Daphne Hut Hike

This is a tramp for the slightly more adventurous – it has streams, bush, tops and river walking. It presents more of a challenge when compared to Sunrise Hut, and requires a higher level of fitness and skill. It is best done as an overnight hike, but the very fit can do it there and back in a day. The rewards are great views, a cosy hut, and beautiful bush. For those into trout fishing, this is a good one, as there are trout in the Tukituki river – they’re of good size, but not easily lured, which is how they got to be of good size! Remember to take your fishing licence. Also remember that a 4wd vehicle will be required to get to the start.

To get to the start, turn into Makaretu road, off SH50 in Central Hawke’s Bay. Continue down Makaretu road towards the mountains until you reach Sherwood School – directly opposite, turn left into Mill road. Mill road eventually changes from tar-seal to gravel, and a while further on, as the road climbs up a steep rise, turn left into Kashmir road. At the time of writing, the name sign had disappeared, but there is a green and yellow DOC direction sign on the left as well. Just past Kashmir Farm, you’ll get to a sign stating that 4wd is required, and it becomes quite obvious part way up the very steep rise as to why this is so! Take care, as there are deep ruts and potholes most of the way from this point on. A few km further you’ll see a sign pointing to the Daphne car park on the right – turn down here, and shortly you’ll reach the shelter and info panel at the start of the track.

Shortly after the start the track crosses Moorcock Stream, and then follows it on the true left for another 300m or so before turning towards the mountains, across a small tributary stream, and then steeply up the mountainside through low scrub. Up to this point the track is marked by white-topped fence posts, which changes to orange triangles as the trees become tall enough to attach them to. The higher one goes, the better the views get – stop often, and look back – the outlook keeps changing, and it’s hard not to linger for less than 5 minutes. Never mind, always another opportunity on the way back.

About 50 minutes after setting off, you’ll arrive at the forest edge, and from here on to the ridge the walking is in bush. On a hot day it makes for a very pleasant change. About 5 minutes later the track levels out, and turns sharp left and down a dip. You have not arrived at the top! This is a small subsidiary ridge running parallel to the main one, and on the other side of the dip it’s once again steeply upwards. After approx. another 50 minutes, you’ll finally arrive at a signposted track junction on top of the ridge. We usually have a breather here for 5 or 10 minutes, and a snack. To the left is the track to Longview over the tops –  it’s worth the short walk down to the bush edge, and note the sudden change from trees to tussock. This is also a great hike, but that’s another article! To the right is the correct way and initially the track undulates for a while across the ridge top before starting to drop – gently at first, but then quite steeply. Look out for clearings to the left, where there are some great views to be had of the main Ruahine Range. On a fine, clear day, those with sharp eyes (or binoculars) will be able to make out the Howlett’s hut toilet block.

Eventually you’ll notice the sound of rushing water, a sign that theTukituki River’s not far away. The last bit before the river is quite steep, and takes a bit of care to negotiate. Once on the river bank, note that the stream coming in immediately from the left is not the Tukituki – we did that once, and it cost us about 45 minutes tramping in cold water to realise our error. However, if you have the time, go up anyway, as there’s a lovely waterfall about 15 minutes away. Some great photo opportunities if the light’s right.

Back at the Tukituki, for the trout aficionados there are a few nice pools at this point to try your luck. Otherwise from here it’s another 30 minutes of river tramping upstream before Daphne hut suddenly appears on the right. Don’t try and keep your feet dry by rock-hopping – it’s very dangerous, and it won’t work. You will get wet boots & feet, and it’s just better to accept and enjoy the experience. On a hot summer’s day it’s quite refreshing! A walking pole or stick will make the river part easier and safer. Walking time from the car park to the hut should take approx. 4 hours.

Daphne hut is a cosy A-frame affair with an interesting layout, including a mezzanine sleeping platform – great fun for the young, or young at heart. It has sufficient sleeping space for nominally 12 persons, but there are a few extra mattresses available, and it’s not difficult to squeeze a few more in. There is an outside covered deck on the left side of the hut for boots and gear, or to sleep on/under if the hut’s full. On the right side of the hut is the wood pile. The hut has a very efficient wood-burner, which quickly warms the interior up to a nice temperature on a cold day. Please remember to take some old newspapers along to start a fire with, and replace the wood you use. There’s an outside toilet, as well as a meat safe for hunters. It also has an inside sink bench, but no water tank – plenty of water in the river!

To get back to the start, return the way you came. Going in the opposite direction does give one a different perspective, and then there’s the final drop down to the car park to look forward to. All in all a satisfying, grunty tramp, where you’ll know you’ve had some good exercise!

Depending on where you came from, drop into the General Store at Onga Onga for a cuppa and a bite. For something a bit more substantial, there’s also a tavern/pub available just up the road.

Important notes:

  • Be prepared! Take clothing and provisions for all weather possibilities – the weather can change in a matter of an hour from beautiful sunshine and warm temperatures, to snow and sub-zero temperatures.
  • Check the weather forecast – don’t do this tramp just after heavy rain, or if heavy rain is forecast, as rivers quickly rise to dangerous levels. If you do get caught out, stay put and wait until the river drops to a safe level.
  • Good to very good fitness required (especially if done as a day walk) – at least 8 to 9 hours total walking required (from the car park return), with an altitude gain of 600m one way, and the same back.
  • Suitable for children from 10 years and over (suggest overnight only).
  • Tell someone where you’re going, and what time to expect you back.
  • Fill in the hut visitor’s books – it could save your life.
  • Take a map – NZ Topographical map BL36 Norsewood refers, which can be purchased from Sportsworld or Dave Hern in Waipukurau.
  • There is a small charge for staying overnight at this hut – tickets available from the I-site in Waipukurau, or the General Store in Onga Onga.
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