Spine of the Fish  Day 48: away from the maddening crowds

The Kaimai Ridgeway track almost gets a little bit crowded.

Motutapere Hut to Te Rere-a-tukahia Hut

‘How did Justice get his name?’ I asked our hut mate over breakfast.

A few years back Mike had been hitching a lift and as he got out of the ute he’d caught a ride in he noticed a sack on the back move. When he asked about it the answer worried him.

In the sack was the runt of a pitbull-cross litter. The driver bred the dogs for money and didn’t think he could sell the sickly little thing. He was off fishing and thought dropping the dog off the side of the boat in a sack was a good solution to his unwanted spawn.

‘All I could think was: I’ve got to save that dog. I’ve got to save that dog,’ said Mike.

‘As he went to drive off I just asked him: can I have the dog? And he said yes. His head was as big as his body…he was so small. The woman I was staying with said he looked adorable when I got him home.’

‘I called him Justice,’ said a proud Mike.

He’s kept track of some of Justice’s litter and many haven’t been as fortunate as the much-loved and content dog. One had died of steroid overuse, a hazard of being a fighting dog, and two others spend all their days chained up. Ropes won’t hold them safely in their yards. As Justice snored away on Mike’s bed it was obvious being the runt of the litter isn’t always a bad thing.

While we packed up our gear the two of them headed off to see what they’d caught the night before. Their lives seemed simple and good.

We had another short day. My energy levels had returned and thankfully I almost felt normal. Fiona on the other hand was plagued by her biggest tramping handicap – her glasses.

When it’s hot and muggy they fog up from her sweat. When we’re in cloud they do the same thing. She has to stop constantly to wipe them and has broken one of her hinges. She’s quite blind without them and while tramping is often just about as blind with them. Today was humid AND cloudy so there was a fair bit of swearing.

Steel ladder 1


It made a change. I’d been the bigger cusser in recent times.

Climbing a kamai pinnacle


At 11.30 our work day was nearly over so we thought we’d treat ourselves to an early lunch. As we sat in a grassy clearing on a cloudy saddle Heather and Kevin came along the track.

Heather and Kevin at Te Rere a Tukahia Hut


We’ve been on the Spine of the Fish for about forty days and these two added to the small handful of active trampers we’d met on the trail.

Next time you hear someone complaining that the country’s mountains are being overrun by foreigners point them in the direction of the North Island’s empty peaks and valleys. Sure, some of its front country huts can get a bit crowded on long weekends but overrun? By anyone?

Nope.

The crowds only exist in places that get marketed or labeled as A-MAY-ZING or PURE. Stick the capitalised word Great in front of any walk and you’ve got a recipe for giardia, ciggie smoking but fit ex-IDF conscripts and teenage ‘freedom’ trampers. Come to the north if you want to experience real wilderness. Or go south and wander 200 metres off the tourist tracks. If you’re planning on getting away from it all in New Zealand, make sure you don’t read any guidebooks and you’ll be safe from the hordes.

We got to the hut before our new tramping buddies and met Justin, a mate of Mike’s from ‘down the road.’ He was bringing in some supplies and was going to spend the night at the hut too. The afternoon ended up being sunny so we all sat around yacking outside enjoying the fact that we weren’t walking anymore. Justin made his dropoff with Mike and the fire was set.

Te Rere-a-tukahia Hut is a bright yellow beacon in the Kaimai Ridgeway masterplan. It sits on relatively easy terrain and its hutbook is well used. The trust who maintain the huts and tracks in the area are working particularly hard on the track around the hut and it’s all coming together nicely.

A notice on the wall asks for firewood money to be donated through the Trust’s Give-a-little page because it costs them $3-4000 to chopper up a shed full of pine. In other parts of the country DoC supply Serviced Huts with their wood and charge an extra fee to overnighters.

Heather and Kevin hadn’t been able to buy hut tickets because ‘the DoC office is closed and they don’t seem to sell them anyway!’ We joked that since DoC seem to have abandoned the Kaimai they should just pay the Ridgeway Trust the ticket money.

The hut has cell coverage…so they did. We flicked them forty bucks for firewood too and nestled in for a cosy night.

As we finished tea our fourth tramper walked in. The place was getting overcrowded. I’m going to have to email my MP and complain.

 

Wilderlife