Date: 11 December
Trail covered: 19.9km (kms 1570.1 to 1590.0)
Weather: rather hot
The big question today is: Is it possible to make it from Waitewaewae Hut to Waikanae in one day? Spoiler alert: yes, it is. Ethan and Alex managed it.
Quite often you see the hut referred to as YTYY. It took me longer than it should have to work out what that means.
Ethan and Alex left before me like often happens. I left at 8am and Rhydian left sometime after me. I was nervous about what was coming, because there were a lot of comments about it in the intentions book at the hut. In particular the section between the hut and Otaki Forks, which is about 9km. Some accounts say it takes five hours, some say nine. That’s slow going for 9km.
And I could see why – it was slow going from the very first kilometer. I was tripping over things from the start, and my back hurts today too. It might be a short day today; Waikanae is looking unlikely already at this rate (although that’s quite a defeatist attitude after only one kilometer).
The first kilometer took me 48 minutes, which I think might be the slowest ever. At least it’s the slowest where I’ve looked at my watch. During the second kilometer my back hurt so bad that I had to stop and take off the pack. That meant that kilometer number 2 took me 49 minutes. Yikes.
During the second kilometer I met a TA hiker going the other way. I stopped and asked her where she was going, and she said Nichols Hut. She was surprised when I said that it had taken me an hour and a half to get from Waitewaewae Hut to this point. She looked familiar, so I hope I hadn’t met her before and I couldn’t remember her. That would be embarrassing. But I follow a lot of people on Instagram so maybe she looks familiar from there.
I got a lot of practice at dodging fallen trees, like the ones above.
At one point, there are orange triangles all pointing you off the main Te Araroa trail and down a side path. This side path shows as a separate blue line on Guthook and is the first time I’ve seen this.
This sign does seem to suggest that the actual TA route is impassable right now, but I looked on “The Trail App” which is the official app put out by the Te Araroa Trust and there is no mention of this side route on there. Nor is it mentioned in the trail notes. But I trusted in the arrows and Guthook and followed the side route. It went up high and it was not well maintained at all. Lots and lots of large, fallen trees and more than once I said to myself “surely that’s not the way” but it turned out it was.
My 11am picture is just after this junction.
Because this side route was so slow going as well, kilometer 3 took 45 minutes, kilometer 4 took 34 minutes and kilometer 5 took 46 minutes. You can see the detour clearly on the map at the end of the post.
But once you reached the other end of the detour…
I could see railings in the ground.
I had high hopes. Does this mean it used to be an old railway line or tram line and therefore the path is groomed from here? Turns out yes! I read in the notes afterwards that it is an old tram line.
The path from here was indeed much easier going than the paths before it. Suddenly I came out into a clearing, which I hadn’t seen for a while now.
And there was another swingbridge. This one was quite nerve-wracking too, but the floor was wooden instead of metal wire so at least you felt like you were standing on something.
Then a bit where you really need to follow the app. There are paths cut into the grass, but the trail cuts right across the middle of the grass where there is no path. There are orange markers, but not many.
Just before Otaki Forks there is a sign to “Parawai Lodge”. This is just a hut like any other and it’s 3 or 4 minutes off the trail. I decided to go check it out. It was 2pm by this point and I had done less than 10km so I really ought to consider staying here a night. There were a couple of campsites a few kilometers further down the road but then nothing it seemed between here and Waikanae.
It was not a bad place. The grounds were excellent, and the hut itself was fairly standard.
I had a bit of lunch and ummed and ahhed about whether or not to go on. The trail notes said that the next big hill – Pukeatua – takes 6 or 7 hours, so I assumed I’d be able to do it in five. The notes also mention that at 20 Reikorangi Road, a few kilometers before Waikanae, there is an old church that you can just turn up at – it has mattresses inside and the owner just asks for a $10 donation. That would be another 90 minute road walk from the end of Pukeatua, and therefore I’d get there about 8:30pm. Possibly not polite to turn up that late. And I didn’t even consider the walk from the hut I was in to the start of Pukeatua, which is a few km of road walk. Doesn’t seem doable.
And I’d been looking forward to going to the first cafe out of the ranges – the cafe in the Reikorangi Pottery Centre. If I stay here tonight, then I’ll pass the cafe when its open tomorrow, whereas if I go on it will be closed by the time I get there tonight.
But then I read in the intentions book very recent entries that talk about “making friends with the rats”. That kind of put me off staying. I decided to push on. The worst that can happen is that I have to find somewhere to camp up on Pukeatua if it takes longer than expected.
I also saw from the intentions book that the girl was almost certainly Janina (if I’ve read her handwriting right). Nope, definitely haven’t met her before. Phew. And Alex and Ethan weren’t there. Given their desire to get to Waikanae I guess they didn’t have time to do the short detour.
I left the hut and crossed another swingbridge.
This one was much more blunt about what happens if you exceed the limit on the number of people.
There were cars on the other side. Back into civilisation, it seems!
I saw an American guy who was clearly a hiker just over the bridge. We talked and he said on Sunday just gone – the day with the torrential rain, he had been in a hut up on Mt. Taranaki and it was a terrible storm up there. Seems that the bad weather was everywhere that day. Right now he was getting ready to head into the Tararua Ranges, heading to some huts that I hadn’t heard of.
I got a bit lost trying to find where the path went from here but when I did I had a quick laugh at this sign.
I walked down the road a bit to the start of the Pukeatua Track. It was nice to be out of the Tararua Ranges… or so I thought.
The track up to Pukeatua was very steep in the beginning, but very well groomed.
Then it became less steep over time. I really liked this track. The forest was nice, it required a bit of effort but not too much, and because it was mostly well groomed I could get up to the top quite quickly. In fact it was 3pm when I started at the bottom of Pukeatua and 4:50pm when I got to the summit. So much for taking 6 or 7 hours to do the whole thing – I’d already done the uphill part in less than two hours! Maybe that meant the descent was hard?
I spent a small amount of time at the top admiring the view and searching for a geocache at the top which hadn’t been found since February (yes I found it). There were a lot of flies at the top though, and it wasn’t a very pleasant place to be.
I started the descent and I think the reason for all the flies became apparent.
The path for the descent was essentially the same as the path for the ascent. It was quite easy and didn’t require too much effort to get down, and what mud there was you could mostly just walk right through without sinking in it.
Although there were some fallen trees going down as well, as you can see.
But all the little breaks and extra bits meant that I was aware of the time. At 6:15pm I was doing sums in my head and at my current pace I wouldn’t get to this old church until 8:30 at the absolute earliest, and 9pm if the upcoming logging track wasn’t simple walking. I decided that was too late. I’m going to have to camp somewhere. And then not long after that thought I saw this:
Not wanting to piss off the landowner, I found the nearest flat ground that was not in the private property and set up my tent. I was on DOC land, there was no “no camping” sign that I saw on Pukeatua, and so I thought this would be kosher. It will be a fun night in the bush.
I didn’t have much water though, because I anticipated at least making it as far as the big stream at the bottom of the descent. And since I had anticipated getting to Waikanae tonight the only food I had left was “emergency food” – pasta, couscous, wraps and peanut butter. I didn’t have enough water to cook the pasta or couscous so wraps and peanut butter it was. Better than nothing.
Once I had that and brushed my teeth, it was about 7:15pm and I got into my tent. Flies had found the tent and were hanging around, so no way was I coming out of the tent again. The flies started coming up under the tent fly and then getting stuck between the tent and the tent fly, unable to get back out. There is not a lot that is more annoying than flies under your fly. You know that noise flies make when they’re trapped or dying? I had that coming at me from all sides. One fly even managed to get trapped between the tent and the groundsheet somehow. I really hoped that once the sun went down, the flies would stop all this noise, but for the next hour and a half I had to endure it while I caught up on blog entries.
Now our little group is really split up. There was cellphone reception from the Pukeatua summit onwards and so I learned that Alex and Ethan made it to Waikanae quite late and had booked a motel. I made it to here in the forest (officially part of Reikorangi according to Google), Rhydian will be in Otaki Forks somewhere (I assume in the Parawai Hut) and Peter and Charlie could be anywhere.
It’s kinda scary here at night. There are lots of noises but I think most of it is just wind blowing leaves onto the tent. There are lots of moreporks and quite a few other birds so they were making noise too. And the noise from the flies did die down. I hope that the flies aren’t in my shoes which are outside in the tent vestibule.
There’s only the last part of this descent to go, and then the Tararua Ranges are officially over. The next few days are gonna be great. Eating at cafes, getting milkshakes, walking down beaches – hopefully nice beaches! It will make a change from the Tararuas, that’s for sure.
One advantage of spending the night here is that I will actually get to go to the Reikorangi Pottery Cafe in the morning after all.
Today's walk on the map (blue = Te Araroa, red = today's walk):