Taking the long way round via Tunupō loop we were well rewarded for our 8 hour tramping effort, by the Irongate Hut. She is an awesome hut – new, clean, spacious, well insulated, central heating, swimming pool and a waterfall!
The Ruahine Ranges pulled out all the stops for this tramp, with varied terrain, breathtaking views, and sounds of the rare Whio and rushing water.
Day 1: Wellington to Alice Nash Memorial Lodge
We got away from Wellington Railway Station Friday 4.55pm (5 minutes ahead of schedule), with co-leader Jane at the wheel and first-time leader Jamie riding shotgun.
Traffic was not too bad. I took just under 2 hours to Levin, where we enjoyed kebabs at the super busy and popularCafe Anatolia.
We arrived at the Peterson Road-end car park after dark around 9.30pm.
It took 20 minutes along the farm 4-wheel drive track, then across a bridge to the sound of rushing water, and through the bush imaging what was surrounding us and would greet us when we woke in the morning.
When we got to the Alice Nash Memorial Lodge around 10pm, we discovered trampers from Levin and Paraparaumu already tucked up in the bunk beds – sound asleep. We did our best not to wake them, however it was a lesson for us all to
Always assume you are not alone when deciding on superior comfort double mattresses in huts – you never know when night owls like us may arrive and whip your second mattress out from underneath you!
Day 2: Tunupō loop to Irongate Hut
Up into the mist, followed the track through the lush bush, up into leatherwood territory, across the tussocky alpine environment on the tops and back down into the bush to the hut
Weather change as we climbed and became more exposed … warmth when we left the lodge gradually changed into a very chilling wind by the time we emerged from the vegetation into the tussocks on top. Pulled out all our layers!
Dead stoat in trap – good for the Whio, not so good for the stoat
Followed trap trail – eggs. Traps a good guide of the route along the tops!
We followed the traps and our phone map apps (ViewRanger) along the ridge.
They are baited with eggs and as evidenced by one very dead stoat, they are an effective tool used by the Department of Conservation’s plan to protect our beautiful blue duck – the whio.
Strange craters on the ridge line – theorisedevidence of an ancient asteroid incident, a random boulder from an eruption, extraterrestrial landing spot …? (Scientific explanation not as fun!)
We pushed on along the ridge as windy, not sure what the weather would do
Tip: If it’s windy and you find a sheltered spot and feeling like it might be time for lunch soon grab the opportunity. Our tummies were grumbling well by the time we found a spot for a break, by which time we’d been walking 5 hours.
Cloud cover meant limited views from the ridge in the morning, but lifted in the afternoon as we came along the ridge on the other side to reveal spectacular views of where we had been earlier and the hills and valleys and Manawatu.
The route across the tops was not a marked track/not on map but easy to navigate and clearly cut out through leatherwood.
Back on the track down to the hut … . A steep descent
We were a bit chilly in the Hut at first and layered up for the night. Then discovered a very well stocked woodshed and lit the fire. We’re toasty and down to single layers in no time!
Awesome hut, new, clean, spacious, well insulated, beautiful location beside the river.
Delicious couscous-based dinner with a homemade chocolate mousse for dessert. Yum!
Day 3: Serenaded by the elusive whio on our way out
Easy day??, 7.30am wake up, 8.30am or was it 9am start? Sign said 4 hours, was an easy 3?
3.5 hour out – suggested time 4-5 hours.
BUt challenging very undulating track – verysteep ups and downs
Walking this loop anti-clockwise seemed easier than the other way round. While going up to Tunupo was a bit of a slog (well, for the EM trampers), it was possibly not as difficult as going along the river to Iron Gate hut and then having a very steep climb, particularly the initial section. The other group of trampers in Alice Nashwent this way (and then on to Top Gorge hut). We thought we’d missed them, but when we eventually met them, they seemed very tired.
Heard the call of the Whio – thought we might have seen them – on closer inspection may have been rocks.
If you want to explore the Iron Gates Gorge before heading home it is a two hour return track, just after Alice Nash Memorial Lodge. We decided not to do it but you could add it on as an extra!
Then on the way home finished a great trip with custard squares and bacon butties at the Whispers Cafe in Levin.😎