Te Araroa Tramping Trail
With Penny Redward19th March 2010
Levin to Otaki Forks: Via Mt. Crawford
As a member of the Te Araroa Wellington Trust I have been involved trying to secure a route from Levin to Otaki Forks. We spent several months trialling the western foothills of the Tararua’s. When that failed we put a submission to DOC for a route between Waiopehu and Waitewaewae Huts along Oriwa Ridge. Despite 159 votes in favour and only 53 against DOC decided we should use an already established track which takes in part of the Main Range:
Waiopehu to Te Matawai Hut : 5km
Te Matawai to Nichols Hut : 12km
Nichols to Waitewaewae Hut : 8km
Waitewaewae to Otaki Forks : 9km
The Trust members decided we needed to try it out although I was rather nervous, feeling it was beyond my tramping capabilities. My husband, Ian, kindly offered to carry my food load to the first hut, return home then come in to meet us at Waitewaewae with food for the last stretch.
Four of us started out, two to take 5 days, two to do it in 3 days – missing out the first and last huts. (It took 6 – Ian was waiting and wondering in vain at Waitewaewae for two nights).
Technically the track was not as difficult as I expected; nothing freaked me out (I freak out quite easily), the rocky outcrops had hand holds, the ridges weren’t as narrow as I’d imagined and there was only one smallish slip. What was difficult was the amount of ascent (and descent) required on each section – and the length of the middle day – Te Matawai Hut to Nichols. The track basically goes up and down like a yoyo with very little respite, and although we were all fit it took us much longer than the suggested times to complete sections. There are about 12 kms of open tops in total – snow grass – which is great on a fine day, miserable at best on a bad day, can be lethal in storm conditions.
We had four glorious days (unusual for the Main Range) and two days with gale force winds (not at all unusual). We had to stay two extra nights at Nichols waiting for the weather to improve. It’s a lovely hut and hand made cards helped cope with the cabin fever. Dreams of steak and pavlova helped assuage the limited food supplies!
On our fine days the views were indeed spectacular and early in the morning on Mt.Crawford we even had the fun of some ‘brocken spectres’ (where your shadow appears on a distant ridge outlined by a rainbow). With Ian no longer at Waitewaewae I decided to continue on to Otaki Forks with the others (big mistake) – making a day trip from Nichols Hut 12 ½ hours! I was absolutely shattered but thrilled to have completed the walk.
Generally I feel the route will be used by the younger, fitter trampers, probably those who do the complete trail from Cape Reinga to Bluff. If medium fitness trampers attempt it they will need to be able to walk and climb (over 1000m per day) with a full pack for at least five days, taking their time and using all the huts available.
For further information on the Te Araroa trail visit www.teararoa.org.nz