The Ruru's

T.I.M.E. Habits • Minimalists • Travel Enthusiasts

Category: Te Araroa Walk (page 2 of 7)

15/1/16 Makahika Outdoow Pursuits Centre to Matawai Hut: Hut Log Burner With Sheepskin Rug, Wine and Chocolates

At 9am, the torrential rain was still dropping to earth!

At 10am, the torrential rain was still dropping to earth!

At 10.30am, the torrential rain was still dropping to earth.  And on us too!

We made the decision to go for it in the hope the rain would eventually abate.  John gave us a lift 4km up the road to the start of the farmland track where we set off from.  Trickle of water flows were everywhere making it wet underfoot.  We had only gone no more than 100m when I nearly face planted into cow shit.  That would have added it to being a stink day had the shit stuck!

Once onto the track proper, there was some shelter.  It didn’t matter by now though as we were soaked with heads down hop skip and jumping mud bogs, streams of water and track obstacles like rocks, tree roots and debris.  Reflections of the Pirongia’s also flooded back and it was a challenge to keep a mindset of “E” for enjoyment.

The first swollen creek was just gushing with brown tinged liquid.  Nick had already crossed and his voice came from somewhere up stream.  That was a good sign.  If he had of gone down stream, he would have gone over the waterfall into the raging river and a far cry from the rapids of the Wanganui. With the low cloud, it made the visibility dark and he was like a shadow in the undergrowth giving us instructions of which arm of the stream to walk up.

Walking sticks prodding the creek bed, over hanging vines hung onto, careful placement of the feet so as not to lose balance and then a hand reaching out to grab ours had us cross it okay.  Dry socks were now also soaked and the thought of comparing old wrinkly feet by the end of this day gave us inspiration.

The decision to skip the first hut and take an alternative track that was supposedly easier was supposed to have us out in the conditions for approximately 7 hours.  The hut had a fireplace and that image conjured up mental pictures of wool skin rug, candle lit table and glasses of wine with chocolates.

Remember, we started at 10.30 amish.  We eventually dropped the packs at 7.45pm that evening. Nick had already been at the hut for an hour and he had found it tough going.  There were another eleven hikers already there, three of those were already in the bunk room in bed!  The wet wood was barely making a glow in the fire place and the smell of un-laundered manky apparel hanging from makeshift clotheslines evaporated the sheepskin rug, wine and chocolate dream in the first second – poof!

It was a tough slog up.  The weather did break somewhat when we hit the alpine patch closer to Richards Knob for views of more ridgelines over yonder and the first hut.  The bogs were awful and to add colour to the adventure today, I stood on a part of the track following boot prints that wasn’t the track and not enough boot print under the sole to take a plunge forward down a bank.  Once I regained composure to get back onto the pathway, it wasn’t till an hour further on when the shock of me plunging with the PLB (Personal Locator Beacon) on board, that my right knee started to ache and give grief.  F..k!

But, we didn’t let it detract from us having arrived to shelter and once cleaned up and cooking an evening meal in the dark with conversations shared around the hut table with fellow humans, we became ourselves again and laughed about the day that was.

There were no photos taken today due to the camera being stored deep within the back pack because of the elements. Hopefully readers can use their imagination to paint the journey from these words typed.

By 10.15pm, we too were horizontal in our sleeping bags.  The knee throbbed so a decision as to where to from here procrastinated till the morning.  Suggesting at dinner that I set the PLB off in the morning for a medical evacuation airlift out was tempting!

“You Are Here to Matawai Hut” … need we write more!

14/1/17 Makahika Outdoor Pursuits Centre

The noise coming from the cabin a joining our one at the Kiwi Holiday Park had us mention it to the Park Operators.  We don’t mind noise till late on the left side of the midnight hour; but when it reaches the 4am on the right side, enough was enough.  We could have taken matters into our own hands however choose to avoid confrontation.  Would you interrupt a species in the animal kingdom having sexual intercourse?  Viagara must surely have been in the concoction somewhere as they were under the influence somewhat too!

We knew they would address the behaviour and offered us a lift to the starting point of where we were going to meet up the walking trail again – the Makahika Outdoor Pursuits Centre.

Situated approx. 1.7 km from the farm exit of the Mangahao-Makahika Section of the Te Araroa Trail it’s a residential leadership camp.  All ‘trailer-walkers’ are welcome – anytime.  They will readily find a bed for you, and worst case scenario have acres of beautiful grasslands for a tent to be pitched.

John and Sally Duxfield are the Owner/Operators.  John came to meet us as we entered onto the facility.  Sally was absent on overseas travel visiting her daughter in Canada who met a fellow trail walker (from Canada) who had also walked in off the road.  They have become a couple, a cool story shared by John later after the greetings and salutations.

The place was just awesome and set up for teenagers and adults alike to gain some life skills using outdoor pursuits as the education vehicle.  We reflected with the teenage holiday programme we conducted some years back having taken them to Spencer Holiday Park in the middle of winter and having similar skills imparted by residing on-site.  The conversation with John clicked.

John was also informative about the Tararua Range part of the trail.  The Ranges are right on his doorstep and form part of the leadership training they conduct.  The weather at higher altitude is notorious for deteriorating rapidly (gale force winds and heavy rain) so being prepared for its extremities was paramount.  John shared the upcoming five-day weather forecast and suggested alternative routes to huts to consider.

Nick arrived whom we had canoed the Wanganui River with and after re-assessing all the information we had, the decision to head off in the morning under the cloud of rain to reach the second hut doing and alternative route was agreed too.  There was a window of better weather opportunity to get over the exposed ridge we were needing to traverse.

The met office warning of 100 mm of rain between 5am and 2pm as we would be waking up was factored in.  We depart at 10am and should be taking the boots off at the hut by 6pm.

Worst case scenario, we back track back to John where we knew we would be welcomed again.

A plan with a back up plan.  Now let’s hope all goes according to plan!

12/1-13/1/17 Wanganui Layover and Wanganui to Levin: Synergy

After bidding farewell to Nick, Mike and Amy who went their separate ways, we explored Wanganui.

At the Information Centre, a model of the landscape tackled gave perspective to the past seven days blogging and storytelling.  The friendships made and conversations had, have been enriching.  The bodies weary yet ready to attack the next bit so as to end the North Island part of the Te Araroa Walk at Wellington, only a three-hour drive away.

There was a large road walking section of the TA to Palmerston North, however, for us we had made the decision to hitch to Levin and enter the Tararua from there.  It wasn’t long after Ben the owner of the Wanganui Top 10 got us out onto the main highway, we were soon picked up by Malcolm who drove us all the way.

A stop off first to meet his parent-in-laws whereby we also met his wife and daughter, and were offered lunch.  Malcolm used to reside in Wanganui as a builder before moving to Tauranga to start over, re-invent themselves.  With his wife, they now own a ‘Gap Year’ programme offering students life skills so as to prepare them for the wider world.  There was synergy in the conversation as it was in tune with our Outaskool Teenage School Holiday programmes that we used to own and operate.  Except there’s was on a larger annual global scale.

Even more exciting was the fact that Malcolm used to contract to the Department of Conservation during his time living in Wanganui.  He was responsible for the construction and maintenance of all the DOC huts and facilities along the Wanganui River we had just paddled and used.  Our chatting time finished prematurely when we arrived into Levin.

The hitch hiking rides have been just as enriching us making our way down the island under our own steam.

Meeting his in-laws, just as heartening.

11/1/17 Rivertime Lodge to Wanganui: Done and Dusted

The flat waters had to be paddled.  So too did the last 2 kms on the outgoing tide into a tough head wind.  White cap waves sometimes bigger than some rapids themselves were conquered.  No capsize though.  Barrels balanced right in the canoe at the start of the last day.  Only BClaire got the brunt of the moisture.  No one was laughing.

This soon changed as we beached the canoe from the very final stroke onto the shore.

Hugs of euphoria all round.

It was over.

The goal to canoe the Wanganui River was now done and dusted.

However, the real value in setting goals is not in their achievement.  The major reason for setting goals is to compel you to become the person it takes to achieve them.

Like many others, this experience certainly did that.

Anyone keen to canoe the Amazon?

But first, we have a goal to traverse the Tararua Ranges.

Other than Mt Aoraki/Mt Cook, they are the re-known ranges for the second highest tramping fatalities.  Now if that doesn’t motivate anyone to ensure they are well prepared, what will?

Best we take a rest day tomorrow to prepare!

10/1/17 Jerusalem to Rivertime Lodge: Do You Believe In Ghosts?

The sound of chains rattling across the roof after mid-night startled us awake.

“What the hell was that?”

“You go investigate?”

“No, you go do it.”

No one moved from beneath the covers.

The only sound that could be heard was Nick in the corner.  Snoring.  He hadn’t budged at all.  Wears ear plugs too which is ironic for a snorer.

Even the thought of topping and tailing on the beds to comfort nerves didn’t happen.  No one was keen to get out of bed feeling safe in the thing should an apparition appear!

As heads sunk back onto pillows one by one to drift back off to sleep, repenting sins must have spun around people’s heads asking for forgiveness without muttering the words.

The sun rose and as we sat eating breakfast, we brainstormed what the noise could have been.  Then it happened again.  A truck towing a trailer and not slowing down went over some road construction beyond the gate.

What idiot driver speeds like a maniac to scare five; no four, TA walkers staying at a disused Convent in the middle of the night?

As the march to credit Mother Mary Aubert with Sainthood progresses to fruition, its attracting more visitor numbers.  We recommend the experience.  Overnighting too.


Seeing a sign for a coffee nailed to a tree had us beach, disembark and then walk up a road at Matahiwi.  The café was closed however, there under cover was a river boat called the ‘River Queen.’  There was a New Zealand movie called “River Queen” filmed on the waters of the Wanganui River.  We haven’t seen it but have the display posters.  On them were pictures of the same boat.  Well, it looked the same having the same name.

Wild goat shouldering the riverbanks had increased in numbers.  So too had wild peacocks.  Come to think of it, so too had sheep and cattle.  The flipside was that the number of rapids had dramatically reduced meaning less current.  Floating was nearly at a standstill resulting in more physical paddling to keep momentum.

With the wind in our favour, the consensus was to push forward a little further.  The last 20 kms into Wanganui is tidal with high tide at 10 am the next morning.  To get the outgoing tide became the focus.  With it, our time on the river was going to end a day earlier.

Anything to ease physical exertion whilst sitting on your bum has got to be healthy.


9/1/17 Ramanui to Jerusalem: New Zealand’s Mother Theresa

Most of life’s growth lessons are learnt when you get outside your comfort zone.  Whether by purpose or by accident.  When I (yes it was me) re-loaded and tied in the barrels this morning, I put the weight in the wrong place and unbeknown to us, unbalanced the canoe!

This was to become evident not long after.

The rapid we were approaching was gnarly and had scored two other couple capsizes.  We waited for others to rough water it to come out the other side without fuss.  When we entered, the first bump had me see the second bump directly in my line of vision. BClaire went underwater just about completely.  Words were gurgled.  When she popped back up hitting the second rapid bump, my line of site was now seeing her arse as the canoe went nearly vertical.  This was not going to end well as we waited for the oxygen masks to drop from above.

They didn’t!

And for whatever the reason, we didn’t capsize per say.   However, our canoe was submerged with water to the rim of the sides, inside the canoe.  We hula hooped the hips to maintain keeping the boat from completely going over and all hands were to the pump baling out the contents.  We passed the second couple who had capsized.  They had just made landfall.

The next lot of rapids just before Pipiriki was called the 50/50 ones.  Jesus had warned us about these at the safety briefing and I was confident we would make it through after the last episode.

We did.  And I never made the mistake again to re-load the boat in the manner I had.  Under the guise of BClaire.  Don’t know why.  Perhaps the external comfort zone growth lesson!

Pipiriki is where all the five and three dayers leave the Wanganui River.  We visited the village to dry out, eat lunch before we carried on.  Calmness had returned to the canoe as we tried to move on from the previous encounter.  From here, rapids became less frequent as did the jet boats.  More farmland fudged into the landscape features.

The steeple rising just above the treeline signalled our end destination, the Convent at Hiruharama.  When translated, Jerusalem.

It is a place that is so worth the effort to google and read about a New Zealand Pioneer – Mother Mary Aubert.  She would have to be our equivalent to “Mother Theresa” and her dedication to give her heart this part of Aotearoa.

We stayed in the Convent itself finding a dorm bed and spent the remainder of the day just reading all the history attached to the place.  Religion is a personal preference however, more lessons were taken from such a tranquil setting.

Jerusalem was one of the largest settlements on the Wanganui River.  It was known as a meeting place for kōrero (discussion).

“He pūkengawai, he nohoana tāngata, he nohoanga tāgata, he putanga kōrero.”

Translated – “Where waters gather, people settle, and where people settle, legends unfold.”

Jerusalem and its history is legendary.

8/1/17 John Coull Hut/Pukerua to Ramanui: Side Trip

We continued to follow the river as it meandered through bush-covered hills, stretching the legs at the Mangawaiiti Campsite.  DOC have done extremely well to provide areas to rest the head on the shoreline banks; this one was perched high above the river.  A shelter to cook during inclement weather; rain water is collected for patron usage; and the long drop loos with plastic toilet seat for bum comfort.  Remember to take fly spray so as to not only sweeten the smell of poos and wees; it’s also handy to knock out the beasties that are attracted to the exposed parts of skin around the lower mid-drift.

Another place we got to stretch the legs was when we arrived at the Mangapurua Landing.  This is where old riverboats used to tie up to let off passengers who lived or visited the Mangapurua Valley farm settlements.  We took a walk up to the Bridge to Nowhere – a poignant reminder of how returning World War 1 Soldiers were granted land to recognise their contribution to the cause.  They carved out farms from the harsh terrain only to have landslides break their resolve.  Many walked off the land; the remaining forced off as the riverboat frequency dried up.  The bridge was constructed during the times in preparation for a proposed road from the top end of the valley.

It never eventuated and hence today, a bridge to nowhere.

Today’s journey concluded some 29 kms further down the river at the Lodge campsite, Ramanui.  Directly across from us was Tīeke Kāinga campsite, one of the many old pā on the river and where more of the day’s paddlers ended up.  Them and us – with just a bit of water bridging us in-between.

At least everyone was somewhere they needed to be.

7/1/17 Maharanui to John Coull Hut/Pukerua: All In Good Taste

As the Tetaruke River joins the Wanganui, the Wanganui has flowed some 105 km from its source on the Tongariro already.  It’s here we swung left to head upstream to beach our canoes at Whakahoro and trek 500 odd metres up to the Blue Duck Café.

Black and white nostalgia hung from the walls as a reminder of life on the Wanganui from yesteryear.  Yellow scrambled egg atop brownish bacon atop toasted bread stuck to the fork end was caressed into the gobs to savour the taste of a cooked breakfast.  It was the second one of the day having consumed one before we set paddle only two hours earlier.

Whakahoro is also the place that the three-day adventurists join the river traffic.  However, as we exited the Tetaruke River back onto the Wanganui, we passed other paddlers who shared the Maharanui campsite from the night before.  A fellow bunch of Kiwi’s that has made the evening entertainment very enjoyable with banter and mud-slinging humour.

One of their canoes was a little behind and as we had gone a couple of hundred metres downstream as they reached the mouth of the Tetaruke, I waved my paddle in jest and unbeknown to me, they thought I was from their group and so keep coming in our direction.  Meanwhile, the rest of their group would have beached and be making their way up to the café!


Jet boats ferried tourists up and down the river having replaced the craft that used to transport all and sundry.  Sometimes they slowed down for us; sometimes not.  Either instance resulted in us having to turn the canoe 90 degrees to the motor wake so as to hit the waves head on versus sideways.  Sideways could result in capsize.

When the waves abated and the shallow rapids fell deeper into the abyss, we rested the paddles on the sides of the canoe to allow the current and whirlpools and eddies to float us down the sheer rugged cliff gorges.  This part of the woven sacred Te Taura Whiri a Hinengākau – the plaited rope of Hinengākau was just stunning.  It was the shades of green richness that captivated the mind and heart with its scenic wilderness beauty.

Tying up at the John Coull hut, we met Margaret and Bev who were DOC Hut Wardens.  They volunteer and reside on-site for a week, sometimes two to do maintenance and hut pass checks.  What a fantastic way to enjoy your own back yard that appealed to our sense of thinking. Hmmmm.

The site became more congested as new paddlers arrived to bed down for the night.  So too did the other group we have shared two previous campsites with and included the ones waved on in jest.  All in good taste naturally.

As was the ale shared from the beer barrel.

6/1/17 Ōhinepane to Maharanui: It’s All About the Flow.

Mist had lowered to encapsulate the camping spot.  Still the sound of the rapid could be heard above the de-camp.

The decision to place the camera into a dry bag and store it in a barrel was made with much hesitation. To capture a journey in the split second of a click paints a thousand more words than what can be written.  It was safety to protect the electronics first and foremost!

The first rapid after launch successful with more rapids beyond that stretched the imagination to the worst possible outcome however, no capsizes this day.  A complete 180 degree turn around to be facing in the opposite direction of the flow was a hairy moment when the technique got out of kilter.  Added excitement.  And a few terse words under the breath silently spoken.  Not at each other, more toward the river having greater control.

We decided to camp at a camp spot earlier than the one booked, Maharanui.  The shorter the distance in lugging our barrel life, the better.  Day two and we had got the flow of things.

Or had the flow still got the better of us?

5/1/17 Taumarunui to Ōhinepane: Mother In-Laws – Best to Avoid Them But Hug Them If You Really Have Too!

The briefing room was crowded with others like us, adventure junkies there to embark on god knows what!  Some were doing only three days; some five; and we eight days.

The male owner Rod with long wirey hair and referred to by South American locals as “Jesus” because of his lookalike features presented the safety briefing with colourful adjectives.

“Be mindful of the rapid walls protruding from either side of the river embankment, aim for the water-flow ‘V’ pointing in the direction you are going; and not the other one pointing toward you.”

“Should you find your canoe hitting a hazard, adopt the behaviour like a tree greenie and hug the rock so as the canoe will turn out of the rapid under the force of the flow.”

“However, rapid hazards are like Mother in-laws.  Best to avoid them but hug them if you only really have to!”

There were instructions on steering and submersion and baling.  And then our barrel full of food and gear were escorted down to the water’s edge, loaded on so as weight distribution was balanced and then tied down so as in the case of a roll over, everything arrived at our end destination together and not beat us.

The recent deluge of rain raised the water level higher than normal.  Whether a good or bad thing, it didn’t matter.  With Claire at the front and me at the back, we were launched into the current.

The first rapid saw another canoe capsize and right itself.  The two male occupants manoeuvred their fully submerged waka to a stony beach where they began the process of baling water.  We couldn’t but help laugh at them because the pace at which it happened was like a slow-motion movie.  It was hilarious.  It also eased the nervous tension having seen how to recover from such an ordeal.

Just as well, Nick from our group was riding solo on a ride on canoe skiff and he tumbled as well.  Whites of his eyes terror evaporated to whites of his teeth laughing at himself.  Cripes, we hadn’t even gone a kilometre down the river!

Dare I add, no more than two or so rapids further down, we too were dunked out and into the flow!  Safety instructions go right out the window in the face of panic.  Why is that? After we emptied the boat of the liquid stuff, the elation of having gone through the experience gave us greater confidence for the potential future opportunities of capsizing.  Experience pays smarter dividends in the real world.

The outcome, no one from our group took a swim again the remainder of the first day.  A stop at a Lavender farm café allowed for a short bask in the sunshine and consumption of carrot cake.  Food always takes the edge off things.

We eventually arrived at Ohinepane where we set up camp.  The barrels did their job of keeping everything dry from moisture.  Even the beers were cold.   Retiring to the horizontal positions eventuated.  A lone Morepork could be heard echoing it’s call.

That and the backdrop sound from the rumble of the river rapid just around the corner.

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