The tramp to Waitewaewae Hut on the Saturday took us approximately 8 ½ hours, and 6 ½ on the Sunday. We believe we walked about 15kms each way, and may have got to over 600 meters above sea level.
We started from Otaki Forks at the swing bridge by the picnic area. We crossed the swing bridge which hovers over the Waiotauru River and followed the track up through bush for 10 minutes, over farmland for 20 minutes, and then down a little gravel track to the second swing bridge. From there we walked through forest and tussock land up the side of the hill for about 40 minutes. During this time the track winds along the edge of a big slip, which was far too close for comfort for the author. Then we hit the treeline.
From the treeline we followed a flat track with bits of old railway line on it for about 20 minutes. We then came to a fork in the track, with the new track leading up into the hills, and the old track leading to the slip. This next part was long and gnarly – we called it “the big slog”. We had to climb over lots of tree roots and splash through lots of muddy patches. We were on the big slog for around 3 hours. In the middle of it is a particularly bad patch, maybe lasting for half an hour, where the track gets quite skinny. At the end of the big slog the track the track flattened out for a bit on the Plateau.
We had glorious weather on the Saturday. There was lots of sweating and much water consumed, particularly by the author. Day light savings enabled us to get to the hut at 5.30pm while the sun was still shining. Sunday was overcast and began to get quite drizzly from about 10.00am onwards. However we were protected from much of it by the trees. After a wee steep bit at the end of the Plateau we crossed a creek and ended up in a flat clearing
with a large orange triangle pointing the way to the hut. We crossed the creek two more times in quick succession, before beginning “the medium slog” to the hut. This bit lasted around 2 hours. There was a lot of up and down, broken up by a few wee streams. Eventually, we stumbled across a sign saying “new hut”. We took around 20-30 minutes to follow the track down to the river before we saw the hut.
Waitewaewae is a very nice hut. It has bunks for 16 people, and an extra mattress. When our group of six arrived there was only five bunks left, but Garth the trip leader very kindly slept on a mattress on the floor. There is a fireplace, a nice big table and benches, and a big clear plastic box with emergency/left-over bits and pieces in it. There is a sink and tap outside on the deck of the hut. There is also one long drop. Apparently there is shed where you can hang animals that you’ve hunted. Being vegetarian I did not explore this. Our hut mates for the night were a couple leading four boy scouts on an overnight trip, another couple, two foreign boys doing the tramp in their sneakers, and a man out hunting. All were very nice.
Garth was the trip leader, and Natasha, Yvonne, Caryl, Richard and me (Aimee) made up the rest of the group. This was my first tramp with the Wellington Tramping Club. I definitely underestimated the difficulty of the track and overestimated my own level of fitness. I also had an old ankle injury that flared up and slowed the group down. I surrendered my pack on the first day about 20 minutes before the hut, and Yvonne kindly took some weight off me the second day. But despite all this, I had a great time. I felt really supported and looked after by the whole group. They lent me strapping tape, nurofen, and gave up their water for me. Yvonne even found me a fantastic stick that sped me up the second day! Natasha made us a vegetarian couscous on Saturday that was delicious – she is tramping master chef. Garth weighed himself down with lots of fancy chocolates and biscuits for dessert. Poor Caryl forgot her lunch for both days. But we solved that by filling her up with couscous.
All in all a difficult, but rewarding tramp.