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July 2013 Issue
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Hike to Hikurangi

The knife-edge Wharekia seen from the Hikurangi Track. Photo: Alana Srubar-Vernon
Hikurangi Hut (8 bunks)
15km drive from Ruatoria to Pahikiroa Station. Park car at the station. The hut and the station are maintained by Te Runanganui o Ngati Porou
BE43, BE44

Hikurangi Hut, Ruakumara Range

Arriving at Pakihiroa Station cloud obscured our destination. Hikirangi and its namesake hut are both normally visible at the start of the walk, but on this day they were mercifully hidden – allowing us a faint hope that the journey might not be so steep or as long as we thought.

For the most part, the ranges are framed which, at higher altitudes, turns into a kind of sub-alpine farming, with desolate remains of trees, bushes struggling to survive and with sheep and cattle amongst it all

We found ourselves faced with about a 1500m vertical slog to the hut. When we started out, nearby Wharekia, 1106m, dominated the view as its summit lay below the clouds and as we approached the hut at 1181m, we looked down on it with a sense of achievement.

Most of route is spent on a farm road marked with bright yellow poles indicating the track. Around 30 minutes from the hut there is an unmarked turn-off which takes trampers to contemporary Maori carvings depicting the mythical Maui-Tikitiki-a-Taranga and his family. A few hundred meters beyond this turn-off, we reached a piece of flattened land used as a 4WD car park and then the farm road disappears and a tramping track begins.

The climb becomes steeper and as night fell we had difficulty spying the yellow track marker poles. Thick cloud had settled in, making it even trickier to locate the next pole. We played Marco Polo as we alternated with one staying with the pole we had found, while the other searched for the next and upon finding it,guiding by voice the follower.

Eventually the hut emerged from the gloom, providing welcome shelter for the night.

It’s a fairly basic eight-bunk hut with walls adorned with photos taken during its construction.

Morning views from the hut made the long vertical climb worthwhile. Even though we were a two-hour tramp from Hikurangi summit, it seemed we were at the top of the world, higher than any other mountain we could see. We watched the sun’s rays crawl up the slopes of valleys and mountains while we warmed ourselves in its sunshine after a cold night. Many of those who visit this hut climb Hikurangi before dawn to be the first in New Zealand to see the sun rise.

We were short of time though so reluctantly returned back to the car at Pakihiroa Station.

– Alana Srubar-Vernon

Note: Hikurangi Hut must be booked prior to departure through Te Runanganui o Ngati Porou: 06 864 9004; $15 per person per night.