4th June – Mangatutu Hot Springs to Te Puia Lodge and Mangatinoka Hot Springs
Total Walking Time – 2.5hours
Total Hot Pool Time – 2.5hours
After a long drive our group arrived at the Mangatutu Hot Springs camping ground at around 1:30am on a very cold evening. Our road weariness and the cold, hard ground meant that pitching our tents was much more of an effort than normal.
In the morning the entire camping ground was frozen white. My shoes, which I had left slightly outside the tent fly, were hard, cold blocks. Most people had feet which were painfully numb. A man held out his frozen solid swimming togs. We hobbled our way down to the hot pools and thawed our feet.
After warming up, we proceeded towards Te Puia Lodge. The walk is reasonably straight forward and involves a nice track that follows the river. There is a small bit of uphill but nothing major. It takes about two-three hours to get to the hut.
Upon our arrival at the lodge around 2:00pm, there was still a heavy frost on the adjacent grasses and it was bitterly cold. We had intended to go to the Mangatinoka Hot Springs campsite for the night but decided it might be warmer at the Lodge. We quickly grabbed some bunks as it looked like the place would be very busy that evening.
A few of us did the half hour walk over to the Hot Springs. It was considerably warmer on that side of the river valley. The pools were nice and refreshing. Ideally you would have a couple of beers and watch the stars for the evening but there is always next time.
5th June – Te Puia Lodge to Makino Hut
Total Walking Time – 4 hours
Total Hot Pool Time – 1 hour
It was another cold morning. After a leisurely breakfast and additional soak at the Hot Springs, we began our ascent up to Makino Hut. This was reasonably steep with a small traverse across some scree before flattening out into a gentle walk to the hut. It takes about two hours.
The hut sits in a small clearing and is a fantastic place for lunch in the winter sun. After lunch, we had a few hours up our sleeve so we decided to try make it onto the tops. After walking for around an hour and a half, and having been reliably informed of the time required by another WTMC group, we turned around and headed back to the hut.
At the hut the temperature had dropped to a similar level of Friday night. Our team worked together and cut up wood for the evening fire. We cooked our food and, when combined with a hot fire, turned the hut into a mini sauna complete with moisture running down the sloped ceilings.
6th of June 2016 – Makino Hut to Mangatutu Hot Springs
Total Walking Time – 3 hours
Total Hot Pool Time – 45 minutes
The pattern of cold mornings continued on the final day. Our fire had nearly died over night but we quickly restarted it, packed up our stuff, ate breakfast and departed at 8:00am. The air under the forest canopy was frigid as we walked towards the road turn off. The walking track is generous and well-designed making it difficult to exert one’s self enough to properly warm up.
The trail ends with a short section on the road to the main car park. The road was very heavily frosted in parts but nothing particularly dangerous.
When we arrived back at the car park, we jumped into the hot pools and talked to our fellow WTMC trampers. There were 24 from the club in the Kawekas that weekend who all convened on the hot pools that morning. On the drive back to Wellington pretty much all 24, plus the fifteen or so who had went to the Ureweras, ended up having afternoon tea at MacCauley’s store, Otane.