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August 2014 Issue
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Historic Waingaro Forks Hut

Waingaro Forks Hut. Photo: Gina Andrews
14hr return
Uruwhenua Road, off Takaka Valley Highway

Waingaro Forks Hut, Kahurangi National Park

For a hut lover like myself, this trip up Waingaro Track in Kahurangi National Park featuring two historic huts and a shelter, all lovingly restored, is the perfect weekend getaway.

The first few kilometres are ominously called Kill Devil Ridge, but the track is much kinder than its name suggests. It’s a well-maintained historic pack track zigzagging up the hill with ever increasing excuses to stop for views of Takaka Valley and Golden Bay. As far as I’m concerned, the best trips start this way, with all the ‘up’ done in the cool of morning, leaving an afternoon of easier going.

It takes about three hours to reach the tops and Tin Hut Shelter where we stopped for lunch. The shelter is weatherproof but has no bunks.

For the next couple of hours, the track is stony and scrubby but with expansive views east, south and west overlooking rivers and valleys, mountains and ranges. As we walked the undulating track towards the Locket Range, I picked out prominent features on my map.

At a track junction overlooking Porterhouse Flat, high above the Waingaro River, we dropped our packs and took the 30min diversion along an old stock fence to Riordans Hut. Originally built in 1926, it received a sympathetic restoration in 2003.It has just three bunks but is roomy and I could imagine the Riordan brothers here, farming sheep and carrying supplies for the gold miners at Waingaro Forks.

The afternoon saw us meandering gently down into beautiful beech forest, again on a good track, crossing a few small spring streams. The Waingaro River was rushing white when we came alongside for the last couple of kilometres to Waingaro Forks Hut, a restored gold miners shelter.

A swingbridge over the Waingaro provides a thrilling end to the tramp: a wire rope attached to rocks is held for balance as you step across the thundering flow of the river. I had to cross and re-cross, trying to capture in a photo the energy and life flowing beneath me.

Waingaro Forks Hut is a cosy four bunker with a resident weka on patrol. A skylight has been added and the window enlarged to allow more light in. The open fire is elevated and lit easily – it was the perfect shelter as dark set in.

If we had more time, we could have continued along to Lake Stanley and loop out past Anatoki Forks, but that would take three full days. I was happy to have visited such rustic huts and to retrace my steps back to the car.

– Gina Andrews