For Joanne, Debbie, Catherine and Paul, this was the first trip to the Mangatoetoe Hut in the Aorangi (Haurangi) Forest Park. The tramp was led by our illustrious leader Ray who had visited the hut once before. The tramp from the road end to the hut was relatively flat, and consisted of many river crossings, and hunting for paths and tracks in the bush by the side of the river. It didn’t rain on our way to the hut which was great. We arrived at the hut in time for lunch, dropped off the heavy contents of our packs, ate our lunch on what looked like a lawn at the front of the hut, and then started our afternoon walk to the saddle. The hut was quite spacious inside with a table and bench, an open fire, an indoor sink and tap, and 6 bunks.
The afternoon was full of river crossings and rock hopping. Navigating was sometimes challenging because some of the trees with orange markers had fallen over, and with the tracks criss-crossing the river it wasn’t always obvious which route to take. After working our way up the river, we started to climb quite steeply, and eventually came to a clearing with views back down the valley and of the ocean. Coming back down from the saddle was a little tricky with often steep and slippery clay tracks. Paul managed to fall over onto his arse after loosing his footing, but he was fortunately the only one. We arrived back to a warm hut, but as the sun was setting the hut started to cool down and we decided it was time to light the fire.
We collected kindling on the way back to the hut and Joanne, Debbie and Ray built the fire. After a while the fire was roaring, although a lot of the smoke was coming into the hut rather than going up through the chimney. We sat down to have some yummy dinner, and then later on in the evening we were joined by a hunter who had recently moved up from Christchurch, and was now working at the police college in Porirua. We all decided it was time for bed, and because the fire was open we thought it best to extinguish it before hitting the sack. Paul was given this task, but obviously didn’t make a very good job of it, because about 15 minutes later Ray could smell smoke and the fire was roaring again. This time he made sure it was out.
On the second day we had a leisurely morning, and after eating breakfast we left the hut around 10am ish. The walk back to the road end appeared to be much easier, and we spent more time on the track than we did walking across the river. When we arrived at the road end, we hopped into the van and drove to the lighthouse via the seal colony.
We had lunch at the lighthouse, walked up and down it a couple of times and then waited for another group to arrive. We waited and waited… but they didn’t arrive. Paul walked back up to the lighthouse and found a good vantage point from where he could see the track winding along the coastline. 4pm came and we decided to initiate the emergency protocol which was to get to cell phone coverage and call in the missing group.
We were halfway up the Wairarapa side of the Rimutaka hill road when Ray’s mobile rang and it was Steve calling from Ngawi, requesting that we turn around and head back to pick them up. By this time the windy Rimutaka hill road was starting to affect Paul, and Ray decided he would drop us off at the Upper Hutt railway station, potentially sacrificing his evening of rugby. Ray drove back to collect the others on his own. We boarded the train. Paul spent all of the journey lying down while the others spent the entire journey, from Upper Hutt into the City, talking to the train guard. We all went our separate ways at the Wellington station and got home around 8pm.
A big thank you must go out to Ray for dropping us off at the station and returning to pick up the others. They were very pleased to see Ray and the van, and Steve took over the driving back to Wellington so that Ray could get a welcome break.