By Justin Atkinson, 06 February 2023
At the tail end of Waitangi weekend, I recruited Luke and Laura to explore the Orongorongos. Despite the overnight rainfall that preceded the trip, my group left Kelburn campus with sunny skies and a warm temp before us (shoutout to Jackson for meeting us early at the gear shed to grab a plb). As the sun shone down upon us, we headed towards the Orongorongo river with a feeling of optimism.
Arriving at the Catchpool campsite, we started down the Orongorongo track. The track was pretty good, despite the last night's rain. We encountered quite a few groups. While walking, I was shushed so that I wouldn't ruin the appearance of several wood pigeons in a tree (typical me!). We reached the aptly named Midway bridge at the halfway point an hour later. After posing for wacky photos, we continued on.
We eventually passed the turnoff to Mt McKerrow, before reaching a section of track closed due to a slip. After taking the brief detour round it, we descended down the steepish path to the river. Reaching Turere bridge, we posed for some photos, including one taken by a nice passerby. This included pics both off and on the bridge, where one group member performed a daring stunt of sitting on the handrail and leaning backwards. Sadly they didn't fall backwards and go in the running for best injury at 2023's Billy awards, but there's always next time...
We relaxed by the river for an hour and had a lunch featuring several blocks of cheese and long vegetables. While we considered crossing the river that day to explore a bunch of huts, we decided that the rainfall had made it slightly too high. Maybe tomorrow, we agreed. We then resumed walking, this time along the Big Bend track. Within 15 minutes we arrived at the first, and by no means last, hut of the trip. Turere lodge was pretty nice, but it was deserted. After a quick look around, we kept walking.
20 mins later we passed a cute private hut, before making a quick detour to another spot on the river. 10 mins later we reached the turnoff to Haurangi hut, our place for the night. After marvelling at the large collection of games and reading materials, we left our stuff at Haurangi and headed down a nearby shortcut to the river. For a while, we just sat in the sun and relaxed. All of a sudden, we felt a sudden urge to build a makeshift crossing/ dam across part of the river. Some of us got more stuck in than others, it depended how much we felt like standing in the middle of the river (I may be guilty of not being fully committed!)
We returned to Haurangi for an early dinner, before chilling for the rest of the evening. Me and Laura ventured out for a short wander further up the track, where we discovered a pretty dodgy section of mud. After wandering down the path for a bit, we went back to the river for one last look, before retiring to the hut. Chocolate was shared, lighters were borrowed, and card games were played.
We woke up the next morning with various levels of sleep, cooking breakfast in the hut before taking it down to the river to eat in the warm morning sun. After chilling at the river for a while, we packed up our stuff at the hut and set off further up the Big Bend track. It took us 20 mins to reach the end, where it both turns left into the Whakanui track that heads towards Wainuiomata, and also right to provide access to the river. We contemplated walking 45 minutes upstream to reach Papatahi hut, noting that the river was now crossable. However, we decided we were happy enough to make a more relaxed return to Turere bridge. We passed Haurangi hut and Turere lodge again before arriving there.
Some of the group were content to relax next to the nice swimming hole, while others felt more like reaching the wealth of huts across the river. I joined the latter group, traversing the much clearer and slower river, and began to play hut bingo. First we passed a private hut that we mistook for Jans hut at first, before walking on the remains of an old hut (just the floor!) Next we saw another private hut with a person standing ominously on its roof, before discovering the real Jans hut tucked away in the bush.
Backtracking to the river, we headed up to TTC's Waerenga hut, before making the quick trip to Raukawa lodge. Some expert navigation through the bush followed, leading us to Boar Inn hut. We then emerged onto the river and criss-crossed it a few times, before reaching WTMC's Paua hut. Admiring the nice green paint, we walked back down the river to the bridge. We had lunch, before traipsing round the swimming hole for a while. This included a little explore of Turere stream.
We retraced our steps towards the Catchpool campsite. However, we all decided it would be boring if we just took the same route back. While we were tempted to go up Mt McKerrow, we ended up walking up the slightly easierRidge track. At first, we feared that it was taking us back to the river at first, but it eventually went in the right direction. Admiring some strange plants along the way, we got some decent views before descending to the carpark.
We realised that we couldn't drive back to Welly without an epic music mix. We decided to go for a summery vibe to fit with the beautiful weather, provided by yours truly. Against all the odds the rest of the group liked my choices. If I'm ever in your car and somehow get control of the music, you probably won't suffer, so there you go.
After stopping at a dairy in Wainuiomata that may or may not have involved some jaywalking right next to a zebra crossing, we headed back home, peacefully driving off into the afternoon sun. Btw multiple police cars checked us out along the way, so I promise we were well behaved ;)