Sunrise Hut to Sparrowhawk Biv

‘Is that a dog inside?! Fiona called out.

It was still dark and there were murmurings and skuttlings in the kitchen. Our stuff was all over the place…neatly…but you know dogs.

‘Take it outside please!’

Hunters, up early for the roar? We’d heard the stags roaring the day before. We heard more shuffling and quiet murmuring but no reply. Young hunters.

I got up to apologise for the welcome.

‘Are youse up here early for some hunting?’ I asked.

‘We’re from Taradale High School and we’re here to see the Sunrise’, was the slightly worried response.

‘Whoops, you probably don’t have a dog then’, I thought to myself as I tried to make them feel welcome. They probably thought the hut was full of grumpy old wrinklies.

‘No need to whisper…we’re getting up anyway’, I said.

As we rose, first a trickle, then a flood of teenagers came into the hut. They’d been fly-camping under tarps down at TripleX Hut. Eventually the teachers arrived and we all had breakfast…or Pringles…or whatever the young folk eat these days.

They were year thirteen and doing a module on risk assessment. They were also there to see the sun rise.They were also enjoying themselves.

The reason I was there with them was because of a similar experience. As a fifteen year old at Freyberg High school in Palmy I’d joined the school tramping club. Mr Saunders, a very brave man, took me and a few classmates up to Kime Hut in the Tararua Ranges for our first tramp. I didn’t really enjoy the walk, or even remember much of it…but I did fall in love with the feeling of being on a mountain.

Back then I took an early morning photo from just above Field Hut that had tussock in the foreground and deep beech valleys below. Caught between the gold and dark green were puffy white clouds. That photo was what I always thought of when I thought about tramping as I grew up and got older. Fiona and I only started tramping again in our mid forties, but for me that teenage introduction was the spark that lit the raging bush fire we were in the middle of that morning at Sunrise Hut. I’m pretty sure there will be a few Taradale High kids with some embers glowing after that day too.

Taradale High Kids assessing risk.

The sunrise was amazing. I’ve now got more than a Kodak Instamatic, and the kids nearly all had their phones out filming. It was nice having company and we enjoyed seeing the way the kids hung out with their teachers. It was all pretty relaxed.

We eventually extracted ourselves from the tangle, and one of the Mr Smiths, a Search and Rescue volunteer, and one of the boys, came out to see us off up Armstrong Saddle.

Hopefully we won’t be seeing Mr Smith any time soon!

Neck high leatherwood.

Ruahpehu before lunch

Yet again we weren’t in for much of a walk…three peaks in all. But we knew one of the peaks had a pretty rough bush bash up to it. Unless we found the ribbons.

You’re probably sick of reading me moaning about unmaintained tracks. This wasn’t one of them. It was unmaintained, but it is not a track as such…it’s a ‘route’. No one is responsible for the maintenance of routes…unless its a ‘poled route’. Confused? Let’s just say that it may have been a track once…but times have changed.

Trail Angels tend to be out in the open with their generosity. Trail Fairies are altogether more private. Their little and not-so-little acts of kindness can go a long way to making a hiker’s day go from misery to happiness. Today’s Trail Fairy shall remain completely anonymous, but we think we might know who it is…possibly.

We also know that their act of kindness has been felt by at least three long distance hikers this season, possible more.

Trail fairy ribbon.

Joel, from Nichols Hut, loved the trail the orange ribbons led him on, through tough Leatherwood and thick stunted beech. Magnus and Sarah, who we’d dragged home from Sunrise after burying our stash, also appreciated the Fairy’s efforts with ribbon and clippers.

As we walked up our second peak for the day it was hard to find a way through the vegetation, but after a bit of a look around I spotted an old piece of permalat (track marker made from ex-venetian blinds) nailed to a tree. Soon after that the Trail Fairy’s work led us safely through a mess of thick and scratchy shrubs, cutty grass, bush lawyer and trees.

Thank you Trail Fairy. You made our day.

Armstrong Saddle

As we climbed to the top of Marapeia, a Karearea floated on the shifting air looking for prey below. It was the second we’d seen in the ranges, the first we’d seen doing exactly the same off the shredded peaks of Broken Ridge.

The earworm for the rest of the day was ‘Bird of Prey’ by Jim Morrison.

We arrived at the appropriately named Sparrowhawk Biv at 1pm.


It’s famous for its porch cum kitchenette and the dog box that hangs off the back. If you needed to classify it architecturally you’d have to say that is from the ‘Weird School’ of government buildings.

Inside Sparrowhawk

Outside Sparrowhawk

But it was home for the night and it had an adequate library. After we held an impromptu Palmy Prickle Pulling Posse working bee we sat down to read New Zealand Rod and Rifle (Fiona knows heaps about killing stuff now), Farmers Weekly (really good journalism although the hatred for urbanites and greenies in the op-ed section can get a little wearisome) and ‘Dangerous Woman’, a good collection of short stories by the likes of Jay McInerney, Ian Rankin and Ed McBain that is designed to look like a trashy 50’s crime novel. Sadly much of it had been used to start the outside fire.

We were cold but entertained as the day died out.

PS- We really want to meet the Firearms Lawyer who advertises in the hunting mags…he must be New Zealand’s own Better Call Saul.

‘Better Call Nick! Quick!’