Ella and I had a rough start to our morning as we received a call from home advising us that all our food was sitting in a plastic bag in the fridge rather than in our packs as I thought. I did wonder why the packs seemed lighter than normal when putting them in the car, but had I put it down to highly efficient packing. A hasty diversion off SH2 to Pak-n-save Upper Hutt saved any further problems for this porter for when the punters would demand their ration of chocolate (not to mention more prosaic needs such as lunch, dinner and breakfast).
DoC has been steadily upgrading the Atiwhakatu track to a walking track standard this year by creating a smooth paved path with a top layer of golden crushed stone. Pretty much all streams the track crosses are bridged and extensive boardwalks have been installed over boggy terraces. Even a climb up beside a slip that once was a rough detour has now transformed into something more civilised with steps. The only work remaining on the track is building the final suspension bridge twenty minutes out from the hut. Apparently DoC has a program to extend the sleeping capacity of the hut to 24 before Christmas.
The walk to the hut took a relaxed three and a half hours to accommodate the wide range of ages on the trip. There were many convenient stopping points for scroggin along the way with track junctions, many different designs of bridges and the occasional break in the bush to enable a view down the valley or up to the ranges above. The kids found it hard to get their shoes wet and dirty (which made for a pleasant change!) except for the final unbridged stream and a short section of temporary track ticked that box for them.
As it seems typical on any fine weekend, Atiwhakatu hut was full to overflowing with twenty people in for the night: a group of teenage boys celebrating a fifteenth birthday (with a couple of tag-along dads), a couple of families travelling together, and some university students that had left Putara a couple of days previously. The kids went off exploring the stream and the bush flats alongside, leaving the porters to organise the dinner of creamy chicken pasta and s’mores. Post dinner contentment set in and sleeping arrangements were sorted out, with most people managing to fit on the platforms. Chris chose the hut floor, and I was out on the veranda as I found the fire in the hut too warm.
The next morning was even more pleasant than yesterday, so much so that Ella decided to go for a dip in a swimming hole in the stream. How a girl who feels cold during summer can manage to swim in a freezing and probably snow-fed stream during winter confounds me.
The walk back went very similar to the previous day except for a stop for lunch in the sun and a second swim at Donnelly Flat.
While many prefer the greater remoteness of the back-country, introducing the wonders of nature in enjoyable and manageable chunks pays dividends to the kids. Ella already is planning her next tramp and has some designs of completing some of the classic trips in the Tararuas this summer. Damn, someone will need to go with her. “Ah Honey, I’m going to be busy all weekend…”