Where: Wellington – 30 minutes out of Paraparaumu
Distance & Time: 13km each way, three hours from car park to Renata Hut
Take: wet weather clothes, food, overnight equipment (see gear list below)
Amenities on route: none
Cost of the walk: No charge for the Hut but you will need to buy food supplies prior to starting the walk
On a weekend where most people were curled up at home, watching Netflix and keeping dry, we decided to go for a hike and stay overnight in a 60+ year old Hut in the middle of nowhere with no power and no promise of dry firewood on one of the wettest weekends in Wellington.
We were invited by a couple who wanted to go hunting, and asked us along for the trip. I had never met them before, and Paul had only met the woman once, but hey, when an offer of friendship is extended to you when you’re an adult, you grasp it! It could have all turned out horrendously wrong and you could have been reading about us in the crime section of the the NZ Herald, but fortunately it turned out to be a fabulous weekend.
The original plan was to drive so that we were an hour walk from the Hut, but that changed once we saw what the four wheel track to get in there was like, as there was no way our wee car with the four of us in it, plus our gear, would have made it. The bogans who were downing drinks and blasting music seemed to enjoy watching us get ready in the car park, even more so as they passed us in their car on the track – nice and dry while we were saturated.
The incredible views we were promised were hidden in amongst the mist, and our eyes were busy staying on the ground as we tried to avoid the mud, the puddles, and tripping over the rocks. The first 10km of this hike is a four wheel drive track, so it is uneven but the surface is relatively easy to walk on and relatively flat (ish).
While we saw traces of goat and deer, and even spotted goats from the track, the hunting component of this trip was unsuccessful (primarily because the girls wouldn’t let the guys shoot the goats as it was a mama goat with her baby – you’ve all seen Bambi, right?!)
We nearly walked past the entrance to the track that would take us to Renata Hut – those little orange triangles can be easy to miss if you’re not looking for them. It was actually quite nice to get off the four wheel track and on to a normal bush track!
The track went down and continued that way for quite some time. While the rain had made things a bit slipperier than usual, a bit of maneuvering took place to ensure none of us got stuck in the mud! After just over 2km, we stopped for a water and scroggin break. Five minutes later and a couple of corners later we were at the Hut – isn’t that always the way?
That’s one thing with this track – even though it is a DOC track, there is not your usual DOC signage with estimated times, distances etc. All you have are those little orange triangles, which had the canny ability to appear at just the right time when you look up and wonder where in the world you’re meant to go next.
The Renata Hut is your standard little one room shelter. It had a fireplace, a sleeping platform, six mattresses, and that was pretty much it. The most important feature was the rainwater tank where thank goodness, the water was pure enough to drink straight from the tap. I’m stoked that we arrived during daylight hours because it gave us the opportunity to go and find some extra firewood (we knew the small supply at the Hut wasn’t going to be enough to last us through a long, wet night) and get stuff sorted before it got too dark. Which it turns out, was a godsend, as trying to light a decent fire with wet wood took us the better part of three hours.
That’s right, three hours to get a decent fire going that emitted both light and warmth. It took us two hours to find the secret weapon to ensure a successful fire – the blue plastic shovel that comes as part of the $5.99 brush and shovel set you buy from The Warehouse. Why blow on the fire to get the flames going when you can fan it with those bad boys?! What. A. Godsend.
Once the fire was going it was time for a well-deserved glass of wine and some pre-dinner snacks. Cheese, crackers, and wine never tasted as good as when you’ve walked three hours in the rain then spent three hours trying to get a fire going!
It was my first time trying the Kaweka meals for dinner and they were the easiest thing in the world to prepare – put the packet in a pot of boiling water for a few minute and voila! Thai chicken curry with rice, just like that! Plus, minimal clean up – my favourite kind of meal.
Amy’s Advice: Use the shovel to help fan the flans in the fire – it’s an open fireplace and if you’ve got wet wood like we did, you’ll need all the help you can to get the fire roaring!
After a few rounds of Monopoly cards (I think I’ve created a couple of new fans ), it was time to sleep. I had borrowed a sleeping bag as since I left the days of having birthday sleepovers behind, I haven’t owned one. I’ve realised that if I want to get out and do more overnight hikes, that will need to change sooner rather than later. I am one of the biggest suckers that an outdoor store would see coming as I would most likely purchase it because the colour was cool, rather than it actually being the right gear for the adventures I do. Thankfully, Paul has offered to do research into what I’m after and present me with the findings – cool colours taken into consideration!
The one thing about Huts that I’ve never been a fan of is how far away the bathroom is. Especially when it’s dark. Even more so when it’s dark and raining. Thankfully, the ‘go away possum’ song (c) Amy 2017 worked a treat and meant I didn’t come across any creatures on my ventures from the Hut to the bathroom and back.
There’s nothing more peaceful than going to sleep with a roaring fire, the sound of rain on the roof, a full tummy, and a body that has earned its rest.
It turns out that even if you have a roaring fire going most the night, your clothes will still be damp the next morning. That feeling of putting on wet, smelly clothes is one that I will never get used to – fortunately all four of us were in the same boat!
Just when we thought we had timed a break in the weather to commence our return walk, the skies opened up again. At least it was mostly uphill in the mud as I find walking uphill in mud so much easier than walking downhill in mud. And even though it was raining, the hood on my jacket meant I could wear my glasses so I could actually see where I was walking – turns out it makes quite a difference!
One of the highlights of walking back along the four wheel drive track was coming across non four-wheel drive vehicles attempting to act like a four-wheel drive vehicle. We may have had a wee giggle to ourselves as a car passed us and promptly got stuck on a steep uphill bit, but after losing approximately half a tank of petrol through flooring the accelerator, and scraping the underside of their car, they finally made it up. Quite honestly, we were all surprised they had even made it that far!
Thankfully the fog/cloud started to lift and we got a little bit more a view than we did when walking in. What I found eerie was that none of the tall trees had their tops on – they were just large sticks poking above the shorter trees – they’d all had their height reduced by the fierceness of the wind at some point in time.
The walk back did seem to take forever though. We knew that once we came to a fork on the track that there was 30 minutes until we reached the car but my god, that fork took its sweet time in arriving. And even those last 30 minutes seemed to drag on but the feeling of relief once we got to the car and I could take all my wet clothes off and put on dry clothes – AMAZING. I also had the opportunity to check out all the scratches on my legs – my one hint for you on this walk? Wear long pants. I made the mistake of wearing shorts on the walk in (thankfully I learned my lesson before walking out and kept my thermal leggings on under my shorts) which wrecked havoc on my legs as we bush bashed our way around some of the larger puddles (ponds!) of water rather than walking through them.
From this walk, I have put four things on my shopping list: A LED lightbulb to hang in a Hut (stops you getting blinded by a headlamp everytime someone looks at you, gators to keep all the leaves/stones/random things out of my shoes, hiking trousers, and a sleeping bag. Thank goodness Kathmandu & Macpac both have a sale at the moment!
Photo credit: Most of these photos were taken by Paul on his cellphone, with some taken by me on mine. They all turned out pretty awesome!
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What I took
This was an overnight hike, staying in a VERY basic DOC hut:
- Hiking boots
- Pair of woolen socks
- Merino singlet
- Long-sleeved thermal top
- Long-sleeved merino
- Rain jacket
- Gloves (it was cold and when my balance is off while walking down hills, I tend to grab at trees/bushes. Gloves help!)
For the Hut
- Sleeping bag
- Thermal leggings
- Wool socks
- Light shoes (I took sneakers but jandals work a treat too)
- Fleece top
- Dinner (we had a couple of 1 serve Kaweka meals between the two of us)
- Cards (Monopoly Millionaire is the current favourite)
- Toilet paper & hand sanitiser
- Gas cooker
- Tea/Coffee/Milk powder
- Personal toiletries (I had deodorant, hairbrush, sunscreen, toothbrush & toothpaste
What the Hut had:
- Sleeping platform
- Brooms/brush & shovel