Spine of the Fish  Day 20: a short walk in the rain

The art of slow walking is harder to master than you’d think…but Fi and Anthony are experts.

Waipawa Forks Hut to Sunrise Hut

You may have figured by now that we’re not ultralight, ultrafast or ultra-driven hikers. We’re Slobos (rhymes with hobos). We’re not doing this to break a land speed record or ‘smash miles!’ as many through-hikers proudly proclaim in hut books.

We’re doing this to tickle the spine of the island we live in. We’re here to breath the air, meet the people and feel the rock under our boots. Sometimes we smash a few kilometres out of some random need for speed, but we’re more than happy to plod.

For now.

That’s why we didn’t feel bad taking a leisurely stroll up the hill from Waipawa Forks Hut to Sunrise. It took us two hours on a wet miserable day to wander up a wonderfully benched track to one of the Ruahine Range’s most accessible and popular huts.

Communicating with the outside world, Sunrise Hut

While the Hut book at Waipawa Forks read like something from the movie Deliverance, the Sunrise Hut book was full of joy and incredulity from a wide range of people of all ages and from all over the world. Children are particularly well represented with families and school groups in abundance.

People do literally go there to see the sun rise. Apparently it’s quite a scene early on New Year’s Day.

As we walked up to the hut the first thing I noticed was a stoat trap containing a massive (dead) stoat. We’d left our screw driver at Longview so had to leave the stoat there…but I knew I’d have to get at it later. If there’s one stoat there will be others, so I can never pass a trap without resetting it – unless it belongs to some other conservation group. This one had no ownership details so I took it to be just a hut trap. My hut trap.

We dumped our gear and went outside to the helipad and our third food stash. I grabbed the hearth shovel and started digging.

The three containers sat a few inches under the gravel in what looked like perfect condition. Once opened at the kitchen table we were relieved to find everything, including the tasty Cheddar, to be in fine working condition. A fire was lit and the 24 bunk hut, empty but for us, was soon warm. A small party ensued, but we saved the whiskey until after I figured out how to get into the stoat trap.

An entry in the hut book from two nights earlier had described seeing a large ‘ferret’.

‘So we set the trap’, it also said with no clue left as to how they’d done it. Two of them were French…a culture I’ve heard can be quite crafty…and secretive.

There was nothing in the hut but a piece of number 8 fencing wire and an axe to loosen the square-drive screw. This seemed like my chance to see whether the mythical New Zealand ‘ingenuity gene’ was part of my makeup. I used the axe to beat the end of the wire into a square shape and waddaya know? It worked! Well, not the opening of the trap part of the problem, but the shaping of the wire problem. It fitted perfectly but couldn’t budge the screw.

Hmmmm.

Back inside for a coffee and a think. Back outside with the frying pan. I jimmied the nail that acts as a swivel up and hey presto! I was in. And what a bizarre sight.

The clever French are also known for their Cordon Bleu cooking and instead of the usual kiwi-style hen egg or mouldy rabbit jerky, a Five Star Michelin Meal of fresh strawberries and cooked chicken sat enticingly behind the trap mechanism.

Strawberries and chicken the perfect attraction

Quelle surprise! The French have solved our predator problem!

The stoat was one of the heaviest I’ve lifted out of a trap. Good riddance I guess. Inside for that celebratory whiskey.

A very heavy stoat



While walking the mountains of Aotearoa in my kilt I often get asked about my Scottish heritage. My grandfather WAS Glaswegian but that’s not why I’m wearing it. I’m wearing it cos it’s a damn fine piece of tramping clobber.

One guy in Ashhurst, a few days previously, was so sure of my Scottishness that after speaking with him for ten minutes he still asked me what part of Scotland I came from. My New Zild eccent uz quoite brord so I’m not sure what planet he was from.

Later in the day a Farmlands rep stopped his ute in the middle of the Pohangina Valley Road to ask about ma wee skirt. Disappointed in my accent he apologized for driving past my missus. What am I getting at here?

I am not only a ‘fake’ kilt wearer, but I’m so un-Scottish that I can’t stand whiskey. My great grandfather would not be proud, but I can only drink the stuff with mixers. Fine mixers like Coke, Budget Cola or Fanta. It doesn’t matter how good a dram is, I need something to wash it down with.

Ironically Fiona, who’s ancestors were Presbyterian teetotallers, usually enjoys a neat nip of the stuff.

That evening in Sunrise Hut, before we turned in, we mixed our Isle of Islay Whiskey with a sachet of Raro powder and fine smoky Ruahine Hut tank water. It was delish.

Wilderlife