Aorangi Forest Park, 9-12 September
Banner Pix: Mangatoetoe Hut
We met trip organiser Bruce Hodgson at the Waipukurau railway station car park, along with Robyn Smith, Simon Hill and Lynette Morgan. We were taking two cars for ease of relocating the vehicles the next morning. Mark Jenkins was a late starter, and he was to meet us at the Lake Ferry hotel that evening.
I hopped in the car with Bruce and Robyn and we followed Simon and Lynette to Martinborough, arriving at around 5pm for an early and enjoyable tea at the Martinborough Hotel. We learned that Mark was already at our accommodation at the Lake Ferry Hotel. There, we had been allocated two very comfortable bunk rooms with breakfast also available.
As we headed out of Martinborough, Simon halted at a bottle store so Lynette could buy a bottle of ginger wine to drink that night with a little bit of help from the team.
Up we went to the Pinnacles lookout to take photos and study the map some more. We still had 450 metres to climb, which was a little daunting to say the least. The company was good with heaps of banter even while gasping for breath climbing up and around all the native bush and tree roots.
At this stage, we were very lucky with the weather; it was raining in most other places but sunny and cool here. Mark was the navigator and never led us astray, stopping now and then so we could sample snakes, aeroplanes and dinosoars. I liked the snakes the most – soft and chewy.The views of the South Island were awesome and the track was undulating even when we got to the top, with lots of pig rooting and deer sign.We didn’t really stop for a lunch break and by 12.30 were getting peckish because of our early breakfast.
We decided to press on to the Washpool Hut – down, down, down, slip, slip and down we went. This was hard on knees and thigh muscles and seemed to take a very long time, but then we were at the hut – a comfortable six-bunker close to streams for a great water supply. It had taken us around five hours and for me that was enough. Our late lunch brew-up was so good…
Lynette had dropped her water bottle on the track so Robyn went with her to recover it. Luckily, it was swiftly found. We had a look around and found the track for the next day was over the river; would we get wet feet?It was a relief to get all the weight off my legs and find that the foot that had been broken was in good condition.
The day was getting on, so we lit the fire with half-rotten wood which was all we could find around the hut. This produced a lot of smoke and not much heat. By 7pm, we were all in our bags. It had been a really good day. Those who had to venture outside at night didn’t need a torch as the Moon was so bright.
Most of us breakfasted on muesli but Robyn had the best set-up, cutting her own macadamia nuts, almonds, walnuts, dried apricots and milk powder plus some warm water. It looked very nutritious.
The hut had been swept by 7am and away we went to cross the river. Simon took off his boots and went over in bare feet. The rest of us checked our gaiters were on properly and skipped across. We all made it with dry feet.A three-hour slog followed, climbing through rimu and maire, up and up, then down to the well-maintained Pararaki Hut. It’s rather tough to reach, so the hut logbook doesn’t contain that many entries and there was a really good wood supply.
After a brew-up, we moved on to Kawakawa Hut, about four hours away. This involved more climbing; some of the team went off-track for a look around. The GPS soon had them back on-track. Again, we saw lots of pig rooting and deer sign.
In this section, the track was not well marked and we had to be very keen-eyed to spot the markers. It was very uneven underfoot and steep and slippery, so caution was the call. Mark was navigator and we followed his footprints to the Kawakawa Hut. It’s a small six-bunker, with two of them in poor condition. So Mark and Robyn put up their tents and borrowed the mattresses.
The hut is set in a nice glade of kanuka close to a river. It has a tank near the door which, whilst good to have, is not in the ideal place. Just across the river is a 4WD track which hunters probably use for quick access from the south coast. We were not heading this way, but up the river.
Our afternoon feast was cheese and crackers and we lit the fire with good-sized kanuka. The hut was warm in no time.With the six of us inside, it was a bit of a squeeze so the evening boil-up had to be done in shifts. We were in our bunks by 7.30 and the sleeping bags were hardly needed because the hut stayed very warm for some time. Bruce and Lynette reckoned we all had a good turn at snoring. A bright Moon was out again, so no torch required.
At 5.30am, Mark was already brewing a cup of tea so Simon got up and made one too; we were all getting our breakfast sorted by 6am. Robyn and Mark reported a very comfortable night in their tents.
Ahead lay a flat riverbed before we arrived at Mangatoetoe Hut around 11am. It’s a very spacious six- bunker on a semi-open river flat, and well-used since it is only 90 minutes from the road end.
We took an early lunch and headed down to the road end and our parked cars. There was time to change into some fresh clothes before heading to the Medici Cafe in Martinborough for great food, coffee and a debrief. On the way to Martinborough, we passed Ngawi, a fishing village famous its old bulldozers with boats hooked on behind – very colourful.
Thanks to Bruce for organising this most enjoyable trip.
Trampers: Lynette Morgan, Robyn Smith, Bruce Hodgson, Simon Hill, Mark Jenkins and reporter Phil Enticott (tired but happy)