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March 2015 Issue
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Windy tops

Middle Hill Hut. Photo: Bruce Roberts
11 hrs
Middle Hill Hut, 6 bunks; Makino Hut, 6 bunks; Te Puia Lodge. 26 bunks
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Te Puia Lodge via Middle Hill Hut (gpx, yo 28 KB)
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Te Puia Lodge via Middle Hill Hut, Kaweka Forest Park

A mid-afternoon start had me headed up Middle Ridge Track to Middle Hill Hut. The walk was a bit of a grunt at time but there’s enough flat sections to break up the climb.

I headed up to the Kaweka tops on a loop taking in the Mangatutu hot springs overlooking the Mohaka River.

I arrived at Middle Hill Hut just before darkness and settled in front of the tiny fire to cook dinner.

At some point during the night I heard a kiwi screech, perhaps emboldned as the volunteer group EecEd had been working on releasing and protecting juvenile kiwis in the area and there were many comments in the hut book about hearing kiwi.

A clear morning dawned with enticing mountain peaks in view. I climbed up Camp Spur, a continuation of the ridge I’d hiked the previous day. It was windy so I took a break just before leaving the red beech; a nice contrast to the manuka and kanuka I’d walked through earlier. Just before leaving the bush I came upon a couple of flat sites perfect for tenting and realised why Camp Spur must be so called.

Soon I was out on the tops and the wind was strong. I followed the poled route to the main Kaweka Range, passing the odd ice patch and fresh snow spots. Once on the range crest, the wind was even stronger and I hid behind knoll whilst taking in the view over Hawke’s Bay, out to Cape Kidnappers and the curve of the bay.

A quick scramble along the range towards Makino Hut followed, while trying to stay upright against the fierce side wind. Once down in the bush, on the ridge heading towards Makino, I relaxed a little and noticed how red the red beech actually is. At times I thought I’d seen the bright orange Makino Hut among these trees only to realise it was the trunk of a felled beech tree.

It was then about 90min of bush walking to Makino Hut, for a brief break out of the wind and some sustenance before heading off to Te Puia Lodge.

Taking the turn-off, I descended steeply to the Mohaka River and headed up river for a soak in the Mangatainoka Hot Springs. I’d decided to head straight for these upon landing in the Mohaka because I wasn’t sure how far I’d need to backtrack if I went to Te Puia Lodge first (just 10min).

It was nice to walk on relatively level ground after the descent and I enjoyed the contrast of the river walk compared to the ridge walking.

There were a few intermittent climbs the following day as I walked down the Mohaka to the car park, but these are easily dealt with and provide great views of the river.

I was soon back at the car and, more rewardingly, the Mangatutu Hot Springs – a great way to finish off a tough but very satisfying tramp.

Bruce Roberts