We’ve taken plenty of holidays with Alayna, and done lots of walking, but up to now had never combined staying somewhere new with a tramp in good old New Zealand bush. We’d been talking about a staying a night in an easily accessible hut with friends and finally this became a reality with a walk into the Rimutaka Forest Park and a one night booking at Raukawa Hut.
We started our walk at 11am from the Catchpool Valley carpark with a plan to stop for lunch along the way to the hut. We were walking the Orongorongo Track, a fairly easy and well marked trail that for the most part was only a gentle rise and then fall as it approached and ended at the Orongorongo River. As we were walking with two 6 year-olds we had given ourselves plenty of time assuming that we’d slower than the advised 2 hour walking time to complete the 5.2 km distance to the river.
It was a warm Sunday and the track was quite busy with lots of people out for the day and quite a number of groups coming back from staying out the previous night. We had lunch sitting under a large tree and said hi to lots of walkers coming and going. There were quite a few bridges on the route, most short spanning small streams. The girls had a good time playing “billy goats gruff” over many of bridges with a new person or group of people taking turns to be the troll that wouldn’t let the goats past. We did have to stop this after a while though given there were so many bridges.
I had made a short checklist of birds that we could use to pass the time and record any sightings but the girls weren’t overly interested and we didn’t actually see much birdlife over the two days. We did hear quite a few different birds, including noisy karearea both days. There was a ruru heard quite close to the hut after dark as well, but no kiwi.
The forest was quite lovely with lots of regenerating vegetation and a number of impressive trees to be seen. In particular the number of northern rata was good to see, some huge examples quite near to the path. There were also a lot of traps visible with possum traps clustered around the rata. Hopefully the trapping helps reduce pests and the birdlife comes back.
There was one large swing bridge, aptly named midway bridge, which had a decent wobble to it so that was a bit of fun to cross. Snacks kept everyone going and there was another good stop at another tree where Alayna got to try out her climbing skills. With our relaxed pace and a few stops it took us 3 1/2 hours to get to the final bridge and the riverbed. Its been quite dry recently so we expected the river to be low, and it was. Almost too low really, the warm weather and shallow water had led to a lot of algal growth and there wasn’t really anywhere suitable to have a quick swim, any swimming holes too shallow or full of slimy algae. The low water level did mean that the river crossing was simple, as you can see below.
The track information board by the final bridge had instructions for reaching a number of huts in the area. We needed to walk downstream after crossing the river for 10 minutes to find Raukawa Hut and it proved to be easy to spot the access path. The hut was great, we had sole access and it had such luxuries as a couple of gas hobs, running water, a flushing toilet and a wetback heated shower. Outside someone had strung up a simple swing out of a rope and study branch and that gave the girls something to play around with. We relaxed in the shade of the hut deck while the girls amused themselves and then later on made dinner. A few card games were played and outside I had the girls showing me their troll impressions and then they played paper-rock-scissors, all good fun.
As evening came on we got the girls to bed without much trouble. The hut had a supply of tealights and a couple of candles so we lit a few for some light. Drew and I headed back to the riverbed to get photos as the sun set and also listen for kiwi. It was peaceful and cooling down with a few bugs buzzing around but thankfully not many of the biting variety. Sleep came easily for me at the end of a busy day.
In the morning we had a slow but purposeful start, getting up and preparing breakfast while starting to get all our stuff back into our packs and beginning to clean up. There as time for some more playing with the swing, the girls having figured out how to get on themselves so no parent help required.
After dishes, packing, sweeping and wiping surfaces we were on our way shortly after 9am. It was a grey and breezy morning with a light drizzle which meant a nice and cool start to our return walk. Having recently had breakfast the girls were full of energy so we powered up the hill up from the riverbed and made great time.
The return walk from the hut to the Catch pool carpark was just under three hours, so much faster. All in all a great couple of days and a very successful first overnight hut adventure. We’ll have to do it again and eventually we’ll get to bigger walks, huts further afield and explore more of the New Zealand back-country.