Image of the February 2014 Wilderness Magazine Cover Read more from the
February 2014 Issue
Home / Articles / Wild Trips

A mixed bag of treats

Descending Mid King spur. Photo: Lauren Schaer
Three days.
Jumbo Hut, 20 bunks; Mid King Bivvy, two bunks
Holdsworth car park via Norfolk Rd, Masterton
BP34, BP33

Mid King Bivouac, Tararua Forest Park

Thanks to stalwart trampers and hunters, Tararua Forest Park is criss-crossed with numerous ground trails, providing limitless options for the curious. We set off to explore some of these, aiming for the seldom-visited Mid King Bivouac.

The well-trodden track from Holdsworth car park began easily, with the final push up to Jumbo Hut, via the Raingauge Spur Track, cranking the calf muscles. We saw kaka and whitehead and heard the pleasant trills of the grey warbler and tomtit. From near the hut we could view the next day’s route via McGregor, 1540m, the Broken Axe Pinnacles and The Three Kings, as well as the wide vista of the Wairarapa below.

We steeled ourselves the next morning as the wind strengthened and some low cloud reduced visibility at Angle Knob. The skies cleared and the wind soon dropped; we’d caught the ‘Ruas in a good mood, so with 360-degree views we clambered happily over the dry, jagged humps of the Broken Axe Pinnacles. In the peaceful calm, a falcon cried out as it soared overhead. Only the last pinnacle was slightly exposed and required a little nerve. There are options to sidle should you prefer.

Finding a perch for lunch, we identified some of the many peaks around us, including Mitre, Arete and Junction Knob. Across the valley, Dorset Ridge Hut shone like a beacon calling for future adventures. After another leisurely rest at South King tarn we reached the signposted turn-off to Mid King Bivvy, the thin ground trail leading us down a classic Tararua slope with scratchy leatherwood, spiky speargrass and slippery tussock. It would be quite tedious to follow going uphill, though some do.

Pete spied the roof of the bright orange biv through the trees. We’d read it was simplest to continue to the bushline then follow markers, but upon spotting two cairns, Pete couldn’t resist leaving the ridge to tackle the leatherwood while I carried along. We met on the marked track and after a few minutes arrived at the bivouac.

The shelter looks like it has come straight from a fairy tale, with nearby babbling stream, thick ground ferns and moss-draped, gnarly stunted beech. A kereru flew past and a rifleman could be heard in the treetops. We’d been on the go for eight hilly hours so gladly gorged on several dinner courses, settling in to the cosy two-man biv just as the drizzle began.

The hut book dates back to 1999 and was only a third full. Tales from hardened trampers, including repeat visits from ‘Sushi the dog’, provided entertainment but the biggest laugh of the night went to the ‘Fire Exit’ sign. We’d already mocked the sign as OSH gone crazy, but as night fell and I reached out to pull the door shut, the sign emitted a futuristic glow-in-the-dark aura so bright you could just about read by it.

The terrain changed again as we returned to the spur to descend towards South Mitre Stream, scraping along a tight trail among stunted beech and scrub, then through open forest and past impressive old trees. In the mist we took a false spur, crashing our way through damp treefall before sidling back to the proper route. Occasional cairns and pink tape were found lower down, useful for uphill travellers.

Crossing Baldy Creek, we followed South Mitre Stream on the true right. The Mitre Flats footbridge soon appeared like a vision, and the DOC track was welcome after hours brushing through vegetation on the damp, rooty spur. Still, a long walk remained ahead of us: the Barton Track required two uphill grunts and both of us were steaming in the drizzle.

Around the elevated junction with Baldy Track, the forest became quite beautiful and I was touched to see a pair of kaka calling out as we descended to Atiwhakatu Stream. Now on familiar ground, we enjoyed a rest stop at the spacious Atiwhakatu Hut and then sped along the compacted track to the car.

An 11.5hr day – much slower than some of the human-goat types we’d read about at Mid King Biv but we were still keen to return for further adventures – after a week or two’s rest at least.

– Lauren Schaer