By Angeline Barnes, Community Outreach Coordinator
In today’s busy world, it is too easy for me to make excuses as to why I don’t get out into the great outdoors as often as I would like to.
Getting ready to take on the Sunrise Track
A few weeks ago, a group of us took the plunge. Leaving behind our flat whites, we made our way up to Sunrise Hut—a fabulous modern hut perched high on the hills of the Ruahine Forest Park. This hut was no draughty tin shack; it was warm (insulation really works) had triple bunks, a fire, great cooking facilities and was the perfect place to hit the ‘reset’ button.
The track was an easy gradual climb and well maintained
Our route up was an easy gradual climb on a wide and well maintained track—a perfect width for chatting as we walked. Surrounded by trees, the warmth of the autumn sun and the chirp of our native birds, we seemed to reach the top quickly. As we approached the hut, the vegetation changed (sub-alpine) and my imagination went into overdrive, I was walking in the enchanted forest, just like the fairy tales I read as a child.
Learning about native plants along the way
And if ever there was a hut that’s name was appropriate, it is Sunrise Hut. Usually I struggle with early mornings, but the temptation to watch the sunrise over Hawke’s Bay was enough to force me out of bed—a decision I don’t regret. The view was spectacular and I felt like I was on top of the world.
This hut was no drafty tin shack
Was my night away enjoyable? Yes. But a better word would be AMAZING. The questions is, why don’t I do this more often?
The sunrise over the Hawke’s Bay was amazing!
Watch this video of Angeline’s trip to Sunrise Hut:
By Caroline Carter, Ranger – Community Relations, Te Anau.
It is a rainy weekend – but it can’t be raining underground – so we grab some friends which include two geologists, two cave guiders, three five year olds and a couple of nervous mums and head to Clifden Caves!
At the entrance to Clifden Caves
This experience blows your mind! It’s amazing in there.
The Clifden Caves provide a natural habitat for the glow worm
We are fully equipped and made sure we have given our intentions to our families before heading off.
We were fully equipped for cave exploring.
The Clifden Caves are one of only a few cave systems in Southland. The DOC reflector triangles help guide our way. There are places to crawl, pools of water to walk around, and luckily two ladders to assist with an assent and descent.
Exploring the cave
It’s amazing – a challenge – but the kids loved it and we will definitely be going back again.
After the great exploration
Why not go explore Clifden Caves for yourself? You can find out more on the DOC website.
I know there must be some decent synonyms for ‘golden’ and ‘sparkling turquoise’, but they’re actually the colours of the sands and waters that the track meanders through. Although they don’t do it justice. As we made our way into the bush and climbed a little bit higher, we got warmer and warmer, and all I wanted to do was jump into the sea and bask in the sun.
Instead, we started playing ‘who can guess how long DOC thinks it’ll take till we get to the hut?’ before reading each signpost, and making bets on who was closest. In the end we arrived around an hour sooner than DOC predicted we would.
Not a bad spot to spend a Friday arvo in
After about 2 hours in, we started getting pretty sore feet and felt a few blisters forming—despite wearing comfy shoes/boots that’d been fine previously. We figured the extra weight of the packs, and walking on the harder sandstone rather than mud were the causing factors. I had taken a 50 pack of sticking plasters with me. I definitely recommend others do the same. I returned with only 2 left.
After 3 hours walking, we arrived at Anchorage Hut. The sun was still out, there were people eating dinner on the beach and at picnic tables around the hut, and there were only 3 bunks left. We bagsed our beds, cranked out the wine and cheese and headed down to the shore. Bliss. As the sun went down, the sandflies came out so we headed back to the hut area to fire up the gas cooker. After dinner we went inside to play cards and realised we hadn’t brought any candles! We played by torch light for a while but headed to the bunk room shortly after. Ear plugs were a good thing with about 16 people in the room (lots of sleeping bag rustling and a few snorers).
Making Sam’s pack half a bottle of wine lighter
The next day, Sam had an early morning swim (I wasn’t so brave) and we prepared our gourmet breakfast—squashed croissants with camembert, avocado and ham. Delish. Before we left, we got talking to a Mexican guy who was also walking to Awaroa Hut that day. One thing I noticed was that there were no other kiwis on the trip! Lots of Germans, some Austrians and Americans. But no locals.
The walk on the second day was amazing. There was only one difficult bit—a lengthy hill just after our lunch stop—but most of the time it was pretty flat. For this reason I reckon it’s the best Great Walk to go for if it’s your first time, or if you’re worried about your fitness levels. The track is really well maintained—there’s no figuring out where you’re going to put your foot next like in some tracks. You can also choose to break it up into just 3 or 4 hours of walking a day. We skipped Bark Bay hut on day 2, and as such, our feet were aaaaching. In the second half we actually took as long as DOC said we would because we were plodding along so slowly.
Hanging out on the famous swing bridge
We had taken the slightly longer route because we weren’t in tune with the low tide, but it didn’t matter. We crossed a few little streams, and I was lucky enough to be carried over a few by Sam, who took his pack, my pack, and me all at once (before you leap to conclusions about my wuss levels, I hadn’t whinged or made any complaints—I merely accepted the offer). Seeing Awaroa Hut in the distance as we turned the corner was the best sight ever, and even I was game for a swim after arriving.
Afterwards we got straight to work on the remaining wine, cheese and crackers, and had a yarn with the friendly DOC hut warden who lives in a house nearby for 7 months a year. What a great spot! After dinner we got chatting with the others, including our new Mexican friend who’d arrived late after walking the low tide route despite it being high tide. There were only 12 of us all up, and there was a more open, chatty atmosphere among us, compared to the first hut that was full. The sandflies here were like nothing I’ve experienced before. They took no notice of the fact I’d drenched myself in insect repellent. The only option was to cover up or go inside. One tramper said coconut butter kept them away, so I’ll have to try that next time.
Sam takes a break instantly upon arriving, but perks up enough to help prepare the nibbles
On Sunday morning we woke to rain on the roof. We’d had to change our plans to taxi back from Awaroa instead of Totaranui because of a slip, so we headed to the lodge where the taxi comes in (via the skyline route for one last view). The ride back was about an hour and a half long. Seeing the land from the sea highlighted how far we’d actually walked! Our taxi driver doubled as a tour guide and we learnt heaps about the area, and stopped to see some sunbathing seals on the islands.
Sergio and Ingrid enjoying the ride home
We arrived back in the Abel Tasman Aqua Taxi car park pretty exhausted but happy we’d made it back in time and in one piece—even if we both had limps from blister overload. I told Sam I didn’t think I could handle another day, and therefore some of the longer Great Walks, but actually, if I’d had better shoes it would’ve been fine. I think you can even hire them so that makes things easy. Since putting the photos of our trip on Facebook, I’ve had 4 different people tell me they now want to do the walk. I hope I’ve inspired some readers to get booking too! It’s definitely an amazing walk and now that I know what to expect, I’ll be getting a group of friends together early next year for the Waikaremoana Great Walk! Fun times ahead!