Oamaru Hut to Taupo

Poronui Station before the rain really set in…

We set the alarm for 5am, apparently it was the end of daylight saving so our morning started an hour later than we’d hoped for, which was a good thing as we would’ve woken up an hour too soon if we knew what was going on in the real world.

We polished off our coffee and muesli, packed our gear and headed off into the wet and dark morning. If we’d left any earlier we wouldn’t have been able to see anything.

It had been raining since five the night before and our only river crossing of the day proved slightly treacherous. We linked arms and struggled up the steep bank on the northern side of the Kaipo River where it joined the Oamaru River. We entered our last beech forest for a while as the rain dropped heavily through the tall trees. We weren’t wearing coats as it was still warm and we were saving our “good” clothes for our hitchhiking.

It wasn’t long until we left the cover of the trees for grasslands and the start of the track through Poronui Station. It was clearly marked and is a really good example of landowners being accommodating to the needs of trampers.

The four hour walk through the station took us through a very diverse business operation that included pine and gum plantation, beef farming, fishing and or hunting lodges and some very exclusive looking stables. Toward the end of the private road walk we were walking through countryside with wide mown verges. It looked like a golf course.

As we passed through its magnificent stone gates we signed the visitor’s book. Traffic on the road was very minimal…most of it consisting of either one Porsche Cayenne going up and down the road several times or a convention of automotive reviewers out test driving a fleet of the things. We didn’t put our thumbs out for a lift. We felt that we probably didn’t smell right at the time.

After three hours of drizzle, solid rain and a cold wind set in. By the time we passed the Helisika base…the place all the hunters were getting their chopper rides from…we were starting to get cold. I had to put my raincoat on but Fiona managed to stick with her umbrella – an ultralight hiker brolly she’d picked up from the Lower Wairaki Hut in Southland as we walked Te Araroa.

A few kilometres on and we were ready to hitch. We were walking past a deer farm where two large stags paced back and forth behind tall wire roaring despondently. It was starting to feel a bit grim.

‘Klint and Terry should be coming out soon,’ I suggested hopefully. Their chopper ride from Te Puke Hut was scheduled for sometime that day. Fiona laughed as she had just had the same desperate thought. Five minutes later we were in their ute. We hadn’t made it to the Napier-Taupo Highway as we’d planned but neither of us was worried. They were heading to Napier but Klint being the gentleman that he is couldn’t leave us on the side of the road in the rain so we soon found ourselves flying toward the big smoke of Taupo.

Klint had shot a hind so had come away from the break satisfied…even though we reckon they would’ve called the trip a success anyway. Sometimes it’s just good to get away from it and Te Te Pukeohikarua Hut seemed like an A-grade place to do just that. They dropped us on Taupo’s main drag and headed off for a feed while we walked straight across the road and into a backpackers.

‘We’re not booking a dorm room are we?’ I checked, knowing full well that it’s good to get these things sorted long before the credit card comes out. Fiona’s frozen fingers were soon punching in her PIN number.

A few minutes later we found ourselves on the top floor with a room, and most importantly, a huge bathroom all to ourselves.  A few minutes later and the owners of the joint wouldn’t have recognised the place. As the pile of stinking wet gear grew in the corner of the bathroom we took turns to shower and watch the TV.

We’d made it across the Kaipo River just in time. As the rain fell outside we learned that the weather was bad enough to be named. We’d got to civilisation just as Cyclone Debbie struck the North Island.