The tramp began at 8.35 pm on Friday evening at the end of Mt Holdsworth Road, reached via Carterton. Although we set out for Atiwhakatu Hut when it was still light, it quickly turned dark while we were walking and we had to get the head torches out. The gravel track is in good condition apart from a slip about two thirds of the way along where the track has fallen away for a stretch of about 10 meters. There were a number of short wooden bridges and about three swing bridges. However, I didn’t notice much else along the track as it was dark and I was concentrating on the small spots of torchlight in front and behind me (my own headlight was too weak to be helpful). We arrived at Atiwhakatu Hut at 10.36 pm so the track took us exactly two hours.
Atiwhakatu Hut is a very nice hut. Although there wasn’t any water in the tanks, the Atiwhakatu river is right beside the hut. The hut has three separate bunk rooms, so the six of us (minus Andy and Sue who tented) had a whole bunk room to ourselves. The only other occupants of the hut were two boys chatting at the table and some person(s) unknown already hidden away in another bunk room.
We had a lazy start on Saturday morning and set out from the hut at 9.15 am. Andy had gathered intel from a Dutch couple that the track from Atiwhakatu Hut to Mitre Flats Hut was very up and down, or in their words “a full body work out”. This filled me and my little legs with some trepidation as the Dutch tourists looked very fit and I imagined their “up and down” to be more like mountains and valleys.
The first 30 minutes were pretty tough. The track was uneven and hidden under bush, flax and cutty grass. It often sidled round the side of a rock or tree with room only for one foot at the time. I was worried that the whole track might be like this but it soon flattened out next to the river and became wider and more level. We followed the river quite closely for another half anhour or so, with some wee ups and downs. The track then crossed a bridge and we left Atiwhakatu River and began the “Mount Vic + a few meters” climb. It was steep but short. At the top there is a junction with Baldy track, and a sign which I felt it was necessary to touch to say I had actually got to the top. The track then flattened out for a short distance before starting a somewhat steep but consistent descent to a creek.
Of course that meant that we had to climb again out of the creek and back over another steep hill. I started to lose energy at this point and Andy and Sue had to take turns looking after me while the rest of the group went ahead. It took a long time for lunch to come around, but it eventually did at 1pm. This was when I broke out my secret weapon (marmite sandwiches with plastic cheese). It was also at this point that the track became a bit less ‘uppy and downy’ and more ‘follow the ridge aroundy’ (although I told everyone that my sudden burst of energy was due to the marmite, not the flat track). We descended once more into a creek and out steeply again before starting our final descent down to the Waingawa River. We then crossed one more swing bridge and walked the final 10 minutes to Mitre Flats Hut. We arrived at roughly 3 pm, so the track took just under six hours to walk. By this time I was not the only one sweating, and we all eagerly ditched our packs and tiptoed into the Waingawa River. It was a glorious day and the river was very refreshing. We lounged like lizards on rocks for a bit before the sandflies descended en masse and we had to reatreat back to the hut. This little swim was definitely a highlight for me!
Mitre Flats Hut is a serviced hut with access to water and wood. This means that, as an adult, you need a hut ticket costing $15. We all had paltry blue hut tickets so were invoiced by the hut warden for the balance. The hut itself was very comfortable, with two platforms of bunk beds. We were instructed that “four elderly trampers” were due to arrive later that evening, and could we please keep the bottom bunks free for them. What a surprise when they did arrive! They called themselves “the old dogs” and had a membership requirement of possessing a supergold card. I was highly impressed with their age-to-fitness ratio, and their awesome sense of humour. The other hut occupants that night were a couple of young boys with a beautiful border collie, and a young woman who was doing the Northern Crossing on her own.
Dinner was an amazing vegetarian couscous concoction that Andy and Sue whipped up, as well as apple crumble and yoghurt for desert! Maarten (another club member) made a timely entrance at this point, having spent the day wandering around Tarn Ridge and Dorset Hut. Most of the group stayed up playing cards but after patting the border collie for a bit it was time for the author to go to bed.
Sunday was also a relaxed start. We left Mitre Flats Hut at 9.15 am and retraced our steps for a few minutes before taking a left over a different swing bridge to the Barra Track on the other side of the Waingawa River. The day was again very hot and the track started with a steep 20 minute climb which was more than enough to leave me sweating. I was a bit tired at this point, and concentrating hard on where to put my feet, so didn’t take much notice of the shape of the track. There was more ‘up and down’, although less so than the previous day. There were some creeks and slippery stones, some rooty stairs and some gravel descents. The halfway point is marked by a circular flat area, with a cliff on the river side. We had been walking for about 3 hours when the track intersected with the Waingawa River again and we all ditched our packs for another swim. We had lunch on the grass next to the River before Andy and Maarten sped off to retrieve our transport.
The rest of the group lounged around for another 20 minutes before completing the last half hour of the track, which crossed some farmland and followed a hot and dusty four-wheel-drive track before reaching the car park.
Andy and Sue then turned a ten-out-of-ten trip into an eleven-out-of-ten trip when we stopped on the way back for an ice cream. I was absolutely stoked with my double scoop cookies and cream ice cream for $2. What a tramp!