This trip was my first opportunity to try my brand new Huntech 2-man bivvy. I’d bought it with the following weekend’s trip in mind, but this was a good opportunity to test it all the same.
Dates: 30th March – 1st April, 2007
Location: Aorangi Forest Park
Huts visited: Washpool Hut (0 nights), Pararaki Hut (1 night camping), Kawakawa Hut (0 nights), Mangatoetoe Hut (0 nights).
After some initial complications with one of the rental vans not working properly in 1st gear, and some serious doubts about its road-worthiness, we ended up chancing it and a group of volunteers from between the two club groups rode their luck over the Rimutakas on Friday night.
Friday night under my fly was an interesting experience. I found a nice place to set it up, but it was about 1am when I made up my mind that I urgently needed to get some new pegs. The fly was brilliant, but the pegs weren’t, and I was constantly lying half awake, ready to pounce on two or three corners of the fly at a time trying desperately to hold them down from the inside after they’d become bent all out of proportion after my efforts to boot them into the ground. I didn’t get off the worst, though. One of the club’s larger tent flies blew away that night. My understanding was that they got it back again.
The wind of Friday night wasn’t representative of the rest of the weekend, though, which ended up being quite nice. We started walking on Saturday morning, making our way around the Pinnacles not far from the camp-site at the road-end. These pinnacles are really impressive, and very photogenic.
Saturday pretty much involved a 700 metre climb, then a 700 metre descent where we found Washpool Hut and stopped for lunch. Three chaps had set up a hunting base at the hut, and when we told them that the other club group was planning to stay there that evening, they scurried into quite a rush of trying to tidy up all their things. We actually ended up lunching a short distance away at the river, which was the closest source of water. A couple of other guys had set up a camping base there, although we didn’t talk to them much.
Moving on, we had another 700 metre climb followed by another 700 metre descent to Pararaki Hut. We’d planned to go a bit further, but by now it wasn’t too far from dark, and we decided to stop so we’d have some time to cook in the light. There were already a couple of hunters in residence. They were nice guys, over from Lower Hutt, but also had a couple of carcusses hanging up dripping inside, which was a little off-putting at first. It’s understandable though, given that these huts don’t seem to be visited much except by the occasional hunters. We were the first trampers there in ages, and of the four huts we walked past on this trip, two of them hadn’t been visited for at least a month. It would have been unlikely that anyone would have shown up during the entire week they’d planned to be there.
The area outside would have been really nice, except some cows had apparently found a way up the river, which must have been a long way, and grazed on the small amount of grass outside the hut. (The hunters reckoned it had been about waist high a few months previous.) It was quite difficult to find somewhere to sit down that was actually clean, let alone to cook dinner, although someone noted that it became easier when it got darker. I’m not sure how legal it is to let cattle into a Forest Park in New Zealand, and I’d be very interested to find out.
Out of the six of us, three took bunks inside, while the rest of us set up flies outside. The ground was very uninviting right outside the hut (because of the whole cow thing), but we found a really nice camp-site in the trees about 50 metres away, which turned out to be on top of a heap of dead animals. I discovered this after I put my ground-sheet down on the leaves and noticed there were some very hard sticks underground. Fortunately they were long dead, and I could just push the bones out of the way. Just more hunters not having tidied up very well after themselves.
Sunday didn’t require quite as much climbing and descending as the previous day, but there was still a fair amount of it. We arrived at Kawakawa Hut at about mid-morning, and stopped for some snacks. By now it was quite sunny and turning into a nice day, but unfortunately Dave was beginning to have a few problems with his knees. Due to this, we decided to split the party, with three people walking straight out to the road along Otakaha Stream. The rest of us would follow the original plan to walk up another stream (for which I can’t find the name), then over a saddle to the Mangatoetoe Stream towards Cape Palliser, on the South Coast of the North Island.
The three of us reached Mangatoetoe Hut at about lunch time, which was a nice place to sit down and relax for a bit. This hut was quite well kept, and incidentally, also had one of the more diplomatic and humourous entries from some DOC workers that I’ve seen in huts so far.
Once we made it out of Aorangi Forest Park to Cape Palliser, at about 2.30pm or so, we walked around the coast (very windy) to a small village 3 km away called Ngawi where we found, of all things, a trailer with a chap selling fish & chips. This is a village with desolate streets at the end of a road to almost nowhere. At the time it was like a highly greasy and fattening oasis in the distance. He didn’t seem to have many customers, and he looked at us in hope as we approached. I stopped and bought myself a hot dog, and had a brief chat with him about where we’d been while we waited for the others to come and collect us.