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A graveyard for trees

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February 2022 Issue

Heaphy Hut, Kahurangi National Park

Heaphy Hut is at the mouth of the Heaphy River in a magnificently wild environment, on the West Coast.

Hummocky hills are wreathed in luxuriant forest, a sheer headland faces the wrath of the Tasman Sea and a wide, deep river flows between bluff and beach. Carcasses of giant trees appear on the sands following each powerful rainstorm. It’s the only coastal hut on one of New Zealand’s most popular Great Walks; the Heaphy Track.

Rain and storms are common here, yet the spectacle of the vast graveyard of bleached trees on the beach in front of the hut can leave visitors wondering at the power of those storms. 

My daughter Dominque and I had hiked in over two days, spending a night at Kaipo Shelter, to fully savour the beauty and raw power of the coastal pathway leading to the Heaphy River. We could have stayed a week, such was the allure of nature here, yet the quiet presence of the old tree bones were reminders of another mood, where life would be a struggle against powerful and capricious elements.

Total Ascent
4-5hr from Kohaihai Shelter (Karamea)
Just north of Karamea on the Karamea Kohaihai Rd

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