By Justin Atkinson, 08 April 2023
I enlisted Herbert, Tommy and Alex to join me on a trip to Waiorongomai hut in the Remutakas over Easter weekend. I had one simple request for the group: to waltz the entire way to the hut. Failing this, trip membership would be voided, and a long walk back to Wellington would ensue (except for Tommy, that would be a brisk stroll!).
We set off towards Featherston at full speed. To prepare ourselves for the non-stop waltzing extravaganza, we got into the zone with some classical music on the radio. At Featherston, we took the very first right. 20min later we arrived at the carpark. It was just before 12pm. We stretched our legs and prepped our gear. There was only one other car, making us hopeful for spots in the 4 bunk hut.
We crossed through bush for 2min, before emerging onto the Waiorongomai river. Now I wish I could say that I enforced my initial requirement of waltzing up the track, but unfortunately I forgot to give myself immunity in my initial scheming. To save myself, I decided to make the trip more relaxed. We worked our way up the riverbed for 45min, making many few crossings, but nothing deeper than knee height. The weather was decent, even though the advance forecast showed some rain and wind.
The track eventually left the river and entered the forest. We criss crossed the river and bush several times. There were several steep sections with ropes tied to trees or rocks. A couple of these ropes were, how do I put it nicely, of pretty dodgy quality. We improved a couple of knots along the way, but it was still a bit sketchy overall.
We reached the hut about 2pm, having taken 1h 40min from the carpark. We were greeted by two hunters, which was slightly concerning at first if you've ever had the pleasure of meeting grumpy hunters in the bush. Luckily these two were the friendly type, and we had some good chats with them. A lot of talk about meat in particular. The best and worst cuts of meat, wild vs store bought meat, what makes a good sausage, the politics of meat... you name it. We were later joined in the evening by another easy going hunter.
Now you might think that we would have spent the rest of the day relaxing at the hut, since the trip was supposed to be chill. If you're thinking this, you've forgotten that Tommy was on the trip!
He forced us onto a long side trip to the nearby Waiorongomai saddle, which we totally enjoyed bush bashing our way onto. How could anyone not enjoy clambering up a steep and uneven hill full of annoying roots and plants that want to sting you, it's so much fun! To be fair I can't blame Tommy, I had planned to go up there anyway.
We eventually reached the open part of the saddle, and headed up towards a secret landmark we had learned about from the hut book. A 38m waterfall was lurking further along the saddle, it was an impressive site hidden away past the trees.
Now Tommy being Tommy, getting a look from the side of the saddle wasn't good enough, so he ditched his pack and went off on a scout for potential tracks to the bottom of the falls. After a slightly stressful period of waiting, Tommy reemerged with good news: it could only be reached by jumping several feet into the water, and escaped by scaling the cliffs. Sadly no one packed in climbing gear, so we headed back to the hut.
As the sky got darker and the air got colder, we started a fire and prepared dinner. We decided to make a shared vegetarian pasta. Now we were being incredibly responsible, I promise. That's the least the club could ask for... We boiled up the water and cooked the pasta. When we took the pasta off the fire, someone (not naming names...) decided to serve it up. I had first dibs on the pasta. Now instead of being sensible and putting the pot down on the bench, this person served up while holding the pot in the air. I got 6 pieces of pasta, before the server dropped the pot, and the pasta went all over the floor...
!@#$%^&* After panicking briefly, we picked up the pasta, washed it as best we could, and returned it to the fire. We probably killed off all the germs in the heat, but there was an interesting crunch every now and then while eating... Best to think of it as special seasoning!
The first two hunters had claimed 2 of the 4 bunks, so two of us volunteered (more like voluntold in my case) to sleep on the floor. Now being hunters, they naturally had to get up super early. One got up at 2am, somehow not waking us up. The other two left at 5am, but unfortunately our deep sleep was not as advanced then. At least it meant that us floor folk got a class upgrade for a few hours.
After a leisurely breakfast, we decided our plans for the rest of the day. We told the hunters where we were going, as none of us were in the mood to be shot by accident. Herbert, Tommy and myself decided to go for a further wander up the ridgeline, while Alex chose to chill at the hut.
We headed back the way we had come the day before, and continued past the waterfall much further up the ridgeline. We plotted taking a long loop back to the hut, but decided we didn't want to be late and worry Alex. Instead, we took a brief Whittaker's break and returned to the hut.
Alex was relieved we hadn't gotten lost or been shot. We had a quick bite to eat, before posing for a totally stressfree group photo. See if you can spot any specific college product placement (I have no clue?). We headed off just after 12:30pm back towards the carpark.
I did not any enforce waltzing on the way back. Tommy went for a swim, we clambered up and down the dodgy ropes again, and we found some gross animal remains by the river. Reaching the car just after 2pm, we headed back to Welly in a good mood. The weather had held up, with a bit of sun a welcome change from the previous day of overcast. We edged into Featherston, departing before we had truly arrived.
We enjoyed some more classical music over the radio, a reminder of what could have been if we had been more enthusiastic about waltzing to Waiorongomai hut. An alternate reality where we were linked hand in hand, blissfully dancing the day away. What would've, could've, and maybe even should've been. Instead, we went for a long and slightly painful bush bash, interspersed with much talk about meat. Oh well, there's always next time...