Kiwi sightings: 9
Number of huts bagged: 16
Number of days: 8
Number of days with wet boots: also 8
Distance: 117 km
Elevation gain: over 6,500m – a very undulating track!
A Rakiura haiku:
The mud is everywhere.
Bog-a-licious, soggy mud.
No coffee cart here.
Friday 13 October
Landing in Mason Bay
8km of local exploring, 2h
- Boarding a tiny plane, flying over our route for the next week, surviving a bumpy flight despite the alarms going off. Smooth landing, incredible views
- Meeting Murray at Mason Bay hut
- Moody beach views and sand dunes
- Dodgy gun and broken Garmin left on the deck at the Homestead Hunters hut
- Fat possums sitting on the track and staring back at night
- Evening entertainment: local explore and hut bagging – Martins Creek Hunters hut, Island Hill Homestead, Homestead Hunters hut, Island Hill Run Deer Pen Shelter, Mason Bay hut.
Chartered plane and beach landing in Mason Bay. No club van needed for this trip.
Saturday 14 October
Mason Bay hut to Big Hellfire hut, via Little Hellfire Hunters hut
Tip: make sure to cross the rocky outcrop on Mason Bay beach within 2h of the lowest tide. Rocky outcrop is about 1h walk from Mason Bay hut.
Access to Little Hellfire Hunters Hut was not clear and we went through the marsh.
- 4 kiwi sightings
- 6am start and moody morning on Mason Bay beach + crossing at low tide
- Little Hellfire hut for lunch one at 9am – an hour break and a hot cuppa
- Short grunty climb up and down, and gradual climb up again
- Views and late sunshine over the Ruggedy Mountains. Cosy hut and fire
- Incredible and unexpected sand dunes and sunset
- Evening entertainment: clothes drying, half a game of 500 and a nap
Sunday 15 October
Big Hellfire Hut to East Ruggedy hut
- 3 kiwi sightings + 1 human
- A bog-a-licious day
- Diverse bush, boggy, steep and slow progress
- Arriving in Waituna Bay + incredible views of the Ruggedy Mountains. Dino-like landscapes
- Soggy climb but great lookout and views of Waituna Bay, just before the saddle
- Long and undulating way down to West Ruggedy beach
- Wild ocean, windswept coastline
- Views of Codfish Island/Whenua Hou
- Mars-like mini Grand Canyon, but sandy. Insane 10 minute storm, huge temperature drop and wet bums
- Evening entertainment: Quiz night (Listeners’ quiz)
Monday 16 October
East Ruggedy hut to Long Harry hut
Tip: quick sand at Ruggedy Stream is easily avoidable by crossing about 50-100m downstream of the markers. Best at low tide.
- 1 kiwi sighting + 3 deer
- Started the day with sleet, thunder and hail – crossing the dunes and skipping around quicksand. The weather gods were little bastards that morning
- Climbing up through scrubby bush, person-deep bushbashing with max sogginess: sog-a-licious
- Unnamed beach nicknamed Hop Boulder Coast, fun rocky travel, intense waves crashing on the rocks, just enough sun for lunch.
- Sticky, slippery mud. Glimpses of the ocean. A little impromptu off-roading adventure.
- Primo sea views from Long Harry hut. Sandflies were plentiful at this hut, and wherever the rain wasn’t.
- Evening entertainment: 2 truths 1 lie
Tuesday 17 October
Long Harry hut to Yankee River hut, via Smokey Hunters hut
- 1 kiwi sighting
- Waking up to a soft sunrise and rainbow over Long Harry bay
- A civilised track with little mud
- Summoning of the kiwi: envision the kiwi, feel the kiwi, BE the kiwi.
- Smokey Hunters Hut to shelter from the one and only shower of the day. Stop for lunch one, except Anne who didn’t get the memo
- Smokey Beach was smokin’. Amazing dunes stunning manuka flanking the coastline
- 3 wire bridge
- Refreshing river dip and leisury afternoon at Yankee River hut + drying of soggy gear in the sun
- Evening entertainment: reading from the hut library – including Bridget Jones’ diary for lucky Leo
Wednesday 18 October
Yankee River hut to Christmas Village hut
- No kiwi sightings + 1 suspiciously clean human
- Undulating track, up and down creeks. Arete Forks track vibes.
- Not too much mud, many roots + a few significant windfalls
- Squeaky trees and confused Tui birds clearly not speaking the North Island dialect
- Nicely appointed hut with primo sea views
- No rain
- An uneventful day
- Evening entertainment: Quiz night (three made up questions by each person)
Thursday 19 October
Day trip to Mt Anglem/Hananui
- No kiwi sightings + 4 humans
- Wet scramble up a waterfall track
- 9/10 on the bog-a-licious scale
- A toasty and successful bothy bag break on the way up
- A knee deep mud bath – good for the skin
- Summited Mt Anglem/Hananui and clinged to a rock at top in 90+km/h winds. Anna took flight several times
- Didn’t find the promised coffee cart or cheese rolls at the top due to poor weather
- “Rest day” = Leg day. Over 1300m elevation
- Evening entertainment: drawing names for a Secret Santa that never eventuated. Learning how to socialise with humans again
Friday 20 October
Christmas Village hut to Bungaree hut, via Christmas Village Hunters hut and Murray Hunters hut
- No kiwi sightings + 3 humans
- Mud, roots, undulations
- Silly boardwalk fighting for its life in the mud
- Lunch at Murray’s not quite up to expectations – persistent sandlies and a bloated, stinky dead rat
- But – Murray’s Beach was a top beach. Luxuriant bush and talkative kakariki
- Brief, refreshing ocean swim
- A bag of salt and vinegar chips donated by a hunter was devoured in minutes
- Evening entertainment: WTMC top tips for a North West Circuit
Saturday 21 October
Bungaree hut to the Snugglery cafe in Oban, via Port Williams hut
- No kiwi sightings + many clean-looking and nice-smelling Great Walkers
- “Early” start: 8am
- Intense fantasies of warm and rich foods throughout the day
- Track from Bungaree to Port Williams: a real breeze. Just the right amount of mud – still undulating
- Lunch one at Port Williams hut with nice smelling soap
- Beautiful sandy beaches, Māori beach being the nicest one
- Boring and hard on the feet Great Walk and road to Oban. Tourist mud and pretend windfall.
- Straight to 4 Squares for a Coke Zero fix
- Cheesy stop at the Snuggery: cheese scones, cheese rolls, ham and cheese toasty, cheesecake
- Long overdue hot showers and very indulgent dinner and dessert at the South Sea Hotel.
WTMC top tips for a North West Circuit
- Research your bird poos and bird songs before the trip. Know your kiwi.
- Bring a bit more food, desserts and sweet treats
- Lots of dry bags or plastic bags, re-waterproof your coat before the trip
- Rotate your breakfasts, pack a couple of calorie-dense breakies other than oats
- Cover your legs – either thermals or gaiters
- Waterproof shorts for the win
- Skip a few huts e.g. Christmas Village or Long Harry
- Don’t overpack. Wet stuff can dry at the hut. Plan your gear as carefully as you plan your food, bring good waterproof jacket and trousers
- Lunches – good to have non-faffing options for the wet days
- Don’t trust the huts’ reading materials
- Be one with the island. Embrace the mud.
- Winning lunch: nuts&seeds crackers with a slice of cheese, dipped in basil pesto
- Don’t bother with a spare pair of tramping socks – rinse and dry your only pair each day, along with your insoles.
- After a week of rigorous tasting and rating of countless dehy meals, Real Meals came on top with the Beef Stroganoff, Tom Ka Gai and Sri Lankan Curry making the podium – in that order
- Small Bumper bars are great for snacks
- Local Dehy dehydrated hummus – light and delicious
- Squeezy vegemite on crackers
- Byo reading materials – kindle, Libby app
- Sandfly repellent!
Trip planning tips
- Overall, the trip is a fairly cruisy Medium. Stopping at all huts gave us plenty of time to soak up the views and get to our destination early each day. Times above include generous breaks.
- The flight into Mason Bay is well worth the money – very unique. Worth staying the night and exploring.
- 15kg max per pack on the Mason Bay flight.
- Gas canisters can be bought in Invercargill and taken on the tiny plane as carry on. Click and collect from Torpedo 7 the week before for peace of mind.
- Suggested amount of gas for 8 days: 5 regular canisters for 6 people (dehy dinners + otherwise generous use)
- Check times for low tides and plan your trip around it, especially for the West coast
- Make sure to book backpackers accommodation and dinner at the South Sea hotel in Oban early so you don’t miss out
- The DOC huts and hunters huts are all in excellent condition, wood was easy to find to warm up in the evenings. Remember to clean up and restock wood supplies for the next party.
- Emergency shelter: we opted for bothy bags rather than flies to save weight, but brought ground sheets and mats in case the huts were full.
- October seems to be a great time to do the circuit. The weather was very changeable throughout the day, but suitable. Not as cold as expected. The track was quiet and we had huts to ourselves most nights. Avoid peak hunting periods as hunters are known to come in groups and occupy huts for a couple of weeks at a time.
- Write the trip report together every night – works a treat as you can see.