I’ve done it a couple of times as a day-tramp, but it’s quite a long one – about 3 – 3.5 hours to the hut, and about 2.5 – 3 hours return, depending on the return route chosen – more about this later. For those less fit, it’s better as a short overnighter.
To get to the start, turn west off SH50 into Wakarara Road, towards the mountains. It is a good sealed road, which eventually becomes a good, but narrow, gravel road. Keep going (about 20km from SH50) until you get to a farm gate. Go through, and leave the gate as you found it.
Wade across the river to the other side – it’s a good idea to bring some sandals or sand-shoes for this purpose, to leave on the opposite bank for your return. Turn left, walk upstream for about 30m, then turn right for about 20m, and follow an old track which goes left up the bank. You may have to scout around a bit for this, but it’s well-defined, and should not be hard to find. It may have an orange marker to indicate this, but it was missing the last time we went.
The hut itself is quite small, a dinky 4-bunk affair, but quite cosy, and a great spot for lunch. It has 4 bunks with foam mattresses, a water tank, and outside toilet. There is a small bench and seat in the hut, as well as a small pot-belly stove. I’ve used one of these before in the Nelson Lakes area, and they’re very efficient. If you’re intending to stay overnight, and there are more than 4 in your group, some may have to sleep on the floor, or camp outside – this may be difficult, because there’s no real level area around the hut. There might also be a few resident mice in the hut – quite entertaining, but if staying overnight, hang your food from the roof beams!
The return journey to the car is pretty much the way you came. However, there is another choice from the concrete bridge over Dutch Creek on Wakarara Road. If you don’t mind getting wet feet, drop down off the bridge into Dutch Creek, and follow it downstream to the confluence with the Makaroro River. It’s a delightful 30 minutes or so; made even more pleasant by cooling the feet, which by now will be somewhat sore from walking on gravel roads! You’ll pass some really lovely native bush, interesting bluffs and landforms on the way – well worth considering. When you reach the confluence with the Makaroro River, turn right, and walk about 30 minutes upstream to the car park. On the way, admire the impressive mudstone cliffs on the right.
On the way home, don’t forget to honour the by now established tradition of a cup of good coffee and a snack at the General Store in Onga Onga. No, I don’t have shares in the business, but a good cuppa just makes for a great end to a great tramp! If you’re heading south towards Dannevirke, there’s a good café in Norsewood, with great fruit cake.
- 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 fitness required (especially if done as a day walk) – at least 6.5 – 7 hours total walking required (from the car park return), with an altitude gain of 600m.
- Suitable for children from 10 years and over.
- Tell someone where you’re going, and what time to expect you back. Consider taking a locator beacon!
- Fill in the hut visitor’s book – it could save your life.
- Take a map – NZ Topographical map BK36 Tikokino 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.
- Take some old newspapers to leave in the hut for starting a fire in the stove.