Southern Crossing – Tararua Forest Park (from Otaki Forks)

The Tararua Ranges. Photo credit: Jozef

Friday 10 February

The Southern Crossing in the Tararuas has been on my to-do list for the last few years and when I saw it on the trip schedule for February, I did not hesitate to sign up for the walk.

The plan was to have two groups of trampers do the Southern Crossing, with a car key swap at Alpha Hut. One group would start at Otaki Forks Road end (our group) and the other group would start from Marchant Road end, and we would meet at Alpha Hut and swap keys. With each group walking to the cars at the other end.

Our group, starting from the Otaki Forks Road end, consisted of four trampers. We left the Wellington Train Station around 4pm. We had a quick stop in Otaki to grab some food to eat on the way and made our way to the start of the walk. We walked along the road and over the slip track, taking about 40 minutes to get to Otaki Forks Campsite. From here we made our way up to Field Hut, arriving at around 10pm, where we were met by another four trampers who were getting ready for their weekend adventure.

Saturday 11 February

In the morning we got up early to kick-start the day and left the hut at around 7.30am. It was a sunny, clear morning with just a slight breeze in the air. It wasn’t long before we hit the tops, where the views were amazing. With each step we took towards Kime Hut, the view got better and better. It was a clear, stunning day, and you could see Wellington, Kapiti Island and even the South Island!

Photo credit: Tracey
The spectacular view. Photo credit: Tracey

Once we got to Kime Hut, we took the opportunity to rest and soak up the sun – having an extra long break. We then made our way to Mt Hector (the highest point of our walk) where we tried to find shelter to eat our lunch.

Once we finished our lunch we started walking along the ridge, where we enjoyed the sun and the amazing views. I was quite thankful that the wind was non-existent in some parts of the walk, as the ridge was quite narrow in places.

Mt Hector. Photo credit: Michael.
The group taking in the view. Photo credit: Jozef
Making our way to Alpha Hut. Photo credit: Tracey

After the turn off to Elder Hut, we descended down off the tops and arrived at Alpha Hut just before 4pm. We made ourselves a hot cuppa and had some snacks while we waited for the other group who were coming from Marchant Ridge to arrive. Once the other group arrived, the hut was full of chatter and we swapped adventure stories. We then settled in and our group had Salmon Pasta for dinner, which was amazing.

Once the dark set in, everyone started making their way to bed for an early start the next morning.

Saturday 12 February

Very early in the morning we could hear Tash’s group quietly getting ready to complete the Southern Crossing and head out via Otaki Forks. Just after 6.30am I heard them leave and thought this was a good time to get up and put the billy on for breakfast. After about 15 mins, Tash’s group made their way back down to the hut after deciding to abort their walk due to the mist and wind – which was expected to pick up in the next hour or so. A plan was made with James (our leader) and they changed their route, deciding to return back to the Kaitoke Road end via the Omega track.

Our group then proceeded to get ready to start our walk, leaving Alpha Hut around 8am. Our plan was to head to Kaitoke Road end via Marchant Ridge. As we left the hut, the fog and mist was still in the air and we rugged up due to the cold. However, before long we were taking off our jackets and rain gear.

After a few undulations and a climb up from Hell’s Gate, we got to the Marchant Ridge turnoff. I have heard quite a few stories about Marchant Ridge, especially the fact that it is long and relentless. It did not disappoint!! We made our way to Marchant Peak to have our lunch and look out at the views, as the fog and mist had disappeared.

Making our way to Mt Marchant. Photo credit: Jozef
Photo credit: Jozef
The Goblin forest. Photo credit: Tracey

After lunch, the track started dropping quite steeply into the forest and we came to the intersection with the Dobson Loop Track. We arrived back at the car park at around 3.30pm, and waited for the other group as they had the keys to Tash’s car. We made a plan for how to get eight trampers into a five-seater car.

The other group arrived shortly after. We were able to convince a lone driver to take a few trampers back to the Upper Hutt Train Station, as we started to make our way back to the Wellington Train Station.

Overall it was a fantastic trip and I was able to tick the Southern Crossing off my bucket list!!

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