Trip Reflections by Bella Allen

We started our Journey on the Heaphy Track at 8:30am from the Kohaihai Shelter and Campsite. It was a pretty cloudy day. We walked alongside the beach for the whole morning, so the views were really beautiful. We reached the Katipo Creek Shelter and Campsite where we stopped for a bit, as the rain had started pouring down. We put on all of our wet weather gear and set off to the Heaphy Hut. It was so lovely to get to the cozy, warm hut after walking in the rain for hours and we got settled in, making some friends with the other people in the hut. 

The next day we started hiking at 7am. We walked to Lewis Shelter and stopped there for a short break. We then kept going through the beautiful native bush to the James Mackay Hut, where we stayed for a good lunch break as the rain was really pouring down. Once the weather had calmed down a bit, we set off for the Saxon Hut and Campsite. We arrived there at around 5:30pm.

This was our longest day where we walked for 10.5 hours through thunder/lightning, sunshine, rain and even hail! Honestly, I quite enjoyed walking through the rain, as it was cozy and warm with all my wet weather gear on and it was really calming. We learnt about the flytrap plants and we also saw some dracophyllum plants that were pretty awesome.

We started walking the next morning a little later than usual. We headed off at 7:45am to the Gouland Downs Hut and Campsite for morning tea. When we got there, we met this Brazilian couple with two kids. We were going to explore some caves and they seemed very intrigued, so we asked if they wanted to come with us. They were super keen. We explored the caves for a good hour-and-a-half. It was so awesome. We did lots of climbing and exploring and it was such an amazing experience. I think those kids loved it just as much! 

We then headed on to the Perry Saddle Hut and Campsite, where we set up our tents and headed down to the mountain spa. That was absolutely freezing, but honestly very refreshing as well! During this trip we learned about the flora and fauna, as well as the geology – including that the caves were formed from streams and the rocks are limestone. We also figured out that we had a predominantly beech forest for our vegetation.

The next morning we woke up a lot earlier than usual – 5am. We quickly packed a daypack and headed up Mount Perry. It took us about 45 minutes to walk to the top of the mountain and we all sat down as we watched the most beautiful sunrise. We then headed back down Mount Perry, had breakfast and started walking to our final hut Brown’s Hut.

Once we arrived, we set up our beds and went to the bridge where we had a swim. This was the BEST swim, as it was incredibly refreshing and so nice to soak our sore muscles in the ice cold water. After our swim, we got into warm clothes and played our final few games of Five Crowns. The highlight of this trip would have been watching the sunrise on top of Mount Perry, as you could literally see everything and it was just so beautiful!

A challenge during this trip was all the bad weather we ended up getting – walking through the hail and not being able to see some of the views because of the amount of mist and rain.  We still made the most of it and had the most amazing time, as well as making the best memories and having such cool experiences with some really awesome people. I will be well-placed with confidence now for further leadership roles as they present themselves to me in the future.

Thank you SO very much to FMC and the Maerewhenua Trust for supporting me in my qualifier with a scholarship. I really appreciated it and bought myself a very good sleeping bag with the grant.   

Trip Reflections by Egor Shefer

Day One: It all started at 6am, February 2nd, at The Last Resort in Karamea. Our group was scheduled to depart at 8 o’clock for the Heaphy Track.

It was a grey day. Rain clouds hung above our heads, but we weren’t worried about that, as we all had rain gear. The group started off strong being led by Connor and Felix. We walked for two-and-a-half hours before reaching Katipo Creek Shelter where we had lunch. By this time it had started to pour down hard, so we didn’t want to spend more time than needed sitting still and took off to the Heaphy Hut as soon as we could.

It took a further two-and-a-half hours to reach the hut. By that time the rain had soaked us all, but we were all still together and a fire was started so it was nice and warm in the hut. Dinner consisted of sausages, mashed potatoes and some mixed vegetables cooked by the leaders of the day. Dessert was a caramel pudding made by Bella and Tennessee.

Day Two: This was said to be our longest day with my friend Aaron and myself taking command. A fresh start to the morning at 5:40 was exactly what the team needed to feel ready. We started strong with some thunder breaking the silence and occasional lightning lighting up the surroundings. This was probably a bad time to remember that I am afraid of thunderstorms – what a leader! Still we pushed on, only to get more wet from all the rain that had come.

We had reached the Lewis Shelter two hours after departing from the hut at 7am. We had a 20 minute break and continued on before we could freeze. An additional three hours brought us to the James McKay Hut where we warmed up by the fire and had some lunch. It took a further three hours of walking in the rain and the occasional pelting of hail to reach our final destination, Saxon Hut.

Here we hung up all of our wet clothes by the fire and Aaron and I began preparing dinner and dessert – mac n’cheese, peas, and biersticks – but our attempt at a chocolate and custard dessert went horribly wrong due to a lack of knowledge on custard-making! It ended up having a consistency and smell of play-doh and a taste of . . . probably play-doh, as well. We tried mixing the chocolate into it, but that didn’t help. The creation was labelled ‘Chuckalot’ by a shadow party member.

Day 3:  A 6am start to the day gave us enough time to have breakfast and depart by 7:45am. This was the first morning we were greeted by the sun. I could feel that today was going to be a good day. Today’s leaders, Bella and Tennessee, had decided that before we go on hiking we should check out the swimming hole by the river. The water looked fresh, but cold, and we didn’t spend long there. 

For two hours we walked before reaching the Gouland Downs Hut where we met a family of two parents and two children. 

The plan was to leave our packs at the hut and go explore some nearby caves, and we did, inviting the family to come along. It was beautiful. One of the caves had a waterfall coming out of it; so of course, we had to take some photos of us standing behind it.

Then we went up and around to see if we could find a way to reach the top of the waterfall, and we did. We were even able to go further, following the water until it got too narrow for us to continue. Back at the hut we had lunch, said goodbye to the family and continued on to Perry Saddle where we would camp for the night.

Day Four:  This day started at 5am, as we wanted to watch the sunrise from Perry Mountain. It was a beautiful sight and we could even make out Mount Taranaki in the distance. Since this was the ‘last’ day,  we made minimal stops. We stopped at Flannagan’s Corner and checked out the view. Aorere Shelter was our lunch destination and sooner than we knew it, we were back on the track heading towards Brown Hut – the last hut of the tramp. 

Overall, this trip was not only physically challenging, but also mentally with all the rain, thunder, hail and blisters on our feet. Day Two was extremely long, but it was good that we had planned well and broken it down into thirds. We got through it in the end thanks to all the wonderful leaders and of course, the shadow party. 

I loved the variety of terrain and flora/fauna on the Heaphy Track. The river swimming was refreshing. I am definitely more competent in the various leadership roles and this will stand me in good stead for the future. I have loved my Duke of Edinburgh Adventurous Journey, as it has opened up many wonderful New Zealand backcountry places that we have explored. 

I would like to thank FMC and the Maerewhenua Trust for the grant. Without it, this opportunity would not have been possible for me and missing out would have been regrettable, to say the least.

We’re delighted to share another trip report from recent recipients of FMC’s Youth Award Grant. These grants are awarded four times a year, so if you’re inspired to get some financial support, head over to FMC’s website to apply.