Awatere Hut – Ruahine Forest Park

On Friday evening, eight of us met at the traditional WTMC meet up point at Platform 9 at Wellington Train Station for a weekend getaway to Ruahine Forest Park, located in the Hawke’s Bay. We were joined by three other members in the club van, who were attempting a medium trip.

Several of the group were relatively new to the club and were ready to spend some time in the outdoors and to experience tramping in Autumn. We stopped for a quick dinner at Palmerston North, where the Turkish restaurant, Chinese restaurant and Burger Fuel were popular spots for the group. We continued driving to our camping spot for the evening – Anzac Park near Norsewood. This camping spot is well used by the club and has flushable toilets, tap water (but need to boil), park benches and plenty of space to set up tents. We settled in for the night. The temperature was close to 0 degrees.

Tenting at ANZAC park by Norsewood

On Saturday morning we woke up to a light frost. We were pleased that we’d packed our Winter tramping gear and warm gloves and hats for the trip. We packed up camp and left at around 8:15 am for a coffee and scone stop at a delightful café/bakery in Norsewood – a place we would highly recommend.

From Norsewood, we drove along a gravel road until we reached another winding gravel road, Kashmir Road. After finding the carpark with the tracks to take us to the huts, we loaded up our gear and began the steady climb up to our first stopping point for the day, Longview Hut.

Climbing up to Longview Hut

The sun was shining and we made steady progress up to the tussock ranges where Longview Hut sat, after an hour and 45 mins. When we saw the Hut, we made our way along the ridge line, but an extremely strong and cold wind threatened to bowl several of us over.

We regrouped in Longview Hut and had a relaxing lunch out of the wind, and decided to move to Plan B. The wind along the ridge would have made it a tough day hiking to our intended destination of Makaretu Hut. So we decided to return to the carpark and instead hike an hour to Awatere Hut, to escape the wind. Once we dropped from the ridge and returned the way we came, the wind was no issue and we made our way back down the scree and shale to return to the club van. We grabbed a couple more tents (as Awatere Hut has six bunks, compared to eight bunks at Makaretu Hut).

We were now looking at an easy grade trip. The track to Awatere Hut was well maintained and had one or two climbs, where we could see the Makaretu River North Branch and the lovely valley. We arrived at Awatere Hut at around 3:00pm and set up camp. It is a six-person, basic hut with no sink and tap (the nearby river is used for a water source). Six of us had bunks, one person slept on the floor and another camped outside. The Hut had been recently renovated by the Backcountry Trust and we were suitably impressed with the job that had been done to freshen the old hut up. The orange colour on the cladding of the hut was positively vibrant! All in all, a lovely, cozy place to spend the night, made ever more so by the fire that Duane started and tended to.

Descending to Awatere Hut

For dinner we made a WTMC cookbook favourite, Satay Noodles. We substituted the coconut powder with a can of coconut milk, which made dinner a creamy peanuty delight. It was a risky move, but we only used one billy. After making a mountain of noodles, we split them between several of our smaller pots. Being close to Winter, we tucked into the hearty meal and went to bed before 8:00 pm. Our stats for Saturday were 10.09 km hiking, 764 m ascent and 912 m descent.

Cooking dinner in Awatere Hut

On Sunday we split into two groups. Group A (Daniel, Megan, Molly, Duane and Zaw) had an early morning start and set out for a six to seven hour sprint-hike down the river to Happy Daze Hut and then onwards to Makaretu Hut. Put simply, they were looking to bag the huts on the original trip plan. But it came at the cost of doubling the amount of walking required for the Sunday! Group A had a mighty day with their stats, hiking 22 km (about 16 km of river travel) in 7 hr 53 mins, with 512 m ascent and 402 m descent.

Group A at Happy Daze Hut
Navigating treefall close to Makaretu Hut

Group B was on the opposite end of the spectrum – they had a sleep in, a leisurely breakfast and hiked a 3.5 hr return trip to explore the river bed (which was relatively easy going with tramping poles).
At around 1:45 pm, Group B met back at Awatere Hut and hiked the one hour back to the car park. There is one steep climb, but otherwise this felt like a relatively easy hike.

We met the medium group at the carpark and hit the road, with another dinner stop in Palmerston North. Transmission Gully has made the commute back to Wellington much quicker and with far less traffic build-up compared to the previous route.

We enjoyed welcoming the new hikers to the club and some returning faces, who were getting back into the Outdoors. We felt refreshed and despite the change in plans due to the wind, we had enjoyed our weekend in Ruahine Forest Park. It was a fantastic trip and we were glad that we didn’t let the wind foil our plans and that we bagged a few huts in the Ruahines along the way!

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