Te Araroa Trail Tararua Ranges
Te Matawai to Dracophyllum hut
Most people in Te Matawai hut woke at around 5am and I got on trail by 6am. Today started with a huge climb, up to the Pukematawai ridge which was 1400m or so.
The walk was above the tree line and the terrain was initially grassy tussock interspersed with rocky/muddy parts. The dew on the tall grass soaked my shoes and shorts. Soon the terrain charged to become more rock and alpine. This meant some pretty serious sheer drops to either side of the track and more scrambling.
I got to the ridge at 8am. It was a beautiful morning without a cloud in the sky. As I walked along the exposed ridge, the altitude and wind chill made it pretty cold, but out of the wind it was glorious.
The views over the mountains in all directions were breathtaking!! I even I got a glimpse of Mt Ruapehu far away to the North. I heard the distant waterfalls falling into the valleys below.
The trail over the ridge line was all ups and downs, and I was glad to have it all to myself. As a novice ‘backcountry’ tramper, I find this kind of hiking requires intense concentration, walking a narrow ridge with huge drops on either side – especially as I’m pretty scared of heights! Almost every step tested my skills and my mind, especially the climbing/scrambling on the rocky outcrops. I was mindful of every second – making decisions on what to do next, and being absolutely certain about every pole placement and every footing. You need a very cool head for this kind of thing!
I reached Dracophyllum hut – a tiny little 2-bedder, for an early lunch.
Dracophyllum hut to Nichols hut
The Scary Bits
There were a couple of real testers just after lunch after Dracophyllum hut. There was a tall rocky outcrop with a huge vertical drop below. The trail went up the rocky outcrop, over and down it, with some climbing that I found quite scary with a full pack on. It was really the first time I had done anything like this.
After that there was a washout on a steep slope, with another huge drop, hardly any track, and lots of loose scree. It was pretty dangerous really… welcome to NZ backcountry tramping!! I certainly wouldn’t want to do this if I panicked easily or wasn’t 100% sure of my ability to rationally handle a tricky situation!
Into the Forest…
After the amazing ridge, the trail went through a beautiful mossy forest! I got lost a few of times momentarily as all the fallen trees blocked the trail markers. I was really glad to reach Nichols hut around 3.30pm. The wind had got up and it was beginning to get cold.
Nichols hut is teeny tiny and has the capacity to sleep 6 people. Eleven people turned up!! I took my tent and set it up on the only flat spot next to the helipad outside. I was pretty cold initially, but I at least had a little more privacy. This hut will be an absolute nightmare when TA hits full swing in a few weeks time, and when the Kiwi holidays begin!