Te Puia Lodge: a beginners guide to leading tramps

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The Te Puia Lodge is an Easy-ish tramp located in the Kaweka Ranges. It was my first tramp as a team leader, and it was a pain in the ass, literally, but I will get to that later on. This guide is structured as follows. Chapter 1 describes the first day and our long drive and cold night. Chapter 2 presents the moment where I face challenges as a team leader. Chapters 3 and 4 describe glamping in the Kaweka Ranges. Lastly, Chapter 5 presents some testimonials from our group.

Chapter 1: The Long Drive and Cold Night

We met on a Friday afternoon at the train station, and drove for seven hours. Somehow, many people rushed off to get out of Wellington for Queen’s Birthday. The drive was greatly executed by Uta and Mauro, and poorly assisted by me. Car navigation is not one of my strengths, and requires a lot of computational processing in my brain to get it right. We went a bit off road, but thanks to Matt and GPS technology and Topological Maps, we corrected our course pretty soon – “soon” as in very early morning, because it must have been between 12 and 1am.

We arrived to our campsite, pitched our tents, and went to bed at about 1:30am. We passed a pretty cold night. It looks like nothing too bad today, but that day I had a glimpse of what hypothermia could be (forgive my exaggeration, some of which you might continue to find throughout the guide). Anyway, it was actually great to have a cold night in order to appreciate and value the warmth of the hot pools that would be welcoming us everyday for the next three days.

Chapter 2: Uta’s abandonment, growing up, and hot pooling

Section 2.1: Uta’s abandonment

As expected, the amazing Uta and her team abandoned us in the car park, right after discussing our plans and our meet-up points. It was a planned and necessary abandonment because we had to go in different directions. I was ready for that (Kevin, Matt and Richard trained me for this). I watched them leave and high-fived them all, hoping we will see them again, hoping not so much for their fate, but for ours.

Section 2.2: Growing up

As soon as they left, my first decision as a leader was to heat up some water, something I carried out flawlessly, successfully, elegantly, and with a hint of emergency in the eyes of hungry, cold trampers with hot-pools desires. We had a small breakfast and by 9:30am we were getting in the van and driving to the starting point of our tramp. Yeah, 9:30am. Time flies!

My second decision as a leader was to do a much better job than the night before at navigating us to success, or at least to where we needed to park our van to start our tramp. I knew I had to redeem myself, so I put all my efforts and concentration towards a single goal: driving us to Mangatutu Hot Springs. Until suddenly we crossed a river that was not there the night before. And then another. In a quick consultation with the team, we agreed that we were not going the right way. Or at least we thought we knew. All I knew was that, if we were going the wrong way, we missed a left turn earlier! But when? There were not many, if any. What if we were on the right track, but just needed to drive a bit more until that left turn? We turned back, crossed the two rivers again, drove 10 minutes, saw a turn on the right (which was the left, but we were now heading in the other direction), we took it, and within 30 seconds it was a road end. Maybe we were on the right track after all. Confusion reigned in the team, everyone had different opinions, and so we went back to the road we were on, looking for that left turn. We crossed the two rivers again, then two more. I got internet access to get topological maps on my dying phone with GPS. Even with all this information, we carried on for a bit more just to make sure the GPS was right, the map was right, and we were heading in the wrong direction. We reached the end of the road confirming my initial thought: we were wrong. We turned back, crossed the four rivers again, passed the dead-end right turn, and found the right turn we missed a bit later on. Finally, we were back on our way! Woo-hoo!

A concern we had was that the weather was not going to be too good, and the concern was particularly due to a ford rising and not being able to cross it on Monday. Luckily, the warden said it was safe to cross it on Monday.

Section 2.3 Glamping – an introduction

At 3pm, after 2h-2h30m walking through beautiful scenery next to a river, we arrived to an almost empty Te Puia Lodge, where we settled, had some well-deserved lunch, and then quickly packed up to walk for another 45 mins to the hot pools.

The hot pools were fantastic, but they can be a pain in the ass, literally. They are next to a river, where we went for a quick dip, and more! I was mysteriously pushed by invisible forces that sent me landing on my ass on top of a rock. I contained my tears until I reached the hot pools again, where I convincingly argued that my tears were just water: hot (salty painful) water mixed with tears of joy.

We came back in the dark to the lodge, where we had Nutty Rice for dinner, which by the way, the recipe is missing Salt. A lot of salt. The execution was great, but the result would have been much better if it had salt (we did not bring any salt). We played some card games, invented new games, read some books, and came to the realisation that we were not tramping. We were glamping, and then we proudly embraced the lifestyle.

 

Chapter 3 Glamping – Part 1

We woke up when we felt like waking up. There is no record of what time it was. We had some breakfast and embraced the lack of creativity of our team: we headed back to the hot pools by unanimity. This time, we brought stoves to have lunch in the hot pools. Hours passed by. Hot water remained hot. We had lunch. I slept a bit in the hot pools while some guy rambled about a website or blog of his. And we went back to the lodge.

On arrival, Uta and their troupe had made it to the lodge too. We discovered that Uta also suffered a minor accident: falling, rolling, and scratching her leg, twice. And suddenly, there we were: two team leaders, one with experience and me, sharing pain in common. You see, pain knows no bounds and makes no distinctions between race, gender, or experience. For that moment, we were one and the same: just two humans in pain. I feel closer to Uta since that moment.

We had dinner, had some laughs, and went to bed.

Chapter 4 Glamping – Part 2

On the third day, to continue glamping, I thought of activating the PLB so Uta and I could get a helicopter ride all the way back to Wellington, but I knew she would not approve. After thinking it through, I did not approve either: the last thing I wanted was to sit down, even if that meant inside a helicopter.

We grabbed our packs, headed back to the carpark, took some pictures along the way, and ended up in the Mangatutu Hot Springs, where we all spent an hour or so. These hot springs had a lovely view of the river and the mountains. After this, we all got in the van and returned to Wellington, where we lived happily ever after.

Chapter 5 Testimonials

To protect the privacy and identity of the members of our tramp, we have used the following special names: “Juan”, “Cindy”, “Aoife”, and “Mauro”.

Juan

The tramp was lovely, fun, and full adventures and experiences with awesome people.

Cindy

Excellent company; hot pools; comfy hut; beautiful scenery.

This was just the trip I was looking for this long weekend. The walk to and from the hot pools was just the right length. I had brought a book with me and had also planned to get some writing done, but Sunday was just so full – sleeping in, breakfast, walk to hot pools, hot pools, walk back from hot pools, chatting, dinner, chatting. Perfect.

Mauro

As you know it was my first tramp trip and it was amazing! I really enjoyed the whole experience, from the incredible people we travelled with and all the others we encountered along the way. The cold and the rain make the trip even more memorable. By the way, I must say I’ve never been so tired on a trip and come back so refreshed. I have learned a lot and will be much better prepared for the next one. You did a great job Juan and kept us safe all the time. Thank you for that. I hope we travel together often.

Aoife

It was a long drive to reach our destination on Friday night/early Saturday morning but we made it and had a very cold night in our tents. Despite a few detours the next morning, we made it to the car park and began our walk to Te Puia Lodge. We were very lucky with the weather and got fantastic views of the mountains and the stunning lake. We arrived to the lodge in the afternoon and walked 45 minutes through forest to the hot pools which were incredible. Such a unique experience to lie in the natural hot pools as darkness fell and they certainly warmed us up after the cold night we had the night before! We walked back to the lodge with our head torches, cooked dinner, played cards and were in bed by lights out at 10pm.

We headed for the hot pools (and a few dips in the cold river) the next morning again and met the rest of the group at the lodge that evening. Another great dinner and a nice early night.

We finished off the trip with another trip to more hot pools the next day before we headed back for Wellington with a stop at McDonalds to refuel. A fantastic Queen’s Birthday Weekend!”

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