Orongorongo Huts – a tale of two trips
Sunday 27 June and Friday 2 July 2010
As June’s wet weather continued, Bernard proposed a trip into the Orongorongos to view two new DOC huts: Haurangi on Big Bend Track some ten minutes below the Whakanui - Orongorongo confluence, and Papatahi, replacing Shamrock Hut, perhaps thirty minutes up river from the Whakanui. (Travel in the flooded Orongorongo River to be avoided by dropping down a spur from the East Whakanui track.)
Bernard generously agreed to go from the Catchpool rather than Sunny Grove as he had planned and also to include Turere Spur which, now being a trapper highway, I confidently predicted would not introduce any delays. However, it is or should be a maxim of day trips: don’t multiply objectives, for of course we ran into trouble getting on to Turere Spur - from the bridge proceed a few minutes along Big Bend Track, take an obvious foot pad up the bank leading to a hut on the terrace – but then?? I chose wrongly and fluffed our spur mount and we lost time and enthusiasm as the rain persisted. So, reaching the eastern end of the spur, the only option really was to proceed down the Whakanui Track to the river, lunch at Haurangi Hut and walk out. This we did and were nicely wet on arriving back at the Catchpool roadend. However there was opportunity to be impressed by Haurangi Hut (locked, so we lunched on the verandah): double glazing, gas cooker, wood burner, interior water tap, sleeps 10, $70/night. (As of early July, Saturday nights are booked out until December!) So ended the Sunday trip.
The following Friday being fine and sunny, I resolved to have another go at getting to Papatahi Hut. Accompanied by Grant I again went in from the Catchpool but this time we continued straight up Big Bend Track to the Whakanui. Then, up the East Whakanui track to about 10 m past trap #32 where a yellow tie indicates the start of a generally well marked pad down to Papatahi Hut. We had to get compasses out once but there are quite a few orange DOC triangles, and, lower down, a lot of pink ties. We reached the hut at about 11:30 and took early lunch, again on a verandah but this time in the sun! Papatahi Hut has no gas due to the difficulty of maintaining regular supply via the higher reaches of the river but otherwise closely resembles Haurangi Hut in facilities and style. It is perched facing north on a cliff above the river and gives good views of the lumpy spurs and ridges in this part of the valley. Sleeps 10, $60/night
Returning, we followed the route back up to the East Whakanui then along the track about 100 m to pick up a minor spur starting near trap #32A and taking us straight down to the Whakanui stream. Reasonable going. However climbing up the other side was hard work, especially getting on to the greasy precipitous spur toe. Once on the Whakanui track we headed for the Turere Spur turn-off then back down the spur to solve Sunday’s mount
- Party members
- variously: Colin Cook, Russell Cooke, Bernard Molloy, Sieny Pollard, Janette Roberts, Tim Stone, Grant Timlin.