Upper Te Hoe Hut, Whirinaki FP, Sat/Sun 29/30 August 2015
We love tramping in the Whirinaki FP, because the bush is so green and lush. It is a long drive in to Plateau Road, where Alison and I were dropped off. Ted assisted with driving the car around, along with Simon’s car, to Pukahunui car park. Four started here on this track into Upper Te Hoe.
We said goodbye to the day party who were going to Central Whirinaki Hut and made our way towards Upper Whirinaki Stream, where the track to Upper Te Hoe crosses.
Lo and behold: a sign at the river advised of a new re-aligned track, starting from Upper Whirinaki Hut. It has been made to avoid many eroded parts of the river track and ‘will be easier to maintain and reduce the number of river crossings.’So, we made our way to Upper Whirinaki Hut and saw the huge amount of pig damage which has been done in the open grass area in front of the hut. We filled out the hut book and noted that, a few days earlier, a lone hunter/trapper had shot a pig outside the hut.
After a drink break, we set off up the new re-aligned track. It was clearly marked and is flat walking across a river terrace through beech forest. After 45 minutes, we dropped back into the Whirinaki River, and saw the new bridge which rejoined the original track.
The track is a steady walk along the Whirinaki River, with occasional high sidles which then drop back to the river. We had lunch on a small beach, before the sun disappeared for the day.
The track climbs up to the saddle, which is seen in the distance. It does not seem that far, but the track winds its way in and out, so it does cover a lot more ground. Eventually, we reached the saddle and junction with the Pukahunui Track. It was starting to get cold, so we didn’t stop for long. The DoC sign indicated another two hours to Upper Te Hoe Hut, but we wound up the pace and reached the hut after 1hr and 20 mins.
The stove was lit and the hut cleaned up. There was lots of rubbish: plastic plates and cups, bottles, an empty gas canister, ice-cream cartons and other trash. What has happened to the clean hut etiquette?
We ‘opened the bar’ and had an evening of nibbles and our tipple of choice. Later, those who were still hungry cooked their dinners. The stove took a while to get going but by early evening the hut was very warm and cosy. The forecast rain started at around 8 pm, but we were all in our bunks by then.The next morning, the rain had subsided to a light drizzle. We all took some of the rubbish in our packs and tidied the hut to how it should be – an inviting home away from home.
The climb back up to the tops is fine with fresh legs. Alison and I were again together, and we slowed it down to enjoy the fern banks and dripping trees. The temperature was not too cold, but we did not stop, except to scramble around some big tree falls. Others have found routes around these, and so they are not difficult.
As we reached our vehicles, the rain had almost stopped – just in time for us to get changed and have a snack.The drive out to SH5 takes about an hour (45 mins from Plateau Rd). There is a lot of logging, so the road is in reasonable condition. The Waipunga Rd section near SH5 has some small stream fords and rutted parts. A 4WD vehicle is the best option for getting to these tracks. We had a final coffee at Tarawera, where there are some great old pictures on display chronicling the development of the Napier-Taupo Road. It’s well worth a visit.
Trampers: Alison Greer and Julia Mackie (from Plateau Rd car park), Ted Angove, Sue Marshall, Simon Hill and Rachael Cowie from Pukahunui Rd car park. Reporter: Julia Mackie