Day 1. The drive north to Mahaku Saddle.
It’s a fairly full hire van that leaves the Wellington railway station on time. Eleven people and packs and bags squeezed in. The drive north is made longer with roadworks and delays on the Rimutaka hill. But the real challenge lies in finding decent food on Highway 2 at 9 pm on a Friday night. We do stop in Masterton, as there are two vans on route. Fast food outlet diner. Sigh. Back on the road to Hastings. Fuel stop there and chocolate and the loos. It’s been a long time in the van!
It’s slightly after midnight when we arrive at the Makahu Saddle campsite. There is frozen snow on the ground. There was ice on the saddle road. We had to push the van once off an icy verge.
After setting up tents and a small fly, we all get to sleep. Some of us have a cold night’s sleep – where all clothing gets stuffed into the sleeping bag for warmth. Those with good sleeping bags have a cosy night’s sleep.
Day 2. A gorgeous blue sky with white snow glistening on the nearby peaks.
Break camp and breakfast in crisp clear air. About 1,000 metres up. Our group breaks into two. A long walk group and a short walk group that goes direct from Makahu road end to Te Puia Hut.
Our short walk group enjoyed good walking conditions. Lunch by the beautiful Makahu River. While on the track Inky Yao and David H were greeted by a green gecko (I think) which waddled up to us chirping away, walking almost over our boots. A gorgeous animal of bright greens. It stayed on the track talking away for a few minutes. A great encounter.
A brisk walk for 2-3 hours and we arrive at the picturesque Te Puia Hut. A crowded Te Puia Hut. Holiday weekend we think the 26 bunk hut has around 52 people in it. That night five of our group chose to sleep on the porch and there was a row of tents on the grass between Hut and river. But on arrival at the Hut we found there were a few bunks left on the bottom bunk under a large group of teenagers on the top bunk. It’s a noisy hut. But we did not stay there long. It’s a 40 minute walk to Mangitainoka Thermal spring and the destination means every step is worth it. Camping is the best option on a busy weekend.
The springs were also busy – but people got out and in and it is a delightful natural hot spring location. As night fell we reluctantly got out – got dressed and headed back to the Hutt. It’s really important to have a good headlamp on when tramping at night through bush. I made a few track errors on the way back and Richard had to say – Uh the track is this way!
An advantage of a big group is diversity of effort. The Hot poolers just had to arrive at dinner time! And a great dinner it was. There was a lovely fire going by the river, a couple of old hands in the Kawekas – lived locally were warming themselves and any who popped by. Toasted marshmallows also on offer. Tidy up the dishes then off the long rows of sleeping bags. It was cosy – and a bit noisy!
Day 3 Day walk to Makino Hut with a 4 hour walk – or lie in the hot pools all day –Lunch in the hot pools – really!
Whio (Blue Duck) in the river – a small group. Which is a rare pleasure to see they are nationally vulnerable and at risk of becoming extinct. DoC estimates there are less than 3,000 of them. And we saw other birds and heard them. There still is life in this forest and river.
Richard led Inky Yao and David H on the day walk. There was an uphill broken rock face. Bush clad ridges and a good walk. We followed traplines during our walking. With a dead stoat and 2 dead shiprats giving interesting photo opps on pest management. Lunch at Makino Hut and views from plenty of spots.
We then returned to Te Puia Hut – we went to the hot pools! Arrive back at the hut to an even better dinner than last night with chocolate and ginger slices for desert. Bliss.
It’s a full noisy cosy sleeping bag row again tonight.
Day 4 Walk from Te Puia Hut to Makahu road end – quickly – there are hot pools at the road end
Once everyone had got onto the trail – it took me a long time to pack! We made better time walking out – everyone on the short track which took us 2 hours. Which gave us more time at the hot pools.
The drive back to wellington had a highlight of a good café selected for lunch. A great tramp.
Several of us commented that this was the best tramp this year. It’s a great thing being based at a hut and having day trips from it.
Te Puia Hut
Mangitainoka Thermal spring
Manatutu Hot springs
Makahu road end