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July 2020 Issue
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Walkers put out by Paparoa hut popularity

Photo: Matthew Cattin

Paparoa Track bookings have rekindled frustrations for walkers unable to book the Moonlight Tops Hut.

Fewer than 30 dates between October 1 and April 30 have bunks available in the popular hut, which sits on the tops of the Paparoa Range. November is completely booked out.

Both the Ces Clark and Pororari huts – which sit on either side of Moonlight Tops Hut – have plenty of space.

The track encountered the same concerns last year, when five months before it opened, Moonlight Tops Hut was 99.5 per cent full for the season, while Pororari Hut showed nearly 100 nights of availability. The discrepancy in the popularity of the huts is because most mountain bikers choose to ride the track in two days, staying at the halfway juncture.

But for trampers intending to walk the 55km track over four days, the Moonlight’s popularity is causing problems.

Auckland tramper Phil Melchior, who tried booking the walk between October and December, noticed the discrepancy.

“I thought ‘that’s odd’, but figured it was because Moonlight Tops is the one bikers use, as that was booked out solidly – the ones either side had plenty of space,” he said.

Skipping the Moonlight Tops Hut makes for a tough, nearly 30km day of which around a third is above 1000m.

“It’s doable, but it’s a 10 hour day, and for most people doing the Great Walk – and for people of my age group – I suspect it’s behind us,” Melchior, 71, said.

“It seems a shame that they haven’t organised it in a way that would give both sets of outdoor enthusiasts an equal chance at it.”

DOC’s Greymouth operations manager Shane Hall said the design of Moonlight Tops Hut allows for an extension of the hut in the future.

“This would use the warden’s quarters, requiring a standalone warden’s quarters to be built. The dining area would also be extended,” he said.

This would extend the capacity from 20 to 28 bunks.

Hall said there are no plans to add more bunk space at the moment, but DOC will review the hut’s capacity over the next few years.