This is the story of the hiking trip I just went on.
It started with Shell and I popping into the Department of Conservation (DOC) shop in Wellington and asking for advice on an easy and beautiful 3 to 4 day hiking trip suitable for a group of four hikers: two with no experience and two with a bit of experience.
They enthusiastically told us about the ever so easy, beginner suitable Holdsworth to Kaitoke track, and supplied us with maps, track guides, and DOC passes. They told us about how easy it was, and how it was a popular family track. Sounded perfect.
Day One – Holdsworth to Totara Flats Hut
We got up early, checked all of our equipment, loaded the car, and drove over the Wairarapa mountains, and parked at Holdsworth Lodge. Packs on, we started off.
And climbed. Up, and up, and up, and up, the ironically named “Gentle Annie” track. 30 minutes in we were all puffing, stopping every few steps, and seriously questioning why were were doing this.
We stopped at the top for views and a group (sans me) photo.
Refreshed, we set off again, on a downhill slope even steeper than the one we had climbed up.
And we went down, and down, and down, and down. For hours.
Then we crossed a stream. And hiked through a forest going steeply up over one ridge, and then steeply back down, to cross the streamlet at the bottom, and go up again. And it got darker, and darker, and darker. And we hadn’t reached the hut yet. And then it was totally dark, and we hiked with flashlights, for hours, and hours, and hours. And at 9:30 at night we finally reached the scary, swaying, one person at a time swing bridge, and the hut, and had dinner.
DOC estimation of hike time: 4 hours. Actual time taken: 8.5 hours
Day Two – rest at Totara Flats Hut
Basically, all I did was sleep, stagger to the loo, and eat. The rest of the group managed a tiny outdoor wander in addition to their eating, sleeping, and moaning. In the evening, we perked up enough to play cards with the teenage boy who was out in the woods on a hunting trip with his uncles. Much merriment, a bit of shouting, and a great deal of lying ensued.
Day Three – Totara Flats to Tutuwai Hut
In order to avoid tramping at night, we got up early, and set off from Totara Flats Hut at 9am. The track began easily, winding through the meadow-like flats along the river.
We went up over the a few ridges above the flats and the river, climbing steeply up and then down again
The valley edges moved closer and closer to the river, and the tramp became harder as we had to climb along the valley walls, or scramble over rocks at the rivers edge
We crossed numerous small streams, trying not too get our feet too wet on a cold, damp day
A few slips made the track harder, the loose shale was tricky to navigate, and the path not always clear
Despite the trickiness of the track, and the inclement weather, we kept our spirits high.
And then we started climbing again. Up, and up, and up, and up, through the woods, and away from the river.
And then my camera ran out of battery, and I realised I didn’t have a spare, so the rest of the photos are taken on The Naiad’s camera, which isn’t as good as mine. And it puts the wrong date on the photos 🙁
And the track kept rising. Not as much as the first day, but still enough for my vocabulary to decline to an astonishing degree. It’s amazing how unladylike I am when faced with the 14th steep incline of the day and wet shoes.
At least when you go up, you get good views. The whole walk was through breathtakingly beautiful scenery. Grassy meadows fringed by totara trees, lush forests dripping with a dozen different varieties of ferns. Thick carpets of emerald green moss beneath towering trees. Sheer cliffs dropping to rushing rivers, running clear over golden rocks. Every turn made you gasp again (though most of the time your breath was already used up in gasping for ordinary air!)
On reaching the top of the mountain, we were excited to discover that we had cell phone reception.
We were less excited to discover how much longer we still had to go.
Heading steeply downhill, we finally reached Cone Hut, a historic hut made from slabs of wood.
At this point my shoes were completely soaked through, two of my toes were suspiciously purple and swollen, and I just wanted to be dry and warm. So the other three lingered for a cup of tea at Cone Hut, and I forged on, hoping to reach Tutuwai Hut soon.
And finally, just before dusk, I reached Tutuwai Hut. Oh lovely happy civilisation! And the others? Well, they rolled in an hour later…after dark. Again.
And we all got to enjoy the company of a crazy old leisure hunter and his long-suffering son in law for the evening. They got helicoptered in. I think that is cheating.
DOC estimation of hike time: 5 hours. Actual time taken: 9 hours