A piece of history
Maungatapu Track – Sunday 9 April 2017
The day before this crossover trip the leader undertook an hour or two of serious planning to sort 17 people and which cars they were to start in, either going to the Maitai Dam or the Pelorus Valley, and then the cars they were to return in. Transport costs were also calculated by averaging the cost of both road-ends and paying 20% to the owners of the cars going to the Maitai Dam and 80% to the owners of the cars going to the Pelorus side. All the details were emailed to participants to save time explaining on the day.
From Paru Paru Road in Nelson, the group split up, going to either end of the track. In the Pelorus Valley the two cars parked on the roadside at the start of the track. The Marlborough side is a steadier grade than the Nelson side and is mostly open with scrub and regenerating bush. Fog and cloud soon cleared to a beautiful fine day. After 45 minutes we detoured a couple of minutes into the bush above the track to view an old rotten building and behind it the collapsed Maungatapu Hut. Half an hour onwards we came to the historic Murderers Rock where in 1866 five travellers were killed by four members of the Burgess gang. The innocuous 2-metre high rock sits just above a bend in the track and is only marked by a concrete pole which used to have a commemorative plaque attached to it. The case was the first ever murder trial in Nelson and led to the hanging of three of the gang on specially constructed gallows. This was the first hanging in Nelson and there was only one hanging ever carried out in Nelson after this case.
We continued on and both groups met a short distance below the Maungatapu Saddle where we exchanged conversation and car keys. By the time we reached the saddle, skies had become cloudier but we still enjoyed our lunch and the views. We also saw some passing motorbikes and a few mountain bikes. Normally the track has a locked gate at the saddle, stopping through access, but today it was open. We dropped more quickly on the Nelson side, often on a rough stony surface. We detoured briefly to view the head of the dam, then across a creek, we also checked out an old shack, nearly collapsed by the weight of two fallen trees upon it. After some steep ups and downs, we reached the cars by the locked gate near the Maitai Dam caretaker’s house.
This had taken us 5½ hours, but the group going in the opposite direction had only taken about 5 hours. For the large group it was an enjoyable day, especially the chance to complete a one-way through trip and to learn about a momentous piece of local history.
The trampers were Robert, Jo, Maria, Colin, Vanessa, Donell, Dale, Rob, Ken, Joy, Lesley G, Eric, Esther, Don, Nicola and visitors Ian M and Ian W.