Spine of the Fish  Day 30: Forest Park or Holiday Park?

We leave one superb hut for another…and another…

Te Pukeohikarua Hut to Boyd Hut

Terry and Klint had flown in to their little orange glory box for a few days of hunting. Terry’s knees aren’t what they used to be so he was more than happy to spend the day on the deck glassing his domain while Klint went out to find an elusive Sika or three. Terry was also happy to be the camp ‘kitchen bitch’…a highly esteemed role.

It’s a pretty good way to spend time away from the stresses of everyday life. The chopper meant they had everything they needed and the companies that do the ferrying in and out make sure the great little huts in the Kaweka Holiday Park don’t get overcrowded. It’s a pretty good system. When my knees are buggered I hope it’s still around.

Hawkes Bay DoC have done an amazing job of maintaining and upgrading the huts that we’ve passed through on this part of the trip. They are bright and cheerful beacons of togetherness from a government department that struggles, for various reasons, to cope with the huge responsibilities and difficulties that it has.

We were in for another big day so headed off to the next hut as soon as I could get my act together. Fiona always has her act together in the morning so the pressure is always on me to perform. It was a hard day for me. I just didn’t have the juice.

How to use Clown Shoes

Negotiating Tussock Stream

The first hut of the day, Harkness Hut, sat a couple of hours after Te Pukeohikarua in amongst a quite complex series of stream crossings. Trampers…real trampers…never take their boots off when crossing streams or rivers. It’s not cool and it’s usually a waste of time in New Zealand…one of the wettest countries in the world. We on the other hand are hikers and had spent nearly three weeks with our feet soggy and wet. We’d finally got our boots and socks dry three nights before and we were revelling in the sensation of it all. Fiona’s track notes and maps weren’t very clear on how many times we had to cross the stream so we put on our river shoes.

‘What!? River shoes? What a couple of wusses!’ I hear the elite of the tramping world mutter to themselves as they read this drivel. Our river shoes only weigh about 200 grams a pair and they double as hut shoes. They also triple as ridiculous looking town shoes. We call them our clown shoes because of their garish colours…mine are scarlet and Fiona’s are bright blue. We’re going to be looking good when we hit Taupo.


We took off our boots at the first crossing of the Ngaawaparua Stream, put them on again on the other side then had to take them off again forty metres later. Realising that  we were likely to spend the rest of the day doing this on our way to the hut we decided to leave our clown shoes on and carry our boots for the next 500 metres to Harkness.

Ngaawapurua Stream

Harkness Hut looks about as ridiculous as my clown shoes. Obviously there was no proper Rescue Orange paint at Mitre 10 when it was due for its last paint because it’s now coloured fluoro orange. Yet again it was immaculately kept but it also contained five hunters and their gear so the effect was slightly spoiled. There was stuff everywhere.

The GHD boys at Harkness Hut.

The lads from GHD’s Napier office were in the Kaweka for a hunt, some time out and a bit of bow and arrow target practice. Aaron was up the valley fishing and the others were making moves to pack up for a 1.00pm lift out. No one had got any deer but one of the two Ben’s had caught the biggest trout he’d ever snagged. It was also the only trout he’d ever snagged and it was massive. The stream isn’t very big but it runs deep, fast and has good pools.

One of the Bens and his trout, his first catch

We were informed that we had about twenty more stream crossings for the day so put our boots back on. The imaginary elite of the tramping world were right. There’s usually no point taking your boots off in New Zealand.

We left the guys to it -after they gave us a couple of beers- and discovered that twenty crossings was a gross under-exaggeration…if such a word exists.

But the valley we walked through to find this out was so nice it didn’t matter. Tussock Stream is very similar to Ngawaparua Stream but it flows through a steep and sunny valley full of manuka, tussock and a good variety of shrubs.

We did get pretty tired walking the three hours to Tussock Hut but it wasn’t the track’s fault. We were just buggered…something I’ve probably mentioned.

As we ate our lunch an hour from the hut we sat and watched a Karearea loudly stalking its own lunch. We didn’t see the kill but there was some frantic, noisy circling and a dive before everything went silent. We’d promised to treat ourselves to an instant coffee at Tussock Hut so ploughed on up the valley after lunch. Well, Fiona ploughed while I wobbled.

An hour later we were there…at one of the most pimped-out 6 bunk Ex-Forest Service huts we’d ever seen. The pristine little orange box was lined, had a fresh coat of paint and a three sided return verandah. It also had an outside kitchen as well as an inside preparation area and large dining table.

A spa pool, sauna room, pool table and four car garage full of 4x4s wouldn’t have looked out of place. Its two inmates were out doing whatever hunters do when they go out and had left the place in a shambles, their shit was everywhere. There was enough food to feed a family of four for a week and at least one slab of Woodies. Cracked Woodies lay around outside as we drank our instant coffees. I’m ashamed to say that I purloined a couple of teaspoons of sugar. Actually I take that back. I happily nicked a bit of sugar in the knowledge they wouldn’t notice or care.

Tussock Manor pantry…

Tussock Manor quarters…

We love the amazing huts in the Kaweka…but it was all starting to get a bit much. Compared to the Ruahine hut system it seemed like a state sponsored holiday park…which I guess is what it is. Am I just feeling a little jealous as I compare it to the mouldy, leaky and gloomy Iron Gate Hut that we rely on for our volunteer conservation work up the Oroua? Without wanting to sound like a whinger…yes.

We left Tussock Estate and climbed 150 metres on the day’s last two hour leg to Boyd Hut with our music blasting. The distracting rhythms and the long smooth spur down to the valley that Boyd sits in were a relief.

‘If you want to destroy my sweater/

Hold this thread as I walk away’…another great walking song…this time by Weezer.

Going down to Ngararoro River

The valley we entered was a complete surprise. It’s a wide, almost glacial valley with canyon-like walls of pumice that tower dozens of metres above the beautiful and gentle Ngarurororo River. As we walked up it to the hut it really reminded us of a hike we’d done in the Arctic valleys of Sweden’s Kungsleden (King’s Trail). It’s a great place for a great walk…but shhhh…don’t tell anyone.

Fiona commented that she felt isolated and remote. We knew we were no longer in the Kaweka…we had entered the Kaimanawa. I don’t usually direct Fiona for the photos I take…I try to keep it natural. But as we came to the river crossing that passed in front of a 40metre pumice cliff I thought it would be good to get a photo of her walking with the white cliffs towering behind.

‘Wait there and I’ll go into the river and get you as you cross,’ I called out.

The Ngaruroro was only a few centimetres deep so I strode out purposely.

And slipped. As I fell the cost of my camera and lens flashed before my eyes. As I went down I could only think of them and the card with all of our photos on it. As I fell I held the camera above my head. The force of the fall went into my shin. I was wet up to my neck and my pack was sodden. Bruised, bleeding and sodden I got the shot and my little Sony and not-so-little Zeiss lens lived to tell the tale.

We had left the domain of the Hawkes Bay DoC office and sadly the change of jurisdiction meant we got lost. The poled route we were expecting barely eventuated. The ground trail degenerated into deer trail and after consulting the GPS we found ourselves climbing near vertical pumice cliffs to regain the digital trail Fiona had thankfully loaded before we left. Exhausted and angry* we swore and plodded the steep path up to the hut.

Hut rat garlic, Boyd Hut

No one was home but there was evidence of occupation. The very tidy Dave and Russ turned up from a fruitless hunt. We ate tea together, yacked about 1080, the dairy industry and the amazing place we’d found ourselves at before turning in. We also lamented the fact that the Herculean effort of the past two days had only given us about 10 kilometres of northward progress.

As the lights went out the hut ruru started looking for breakfast.

* Anger is a strange thing in the bush. It’s common for violent outbursts to get directed at everyone and everything except the idiot who fell into the river…or walked into a hole…or ripped open his leg. All is usually forgiven once a hut is reached.

Wilderlife