Meeting a Morepork in Waiototara


Terereohaupa Falls on the Waiototara River (10 mins South of Trains Hut) Photo: Heather

I signed up to lead this trip as I’d never been to the area before and leading a trip is a sure way to get yourself to a new place. I was surprised to have a group of nine willing to head into an obscure area of North Island bush on a May weekend but it turns out other people wanted to go somewhere they’d never been before too!

I was quite clear with everyone from the first planning email that this trip would require some capacity for unknown adventure. With only limited information from a local conservation group and some crossed fingers I planned for us to camp at the road end or a short walk in. It wasn’t ideal but by 11pm we had two flies up (one with an alternative but perfectly functional set-up) and nine bodies in sleeping bags on relatively flat spots between the soggy and muddy bits we had to choose from.

Good weather was a nice change and helped with the 10.5hr mission to Tahupo hut on Saturday. Group banter definitely helped keep spirits up for the 2.5 hours of pure adventure beyond the 8hr tramping day I had predicted. We sped up slightly on the way out making it to the van in 9.5hrs. The others can tell you about the many highlights en route, but for me as the leader a big plus was having a great group with a mixture of experience but all with tip-top levels of keen-ness. (Emily)

Fly camping at Taumatatahi Road end Photo: Henry

One day in May

The WTMC went to see

A forest park in the dark

With morepork at the track fork

The Team, you see, including me: Henry

Led pleasantly by Emily

Speedy Heather, needing a tether

Steady Erika (who was not from America)

Chatty Sophie, looking tough to win a trophy

Long legs Keith, who kept the mud beneath

‘Pattern’ Uta was solid, and onward she plodded

Big Ross, who’s nav was not always at a loss

And Weimin, with his stove a’ flamin’

The hunters were out and some goats were about

Blue duck were spotted, and thankfully not ‘potted’

Trains Hut took 4 hours and half of my powers

Tahupo took 6 … thank heavens for Party Mix!

The trail was a mess, but we did our best

And the hut was fancy, but missing a pantry

Kedgeree for tea – yummy!

And choc fondue and a slice were nice

Then a night under the stars, looking for Mars

A better team there had never been

Many laughs, but sadly no baths

With many a view, Taranaki AND Ruapehu

The trip was fantastic … Waitotara – tastic! (Henry)


On the track to Trains Hut Photo: Heather

It was my first time to…

…visit Waiototara Conservation Area

…watch a deer cross the road

…help select a campsite among wild mint, mud and cow dung in the dark

…sleep under a group fly

…fraternize with local duck shooters

…cross paths with deer, goat AND pig hunters (on the track – not in the cross hairs of their rifle scopes)

…lunch at Trains Hut

…get up close and personal with a morepork

…look left and see Mt Taranaki, then look right and see Mt Ruapehu

…help navigate along a ridge with countless false spurs and a lack of visibility as to where they went

…shoo away goats in full fight mode with locked horns

…navigate in the dark

…dine out in Tahupo Hut

…sleep out in a bivvy bag under the night sky.

It was priceless. (Heather)


A campsite option an hour from the road end at Kapara Photo: Heather

The trip started by dodging cowpats, then squelching through the mud (which somehow was thicker on the way back, despite no rain overnight?? science??), swinging over creeks on wires one by one, watching footing over slips, battling up an overgrown hill, breezing along oodles of undulating ridgeline with sparse trees and great vantages which regularly changed to overgrown track in the saddles. Concerns of rationing water and depleted torch batteries were short lived and quickly forgotten upon reaching Tahupo Hut where warmth, feasting and good banter was the icing on this adventures cake. (Ross)

One of the swing bridges on the Trains Hut track Photo: Heather

The highlights for me were… nearly being shot having my first wild NZ wee, spying a ‘maw paw’, and bush bashing in head torches! Not to mention the fun naming/numbering off to ensure we all stayed within earshot of each other.  (Sophie)

Cute and sleepy…A local morepork Photo: Henry

This was just my third overnight tramp. It was a good trip to help with figuring out on how long I can walk, with how much kg and how to plan a trip to make sure I don’t get lost in the wilderness… While seeing Ruapehu and Taranaki was a highlight, what I took out of this tramp the most was to get a better sense of direction – N, E, S and W – and in which direction I should be walking to… (Uta)

On a ledge of the Trains Hut track Photo: Henry

Tahupo Hut is an excellent quality standard hut. There is ample space for cooking and drying gear, while its’ deck and fence are probably better than at most baches. (Keith)

The Tahupo Hut Trip Team. Absent: Heather (she’s behind the camera)

Facts and figures:

  • The majority of this trip is on Topomap50 BJ31 Strathmore. The road end is on BK31 Waverley.
  • Driving time Wellington to Waiototara c. 3.5 hrs, excluding dinner at Bulls.
  • A possible trap for new players is the access to the Waiototara Valley Road. If you cross over the bridge into the township you’ve gone too far. The turn off from SH3 is about 200m before the Waiototara Bridge. Waiototara Valley Road is off to the left (not right as you may expect) of SH3. Follow the road under the bridge and head up the true left of Waiototara River.
  • Driving time from the SH3 turn off to Taumatatahi Road end is about an hour. This drive is long (c. 65km) and windy but it’s a good road despite its remote rural location.
  • Parking at the Taumatatahi Road end is just over the cattle stop (NZTopo50 BK31 537212).
  • We made our campsite at the road end just beyond the DOC sign at the start of the track (NZTopo50 BK31 536213).
  • An alternative campsite is at the Trains Hut/Kapara junction (NZTopo50 BJ31 503231). It’s just over 1 hrs walk or just under 5.5kms from the Taumatatahi Road end.
  • Time from the road end to Trains Hut is c. 4 hrs (or 14 kms).
  • Time from Trains Hut up to Tahupo Hut is c. 6 hrs. See below re distance. DOC’s sign indicating 5 hrs may be a little light for first time visitors.
  • Tahupo Hut track: The track up the spur from the river to spot height 336 is a little messy, muddy and slippery. It does however have plenty of low level vegetation to help get you up if needed.  The track along the ridge is gently undulating. There are orange markers all the way although some obscure or possibly missing. The ridge has numerous false spurs so it’s perhaps best not to underestimate the subtlety of how some of the spurs head off in a direction you won’t want.
  • Distance: The distance from the Taumatatahi Road end to Tahupo Hut with a side step to Trains Hut for lunch is estimated to be c. 26kms.  (Heather)
An open section of the Tahupo ridge track Photo: Heather

2 thoughts on “Meeting a Morepork in Waiototara”

  1. Thanks for the extra track info Maarten.
    The Whanganui region offers an expansive area of lowland forest to explore. It can be a nice change to the big hills we climb in other parts of the North Island.
    For those yet to experience the Waitōtara Conservation Area and the Whanganui National Park but would like a taste of what this terrain offers, there is the Atene Skyline track just outside Whanganui (35 mins drive) on Whanganui River Road. I have walked the track and will add some notes on the track to the forum page, or write up a short trip report.

  2. Just thought I would leave a note fore people who what to know how the track is beyond Tahupo hut. I have recently walked from Kohi Saddle to Pouri Hut, Puteore Hut and down to Trains Hut. The section between Pouri and Puteore is an old track which still has markers in many places, but is very overgrown. It is easier to try to follow the markers than it is to use a GPS as the track is often not in the right place. This section takes about 6-7hours depending on your fitness. The track from Puteore to Tahupo Hut is easy and mainly on a ridge and takes 5 hours.
    Maarten (Nov 2020)


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