Orongorongo OvernighterBy Penny Redward 15th April 2011
More or less on our doorstep is the Orongorongo River Valley in the Rimutaka Forest Park that offers a quite different experience than our Tararuas. You can book a hut exclusively for your own group: a hut that provides not only heating and beds but gas cookers, and all kitchen utensils including tea towels! There are a number of these huts and most are within a relatively easy 2 to 3 hrs tramp from the Wainuiomata Catchpool Car Park. This means they are very popular with (and suitable for) family groups.
Once installed in your hut the children or those less keen on challenging heights can enjoy the river and it’s environment while the serious trampers can tackle Mt. Papatahi or Mt Matthews (the highest peak in the park) or like us, do a half way trek, to South Saddle. Whatever you choose it’s a fair climb – like straight up – for much of the way.
We had booked into Haurangi Hut: $70 a night regardless of how many in the party. It sleeps ten so a good deal for that many but still very reasonable for we three. It is all but brand new, double glazed, insect screens, – (but did provide a fly swat!), lots of suitable pans, crockery etc. Left Kapiti at 9am, ‘cafed’ in Petone, and lunched at the Catchpool car park, an interesting informative picnic area – 12km south of Wainuiomata. After 1¾ hrs pleasant walking: well formed track through beech, podocarp and nikau palms we arrived at the arched bridge over Turere Stream as it joins the Orongorongo River.
From here we had the choice of continuing on a bush track or making our way up the river bed – being on the west bank of the Orongorongo River Haurangi Hut has the advantage of always being accessible regardless of flood levels. (There are two huts on the other side and we were stranded in one some years ago when the river rose dramatically overnight.) We chose the bush track, visiting the building site of the newest project on the way – at Big Bend this hut will sleep 32 when finished. It took us over 1 ½ hours to reach our hut but we were ambling.
Next morning dawned fine so we decided to tackle Mt. Matthews. Half an hour upstream, no sign but a large orange triangle pointed up a valley to the right. Staying in this new boulder strewn stream bed we worked our way up crossing back and forth for 10 minutes until spying another large orange triangle and the start of the track proper. Lovely huge rimus sprang from a carpet of kidney fern, but the track got steeper and steeper and soon we were looking down on the giant rimus. A riot of native orchids we could often smell before we saw them added to our enjoyment but on reaching the junction to South Saddle, 400 m up, we decided to settle for views rather than a peak. The saddle was a perfect spot for lunch. We returned to the Orongorongo River refreshed and still with some energy left so carried on up the main river bed to check out the also new Papatahi Hut.
Less than ½ hour on, the hut sits high on a hillside with great views. DOC has certainly put a lot of work into these new facilities. This one probably more for the keen tramper or hunter – less equipment, no gas and reliant on river travel access but is still close enough to reach in half a day.
Day three we returned to Turere Stream and the track to Catchpole via the river bed – taking only half an hour – one hour less than our trip in! Hiking over the hill back to the car park we all felt that having two nights in one hut and being able to book the hut for ourselves was certainly the way to go.
Check out the DOC online site for information on other huts, walks and how to book: www.doc.govt.nz