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October 2015 Issue
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Return of the ring

Michelle and Alison search in vain for the missing ring. Photo: Peter Stevens

When a friend tossed her gold ring out with the dishwater, Peter Stevens and co were forced to return to Daphne Hut with metal detectors… and a few luxuries

Every time I hear or read about Daphne Hut I am reminded of the time several friends and I visited not once, not twice, but three times in the space of three weeks. It’s a story worth sharing.

In December 2014, two families headed off on a weekend tramping adventure from Kashmir Road to Daphne Hut, with the plan to head up to what is referred to in Shelter from the Storm as the best-placed hut in the North Island: Howletts Hut. After staggering up a steep ridge in sweltering 30-plus-degree temperatures with overfull packs (it could have been the wine, cheese and crackers that did it…), reaching the Tukituki River was a welcome relief. We all had a swim before heading up the river to Daphne and a fun-filled night.

In the morning, the difficulties arose. After breakfast, our friend Alison ‘threw’ a large and valuable ring into the bush by mistake – how, you might well imagine. The seven of us threw ourselves into searching on the ground for something we all imagined would just be shining up at us. Two hours later, we were frustrated, confused, suffering from hay fever and questions abounded. Where was the damned ring? Did Alison really lose it outside? Was it in the hut? Did she take the ring at all? Eventually, we realised the Howletts Hut plan was sunk, and the mood was sombre. With no luck finding the ring, we decided that a repeat trip was necessary, but with appropriate kit including gloves, grass cutting implements and even metal detectors. the adventure truncated, we returned to the road end with our tails between our legs.

The next weekend it was resolved that our children and  friends would be ‘encouraged’ to go back to Daphne Hut with the kit (financial incentives came into play). Alison and Michelle would accompany them as far as the road end, before heading off for a ‘girls weekend’ in Havelock North for an alternative ‘adventure’ at Black Barn winery, confident that the kids and the kit would get a result. It never entered anybody’s mind that the kids would return empty-handed. In fact, Michelle and Alison were firmly of the opinion, initially, that the kids were holding back on a discovery to bump up the reward. But no, the kids had apparently spent seven hours over two days covering every inch with a metal detector and cutting grass all to no avail.

What would adults think in this situation? Clearly the kids had not done a thorough job. It was clearly a job for grown-ups, we thought. One problem. I had, in the week between, been fitted with a moon boot to try and fix a troublesome ankle issue which would take four weeks to resolve. Alison was distraught. A ring with enormous sentimental value, not to mention significant economic value, was sitting in the wilderness.

A return trip was required, but how?

A few calls to the insurance company and a plan was hatched. We would all helicopter into Daphne Hut, this time armed with two metal detectors, pegs and string for setting up a grid system, and garden machinery to clear every inch of the search area. The booking with Hawke’s Bay Helicopters confirmed that with four adults and all of our kit we still had lots of spare kilos before we were overloaded. Why not turn task into pleasure and tramp like we had never done before?

So, on the third weekend we travelled from Wellington and flew in to Daphne, loaded down with gourmet food (befores, mains, desserts), pots and pans, champagne, red and dessert wine, lace table cloths, napkins … and dinner jackets and elegant dresses and high heels! You can imagine what the scene looked like when a family late at night stumbled into the hut, only to find us all rather full of cheer! (We joked that we had carried everything in in our packs.)

And the punchline? After five hours on the Saturday and two more desperate hours searching inch-by-inch on the Sunday before the chopper returned, no ring was found.

Resignation on behalf of all, but an adventure nonetheless.

If anybody does find a large, golden ring very close to Daphne Hut, our friend Alison would be very interested to hear….

– If anyone finds the lost ring, email to be put in touch with Peter.