Te Araroa Trail Tararua Ranges
I started the day at 6.45am and left a koha (donation) for Sally at the Makahika Outdoor Pursuits Centre. The start of the off-road section of trail into the Tararua ranges was a few kilometres down Ponds Road.
Last night Sally recommended an alternative route to the regular trail today. Taking this alternative meant I ended up at the same hut – but it was quicker, less muddy and apparently much prettier than the regular route. I was convinced 🙂
Gable End Ridge Track
I began walking above the Ohau gorge on a rocky path dripping with ferns, and a sheer drop to my left. This led to the Gable End Ridge track – a steep and beautiful climb through a variety of mossy forest. The forest was full of fallen giants – enormous trees which had blown down over the years, which had new, almost fully grown trees sprouting out of them. It was beautiful.
The really sad thing about hiking in most of New Zealand is the lack of bird life in the forests. This is due to introduced predators like mice, rats and stoats which have decimated the bird populations. This forest should be teeming with birds and the chorus of birdsong, but sadly again today there was none.
Today I got a different taste of Te Araroa trail. This was where the first real mountain “wilderness” began. The Tararua Ranges (Tararua Forest Park) are famed for their remote, rugged beauty but also for their inclement weather!
I chose to do the Tararua ranges solo. I’d recently been told by a fellow tramper (who had already walked this section) that he was shocked by how difficult it had been in terms of the ascents/descents. He also struggled with the difficulty of the climbing and scrambling etc. I wanted to do this section alone to test myself – I didn’t want to be reliant on anyone else, or indeed have anyone rely on me.
Do far so good. Apart from the uphill, and an ill-fitting pack, there was nothing to trouble me today.
DoC Backcountry huts on Te Araroa Trail
There is an incredible network of backcountry huts throughout New Zealand. Te Araroa trail walkers will use many of them on their journey, mostly in the South island. Payment for the upkeep of these huts is made on an honesty basis at each hut, or with a hut pass. The pass entitiles you to stay in most huts – those on the ‘Great Walks’ being the exception.
I bought a one-year DoC Backcountry hut pass before starting the trail. There is an option to buy a 6 month pass, but I knew I would probably do a lot more hiking after TA. Giving $120 to DoC for a year’s hut pass was the least I could do to thank Doc for the upkeep of huts and tending the the incredible network of trails around New Zealand.
Te Matawai hut
I reached Te Matawai hut around 4pm. Inside were Louis (UK) and Bruno and Susi (German). We were joined by Susie and Jo (Kiwi section hikers), Giacomo (Italian), Armin & Bettina (German), Agi and Laurent (Swiss) and Rob (Dutch). The hut had a sleeping capacity of 18 so we all went to sleep lined up like sardines on our bunks/mattresses.
Te Matawai was a nice hut – except the drop toilet outside was probably the worst one yet! A sticking filth bomb full of massive black blowflies… uughh.