Archives For Orongorongo Valley

Haurangi Hut in the Rimutaka Forest Park received some tender loving care recently with some help from Dulux.

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Ranger, Don Herron, navigates through fantasy-esque forest to check out some of Rimutaka Forest Park’s lesser known tracks.

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By Angeline Barnes, Outreach and Education Coordinator – Lower North Island

Busy mums dream of a weekend away, we need it and deserve it.  We long for a window of time away from daily life, away from our dearly beloved children.  Imagine being able to pee alone, not have to share the food off our plate or deal with the ‘but why’ questions. Just imagine.

Mums starting on Orongorongo Track.

Orongorongo Track

Ladies, when planning a trip away, don’t let the perceived barriers of cost, travel distance or general complication get in the way.  It really is easy.  If your key ingredients are good company, good food, easy travel, light exercise, swimming, laughter and peace and tranquilly, I have the solution for you. Book a DOC serviced hut and get going.

This weekend, my friends and I set off for our third annual mum’s weekend away to the Orongorongo Valley, in the Rimutaka Forest Park. Our mantra is fun comes first and we must have good food.

Once the Saturday morning children’s sport was done, we gathered at a cafe for a spot of lunch and a cheeky glass of bubbly. The 40 minute drive from Wellington to Catchpool Valley was easy. Following a quick toilet stop, costume change, redistribution of supplies, application of lippy, packs were on and we were off!

Five minutes to Papatahi Hut.

Five minutes to Papatahi Hut

This year our outfits symbolised who we are, or who we dreamed of being. The large scrabble letters of YUM on our front and MUM on our packs kept other trampers intrigued, the sweatband of the flapper’s headpiece kept the brow smooth and I wonder what the birds thought of the sun reflecting on our tiaras?

The weather was perfect, so we walked up the river bed (rather than the alternative track). The walk took about 3 hours. We stopped for a pre-dinner river swim to freshen up before the climb up the perfectly formed stairs to Papatahi Hut.  As we relaxed and appreciated the tranquilly of the bush, we smiled smugly and wondered how our husbands were coping with the demands of the 30 children we mums left behind!

Nestled in the hills, Papatahi Hut very affordable and is bookable. With the knowledge that there would be no late night trampers join us, we got settled in. It was agreed that drinking our cocktails from a coffee cup is a small price to pay for the benefits of a posh hut.

Banish all visions of dirty cold tin huts, stinky unknown trampers, freeze dried food, smelly long drops and mice – there now is an alternative.

Mums walking along the track.

Mums on track

Food is important to us. Our entree was ‘hut made’ guacamole and salsa with corn chips. The main event was green Thai chicken curry with sides of chickpeas, fluffy rice, freshly prepared nann and popodums. Dessert was meringue with freshly whipped cream and berry coulis. Why settle for anything less?

As night fell, we chatted and laughed and sung, played card games, discussed topical issues such as pocket money, perfecting scones, and preparing food children will eat, and ate a year’s worth of chocolate. Unfortunately our Sherpas were unable to join us, so we all pitched in with dishes and made our own beds. Before bed, I sat outside and listened to silence and was memorised by the stars.

Angeline and the other mums stopping for lunch.


Following a quiet night (no snoring and limited sleep talking) breakfast was served, eggs Benedict no less, with hollandaise and cracked pepper and the essential freshly brewed coffee. Instant coffee not welcome.

Following a lazy morning, the hut was swept and we leisurely walked back down the river to our next swimming sport. Lunch was prepared on the water’s edge, my favourite was the home made ginger crunch, where others preferred the lemon cake.  As I lay on the warm stones, I listened to the sound of the river, the sun dried my socks, I had found my happy place and I drifted off. Peace.

Looking skyward.

Looking skyward

Then it was a short walk along the track back to the car. Easy as.

Our weekend was not expensive or complicated.  We had the comforts of home, in the company of friends in a beautiful setting.  I’ve had my injection of nature; I have hit my reset button; I’m ready to tackle another week.

Come behind the scenes and into the jobs, the challenges, the highlights, and the personalities of the people who work at the Department of Conservation (DOC).

Today we profile Shane Hatwell, Services Ranger (Recreation/ Historic) in DOC’s Wellington District Office.

Rangers Shane and Keith on Matiu/Somes Island.

On Matiu/ Somes Island with Keith Dyett

At work

Some things I do in my job… recently, I’ve mainly on Capital Projects. Replacing Kime Hut in the Tararua Ranges and an infrastructure project on Kapiti Island – a replacement wastewater system, new track, new toilet block and shelter upgrade. I also help out when I can with field operations.

This helps achieve DOC’s vision by… helping to improve the visitor experience; enabling people to get out and enjoy our amazing country safely and in relative comfort.

The best bit about my job is… the amazing people I work with every day. They’re all dedicated, committed and do great work. Also, getting out into the field and working in some stunning places.

The funniest DOC moment I’ve had so far is… listening to two grown men coming down the East Whakanui Track (Orongorongo Valley) using a bic lighter to see with. No names shall be mentioned, having left their run down too late they were caught out with no torch and their only light being a lighter. That is until one of them burnt his fingers and dropped the lighter, then the cursing and squabbling began. It took almost an hour for them to walk the final couple of hundred metres. It’s one of those had-to-be-there moments but very funny when you’re in the river bed listening.

The DOC (or previous DOC) employee that inspires or enthuses me most is… Keith Dyett. He always has a smile, is dedicated to the work he does and would give the shirt off his back to anyone. He has turned out some top work in the Catchpool/Orongorongo Valleys over the year. If you’re ever in the valley listen out and you may hear him singing one of his many songs, “Seven Spanish Angels” or “God Made Little Green Apples” come to mind. Keith is an all round top bloke.

Ranger Shane with a takahē on Mana Island.

Why we do what we do – New Zealand’s special wildlife and places. A takahē on Mana Island

On a personal note…

My best ever holiday was… spending six months back packing and hitch-hiking through Ireland, Scotland and parts of Western Europe. Not booking anything and just seeing where the day took me. The hitch-hiking through Ireland and Scotland was in the middle of winter, which resulted in some long cold hours on the side of the road. It also resulted in meeting some really nice people, a full on snowball fight with some kids on the outskirts of Donegal, and an interesting couple of hours in a large truck and trailer unit on a narrow lane and a half tar-seal road barely wide enough for two cars to pass.

My greatest sporting moment was when… my name appeared at seventeenth on a national ranking list for squash. That same year I finished just outside the top twenty at the National Champs.

The best piece of news I’ve heard lately is… we’d like to offer you the Works Officer role in Te Anau, followed rapidly by my partner Wendy saying that she’d been offered a Partnerships role also in Te Anau.

My secret indulgence is… boutique brewery beers and single malt whisky. More often than not they are indulged in that order.

Before working at DOC I… spent twenty years working as a silviculture contractor in both Marlborough and South Otago. Three years working for the Forest Service based in Renwick and seventeen years as a self employed contractor. Saw some amazing country, met some interesting and colourful people and had a lot of laughs.


Who’s a clever seal? (United Kingdom, 2010)

Deep and meaningful…

My favourite quote is… “Every day above ground is a good day”. I think it’s from the movie ‘Scarface’.

The best piece of advice I’ve ever been given is… I’ve been given lots of advice over the years, a lot of it unprintable. The best bit being, ‘to give it a go and to back myself’.

In work and life I am motivated by… those people who dedicate long hours to their cause, whether it be sport administrators or the many volunteers that help us do what we do.

Shane at  Papatahi Hut, Orongorongo Valley.

A great place to be – Papatahi Hut, Orongorongo Valley

My conservation advice to New Zealanders is… get involved; there are many amazing groups and individuals out there engaging in conservation. Make yourself known and get involved.

Question of the week…

What do you think are the top three inventions in human history? Micro breweries, single malt whisky and international travel. All three work well together, it’s always a good day out with friends whether you’re visiting a brewery, having a relaxing afternoon in the sun at a vineyard or calling into a distillery for a tasting.

Shane and his mum looking across to Stephens Island in the Marlborough Sounds.

Mother and son looking across to Stephens Island from D’Urville Island