Every school used to have one…a ‘Murder House’. I’m talking about old-school dental clinics. They tended to all look the same: small buildings away from the rest of the school, with high windows so no one could see the slaughter within. They were painted in institutionally bland colours and outfitted in vinyl and veneer.

The ‘Murder House’

They must’ve all been designed by the same government architectural office that put together the plans for Waipawa Forks Hut, and it’s cousin down the road Triplex Hut.

Our home for that Zero Day had the same soulless, dull aura about it as the Murder Houses of our childhoods. It even had the same small windows. It could be a glorious day outside and you wouldn’t know it.

When we’d arrived the night before we weren’t impressed and shuffled into our room so depression couldn’t overtake our exhaustion. Unusually the hut had two separate bunk rooms with a kitchen and verandah keeping them apart. We chose the bunk room that didn’t smell.

In the morning the murderous theme continued.

Hut books are great places to gauge the backcountry. You can read about routes, weather and wildlife. You can see who’s been through and when the hut last got a cleanup from DOC.

Sadly you can also read the rantings of idiots. The person/people who’d stayed before us were exactly that, and they were also assholes.

On the 11th of March, according to the hut book, three people stayed overnight.

Named ‘Jon Zendatta’ and ‘Steven Rizzo’ -characters from Hill Street Blues perhaps?- they were both opinionated and not very good at maths. I’m picking that they’d just been ejected from the Waipukarau branch of the New Zealand Libertarian Society for being a bit too opinionated.

‘What a crap job “DOC” Department of C**** have done with 1080, you bastards along with National Gov have just rooted this country.”

If you’re feeling squeamish alreadty stop reading now. ..

‘I always carry a switchblade just in case I come across DOC or a government worker while tramping, watch out you pricks.’

There are cameras at the carpark into Waipawa Forks Hut. If they actually work it wouldn’t be too hard to figure out who this idiot (with quite nice handwriting) is.

He was probably just joking and thinks of himself as a really nice bloke… Fiona, a government worker didn’t think share that opinion. That DOC staff have to put up with this sort of menacing behaviour in isolated parts of New Zealand is a worry. I’ll use one more word just to make sure you really know how we feel. It was repugnant.


Firestarters: twigs and inner-tube


We’d woken late, ate breakfast, had a strong coffee then collected firewood. After breaking it all up and stacking it we celebrated with a wash in the river. It’s a bit of an ugly river but the erosion it causes creates a lot of sand so standing in its flow as we washed was quite pleasant. Sharp rocks often make river bathing a painful experience.

When we got back we lit the fire, washed our clothes then proceeded to make the Murder House decor our own. I set the designer’s eye to it by moving what little furniture there was out from its corners before adding the ‘lounge suite’. The one good thing about the hut’s design is the amount of empty space it has in the kitchen. Against the wall opposite the nice new wood stove I placed three DOC mattresses in a pile before propping one up behind them.

We were set for the day.

Fiona read her Jack London three-for-all, we ate, snoozed and generally recharged…both ourselves and our batteries.

The lounge suite

Jack London threesome

As one of my 10000 milliamp batteries failed we realised that this whole trip is about managing energy. We were totally reliant on electronics, food, gas and wood. It wouldn’t take much to throw our plans into disarray.

While I write this Fiona is mucking around in the bedroom. It’s raining, as it has been all day, the rats are rustling in the ceiling and the possums are getting ready for more roof racing when it gets dark.

The candles are on and the fire is dying down. I think we’ve almost recovered from yesterday.