I had a gap between jobs so I seized the opportunity to go tramping (like any normal person). I’ve wanted to go to the Tararuas for a while so I set off for a loop going from Otaki Forks, around the main peaks and back.
Otaki Forks is a very picturesque picnic spot near Levin. There is a lodge there that you can stay in at the road end using a hut pass, and there are quite a few day walks in the area.
The area still shows a lot of signs of farming, and reminded me a lot of the Bridge to Nowhere scenery. The track to Waitewaewae hut follows an old tramway.
There are still large sections of track and even an engine left.
When you are just getting used to the lovely wide, flat track follow the big orange detour. There’s been a slip so the track has been re-routed around it. After that the track turns in to a more usual grade and follows a stream for a few km. The markers cross over quite a lot but you could just go straight up the stream if you wanted. After a few more ups and downs there is Waitewaewae Hut. This took me 5 hours.
It sleeps 20, has a stoves, and several kennels. Just past the hut is a good spot on the river bank for a swim, and about 100m on is a large sandy area for bathing.
The next day the weather was still good. The track crosses a stream and then goes straight up for about 4 km.
The different ages of permolats are a nice detail. Overall the track is in very nice condition with very little mud.
Once out of the bushline the view goes from Kapiti Island to Wanganui.
From here the hut is only a few km away. It took me 4 ½ hours to reach.
Anderson Memorial Hut was well stocked with property investment and hunting magazines and a small stove. It sleeps 6. There are a lot of pots here if you want to do some fancy cooking.
Overnight the weather closed in. There is a warning on the information panel at the start of the track that the tops are only clear about 80 days per year, and the mist is thick – visibility was only 50-100m. The first section of track is in the bush but then it’s back above the bushline. The conditions were MAD. The track is very narrow in places and not well marked – there’s a cairn about every km. Some sections require a bit of climbing and if you have vertigo you may not like the sheer drops on each side.
The track is very undulating. When you start seeing snow poles you’re almost there. It took me 5 ½ hrs.
Maungahuka Hut sleeps 10 and does NOT have a stove. Apparently DOC has reduced the condensation problem but it is still damp and the drying line is nearly useless. There are several Readers’ Digest books here. Brace yourself before going to the long drop because it is full of mould.
The next day the rain had stopped but visibility was still only 50m. After a few km there is one of the highlights of the track – the 22m Tunui ladder.
As you go up you can see remnants of the old chains that the ladder replaced. This section was very nice because there were steps, chains, ropes, etc and the terrain was better than some of the sections with no help at all. Then you go back to vertical sections with nothing but your wits to keep you on the rock face. If you want to go to Penn Creek you need to keep a good eye out for the turnoff – I missed it, but all the other turnoffs had large DOC signs. They are discouraging people from using the track because it has had several slips and people have had to be rescued.
After lunch the weather became RIDICULOUSLY TERRIBLE – hail, rain, and wind that nearly blew me off the track. The track was quite overgrown at Boyd-Wilson but once again near the hut the snow poles appeared, spaced just close enough to see them in the fog.
The track comes out to a home-made crossroads and the official DOC junction sign is about 500m up the track towards Kime. It took me 5 ½ hrs.
Kime Hut also lacks a stove and also has a dampness problem. It is a strange design but sleeps 20 and has a boot room. There is also a hole in the wall (built-in) between one of the lower bunks and the kitchen (so you can have breakfast in bed??). Some people have mentioned that it is cold but I didn’t find it bad (in March).
The next day I woke up to this:
Although there was frost on the long drop seat.
The track is in very good condition going back down to Otaki Forks – gravel, boardwalks, banking, etc. The view is fantastic.
On the way down I passed Field Hut, the oldest purpose-built tramping hut in NZ.
This sleeps at least 20 and HAS A STOVE.
It took me 4 hours to get down to Otaki Forks, including a billion stops to take photos.
Overall this track is a good challenge – if you’re mad or the weather is good you could do it in 3 days during daylight saving time. You get most of the views on the way up to Kime, so this would be a good overnight tramp. It’s also close to Wellington so you could have a stop in there, like I did, to look at the takahe in the Karori Wildlife Sanctuary.
Zealandia is A RIP so don’t bother paying the extra.