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August 2016 Issue
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Tackling the Takis

On the track between Lower Princhester and Aparima huts. Photo: Alina Suchanski
Total Ascent
Lower Princhester Hut to Aparima Hut, 8hr; Aparima Hut to car park, 2hr
Lower Princhester Hut ($5, 6 bunks), Aparima Hut ($5, 12 bunks)
From Princhester Road (northern access) or Dunrobin Valley Road (southern access)

Princhester Hut to Aparima Hut, Takitimu Mountains

Majestic and captivating Takitimu Mountains, affectionately referred to by the locals as the Takis, are visible and easily accessible from just about anywhere in Southland.

The mountains are named after the Takitimu, one of the original waka that brought Maori to New Zealand.

This impressive landform provides ample opportunities for tramping, hunting and fishing. There is a dozen small huts scattered throughout the mountain range, but to reach any of its glorious peaks you need to get off track, and that’s a deterrent for many, myself included.

Although I’ve lived in Te Anau for eight years, until recently I hadn’t properly explored them. A couple of ‘nibbles’ – one from the north, when I visited Lower Princhester Hut, and one from the south on a trip to Aparima Hut – had stirred my appetite for having a good taste of the Takis.

I decided to fix that and with a group of friends set out to traverse the mountains from north to south following the section of Te Araroa Trail that cuts through the eastern end of this range.

Lower Princhester Hut can be reached by following the Princhester Road off SH94. This gravel road passes through private farmland, but a phone call to DOC assured me that the owners don’t mind you crossing it, as long as you leave all the gates as you find them.

Early in the morning we were dropped at Lower Princhester Hut. The intentions book confirmed this hut’s popularity amongst the locals as a base for day trips or hunting.We walked through the ancient beech forest lined with a thick carpet of ferns. After two hours of gentle uphill climb, we reached the saddle at the head of the Bog Burn.

The track is well marked and goes through intermittent sections of beech forest and tussock land.

I was glad I had gaiters and walking poles, but would have been better off with waterproof overtrousers. Walking through wet tussock I had my leggings drenched. They almost dried on the forest sections only to be soaked through in the next tussock-covered valley.

We planned to have lunch at Becketts Hut, about half way between the Lower Princhester and Aparima Hut, but we couldn’t find it, so we climbed up a hillock and munched on our sandwiches sitting in the sun.

The track follows the eastern edge of Waterloo Valley and is pretty flat with only a few gentle rises, but another hour into our trip we came across some amazing rock formations with vertical walls in the middle of undulating tussock land. Climbing up and down these rocks was a highlight of our trip. From their tops, a breathtaking view spread before us of sweeping grasslands surrounded by towering snow-capped peaks.

We carried on, crossing wetlands where ancient bog pines and celery pines grow out of cushions of sphagnum moss and spiky wire rush.

It took eight hours to reach Aparima Hut on the high bank of the Aparima River. Here we did a key swap with the crew who had parked at the Dunrobin Valley Road car park.

While waiting for us, they had collected plenty of firewood to warm the hut.

In the morning, we woke to a frost and a frozen water tank. We fetched water from the river to boil some tea.

Hoar frost on tussock had turned the valley from a rich golden colour to a sparkly white wonderland.

We put on our packs and crossed the swingbridge over Aparima River, then followed the track to the car park, two hours away.

– Alina Suchanski