On Sunday morning 3 April 2005 I rang Alan Wright and convinced him to accompany me on a trip to visit Waerenga Hut, as with all the rain and reports I had heard regarding the area I was concerned that the hut may have suffered damage, and that the water supply might have washed out. Little did I know!
Arriving at the Rimutaka Forest Park we found the gates locked and a DoC sign advising serious damage to the Catchpool area. We walked in and found a serious washout to the road and further on, not far from the ford, a huge landslide had closed the road.
After walking around the car park looking for a suitable route we crossed Graces Stream and proceeded along the loop track to the Orongorongo track near the base of Butchers track. There was huge damage to the camping ground and a lot of pines were down at the start of the Orongorongo track, car park end. We proceeded along the track, climbing over and around slips, down into the stream, along parts of the old Five Mile track and skirted fallen bridges and crossed streams where the bridges had been washed away. This took us about 2 hours.
On arriving at the humped back bridge we were stunned to see across the river a massive shingle fan at the bottom of Brown’s Stream which had pushed the main river well across the bed towards us. There were logs and debris everywhere. We were looking at a river that had been in huge flood a day or so before. What really appalled us was to see our dearly beloved Waerenga Hut perched at the top of this shingle fan on an alarming lean. With a lump in our throats we crossed the river to visit the tragic scene, all the while not believing what was unfolding before us. On arriving at the hut we met Chris Butt and his partner Anne who also were appalled at the sight. Brown’s Stream had swept away all of the open space beside the hut, flowed under the hut and washed away all the front steps and washed out most of the piles. The hut had slumped downwards, but remarkably it was intact, although on a serious lean.
Chris unpadlocked the door and we removed the hut log book, some books and took down the hut sign. The scale of devastation was huge. We managed to shut and lock the door after I had chain-sawed the top, as it was wrecked. Many photos were taken, and there were a few moist eyes. We visited the surrounding area and then turned for home. A sombre pair finally reached the car and travelled home. Some huts have been lost, others are in need of repair - a massive task ahead for DoC and hut owners.
- Party members
- Lindsay Cameron (leader and scribe), Chris Butt, Alan Wright.