morning tea break.
Following the track, we gradually lost some height, before descending into the saddle, and dropping onto the river. Then we started criss-crossing of the river down to the confluence that marked the bottom of the Bottles track. At the confluence, 2 streams join the river on the true right, it is to the south of the streams that some markers are to be seen, then a well-worn footpad, with some markers starts the ascent to the Herapai ridgeline with a short distance to the hut.
We made ourselves comfortable bringing the benches out on the front deck in the sun to enjoy our lunch. The deck was built on the front of the hut a couple of years ago during the full refurbishment by the GWBN.
Since it was the first time at Hereapi for Michelle and Simon, (who had only been in NZ for less than 2 days!), we decided to get up a bit higher on the track to take in the magnificent views, given it was such a great weather day. A steepish section of climb took us up to a point below Herepai peak, but where we were able to take in a good view of the surrounding country, including the Ruahine, across to Mount Bruce, Pukaha, and down to the Blue range. Back at the Hut Nigel and Gail had not taken the easy option of relaxing in the sun, Nigel had cleaned in the hut, and washed down the mattresses, while Gail had stacked a good volume of nearby precut logs into the woodshed. Both get a MTC Mention in Dispatches!!
We set off downhill at about 1.45pm with travel back down the main track fairly easy going, arriving at the junction, then we headed down the hill back towards the bridge over the Mangatainoka, where we had originally headed up to Point 655.
At the bridge the chocolate was broken out by the trip leader, and after a short break, the remainder of the track was completed, covering the same ground as we had started on in the morning.
The trip leader noted place where he had originally planned to climb up to the point 655, on the return trip……..
We arrived back at the car at 5pm, a bit weary, but pleased to have had a great day with a good mix of tramping.
Thanks to Nigel, Michelle, Simon, Gail and Boots,
Conrad (leader and Scribe)