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January 2014 Issue
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Hapuku hide hole

In the Hapuku Valley. Photo: Pat Barrett
Hapuka Hut, six bunks
North of Kaikoura on SH1 take Parsons Rd to the signposted car park

Hapuku Hut, Mt Fyffe Conservation Area

There’s a plan afoot, a two-night hike into the Hapuku Valley, north of Kaikoura in the Seaward Kaikoura mountains with my youngest daughter, Bernadette.

While I planted the idea, she’s only too keen to embark on the trip and was all smiles and enthusiasm as we parked at the lay-by beside the river.

I glanced down at the river and had a momentary pause for concern – it looked a tad high after weeks of rain and while I had checked river levels before coming there’s sometimes no real alternative other than to ‘go-see’.

We entered the narrow channel of discoloured and moderately swift water issuing from the Hapuku hinterland with care. But linked together, we crossed with ease and forged up the opposite bank and on into the valley. We climbed the rough bouldery gradient to below the gorge. Just above where a spectacular ribbon of water cascades from bluffs and fearsome gnarly cliffs block the sunlight, is a track that takes us high above the gorge and onto easier travel in the mid-reaches of the valley.

Daylight is the one thing in short supply and there’s pressure to keep going to reach the hut before nightfall. A few stops along the way revive us, however, especially to enjoy the view of the big mountains rearing over the western side of the catchment where the ridgeline exceeds 2200m and snow is evident.

A sunny patch in a bush clearing provided another respite from the all consuming hike to the hut, then it’s a final 800m push in the gathering dusk to the hut.

Perched on the valley side just above the river, the hut commands a bush and mountain view over a large portion of the valley. It’s also occupied – there’s a solitary possumer settled in and cooking an early dinner. He’s welcoming and we exchange a few track notes before joining him in a cook-up ourselves.

By dark we had a good fire on and a surprise: approaching headlights up the track announced the arrival of another party on the march. A group of four hunters enter, so with them and us the hut has reached its compliment for the six bunks with one on the floor.

A cosy night ensued, followed by a pre-dawn start for the possumer and some of the hunters while Bernadette and I enjoyed a quieter pace and an easy start to our trek up valley for a look-see. Though fine and clear, there was a cool wind blowing from the tops and much of the valley was in deep shadow, making long breaks a bleak choice. We kept on the move, exploring the upper valley track and stream before returning to thaw out at the sunny hut.

Hot drinks and chocolate in the sun are our fare plus we now have the place to ourselves, at least for a while, so we enjoyed the superb mountain views from the small veranda before heading inside for another night with new-found hunting friends in our hidey hole in the Hapuku.