Zekes and Trains Huts
26-27 May 2021
It was time to explore a couple of new huts after a few weeks being home-bound. Zekes and Trains huts were on the short list for attention.
Tuesday morning saw us heading to Taihape for an early lunch before leaving the car hidden down a New Zealand Railways access track adjacent to the track entry point, just off SH1. After crossing farmland for about 15 minutes, we entered the scenic reserve and a short, sharp climb soon had us wandering along a well-defined ridge to the trig at 1116 metres. Here were great views of the surrounding country, including Ruapehu.
A short steep drop down into the headwaters of Kaitapu Stream soon saw us arrive at a lovely four-bunk hut, sitting in a small opening in the bush. After a quick firewood-gathering exercise we elevated the inside temperature from a bracing six degrees to well over 20!
After a comfy night we retraced our steps back to the car, in lovely weather. On our way out we were able to enjoy the birdlife and the most impressive pahautea (New Zealand cedar) we have ever come across.
After stocking up on food in Ohakune, we headed off down SH 4 to Whanganui and thence to Waitōtara, then drove 57 kms up the very winding and narrow Waitōtara Valley Road. We had timed our arrival at the Trains Track road end in time to sort out the back of the Forrester, which was to be our accommodation for the night. Dinner was cooked surrounded by inquisitive cows and plenty of bovine excrement, which needed to be carefully navigated during the inevitable nocturnal rambles.
The start the next morning was a relaxed affair, interrupted only by two pig hunters and their three dogs, also heading to Trains hut. The walk in is over 12 kms, but almost half of this distance is along what is a very well-maintained access road. The track then reverts to a tramping track, but not before transitioning from a boggy cattle track. Once in the bush however, the terrain was very different from our usual tramping diet. The area is marked by extremely steep and deep ravines with drops of up to 70 - 100 metres in places. This is no place for vertigo sufferers, or rampaging free-range children … There was rata in flower, and plenty of nikau amongst a lot of punga to look at as we headed to the hut.
The hut is located in a small grassy clearing about four hours from the carpark. It sleeps eight, and has a pretty well burnt-out pot belly for heating. Despite its dilapidated state, we soon had it roaring. There was no way that this fire could be dampened!
The evening was spent talking to the two pig hunters about life in general, and how to trap and dispatch pigs in particular. Their three dogs were models of good behaviour.
During the inevitable evening ramble, Peggy heard kiwi calling.
The next morning was an early-ish start, as we had a social engagement at Waitarere at 3 p.m. that afternoon. We took off at a pretty good clip, but still had time to stop and watch two whio surfing the current above two waterfalls located just below the hut.
The only incident was a worrying encounter on the margin of the bush with a pissed-off bull that decided to charge us. It was at this point that I realised how pathetic a walking pole is as a defensive weapon against two tons of angry prime beef charging straight at you.
We were escorted the rest of the way out by a group of four pīwakawaka, who seemed determined to fly in very close formation beside us. Perhaps to protect us?
Trains Hut is only about 40 metres higher than the start point 12.5 kms downstream, but over that distance there are quite a few gradual ups and downs. Peggy likened it to the Marchant Ridge; it seems as though it is up-hill in both directions, even if the height gain is negligible.
So, two huts have now been deleted from the ‘Book of Trip Options’, and four very pleasant days were spent exploring the central North Island in beautiful weather.
- Party members
- Chris (scribe) and Peggy Munn