Where: Sutherland Hut, Aorangi Forest Park, Wairarapa
Distance & Time: Two and a half hours in, three hours out (loop track)
Take: Sleeping bag, food, water, hiking clothes, warm clothes for the Hut
Amenities on route: Huts with mattresses and water and fire.
Cost of the walk: Sutherland Hut is a $5 hut ticket each person.
This was our first foray out into the bush for an overnight hut stay after nearly two months in lockdown. We thought there would be loads of people out and about, as the weather was ok and we figured everyone would be taking advantage of being able to get out in nature again. But apparently that was just us as over both days of walking, and our night in the hut, we didn’t see a single other person!
The track starts at road end – basically just keep following the road until the end and that’s when you park and start walking. We didn’t start walking until mid afternoon which I was a little nervous about as you can never tell with DOC timings – sometimes they massively overestimate how long the walk will take, and other times it’s underestimated…this was one of those times! Only by half an hour but considering the sun set 30 minutes after we arrived at the hut, I was glad it was only that!
The track over to Sutherland is a loop track so we opted to take the shorter route in, and come out the longer way the next day. It was the right decision! The walk in wasn’t too strenuous, although we did end up taking a steeper downhill detour at one point, rather than the slightly more gentle route. Ah well, all part of the fun.
Once we were down in the valley we started to hear the sound of a river and realised the hut must be relatively close (and we’d been walking for over the time the signpost indicated), but we couldn’t see any sign of it. We came to a t-intersection and there was no signage indicating what direction the hut was in! We took an educated guess and went left, hoping we were correct. Then we came to the river.
I hadn’t been expecting river crossings but thankfully it was a shallow one. It wasn’t the only one though, we crossed the river three times in total, the last one leading us up to the hut! To our surprise we were the only ones there so we quickly got the fire started while we still had some daylight left, and popped our shoes and socks up to dry.
Filling in the intentions book, it was interesting to see that people had been out to the hut in April, which was when we were all on Level 4 alert and were supposed to be staying in our homes! A lot of the comments mentioned the pigs that they had caught and seen. We had noticed a bit of pig damage on the walk in, with the sides of the tracks dug up.
Amy’s Advice – before this walk we each purchased a thermal sleeping bag liner. Holy moly these are a game changer for hut stays during the colder months! They roll up super small but make a difference of approx 8 degrees warmth to a sleeping bag.
That night, we heard quite a bit of scratching of a creature trying to get into the hut. We weren’t sure if it was possums or rats but either way they sounded VERY loud at 3am! Paul got up to try and scare them away which worked for a bit but they always came back. Those scratchy animal noises always sound so much louder in the dead of the night.
The next morning it was back across the river, and somehow Paul managed to up his rock-hopping skills and get across all three crossings without getting his feet wet! I knew I didn’t quite have those skills so I just waded on through and changed my socks after the third crossing, while Paul decided to go for a quick dip!
I thought the track out would be fairly similar to the track in – well formed and not too technical. Well, I was soon sharply corrected on that assumption. It was obvious that this track had barely anyone walking it over the past couple of months as it was super overgrown and slow going. I don’t think I walked front on for at least an hour as the track was so narrow and on the side of a gorge. There were times were I couldn’t even see where the track went – thank goodness for the trusty DOC orange triangles which without fail always manage to appear just where we needed them.
And then the pigs had contributed their part – there were sections of the track that had been freshly dug up by them. They had obviously enjoyed their nearly two months of no humans and had made the most of that opportunity.
Paul made the video below which shows just how overgrown the track was!
Once we came out of the gorge the track got a bit easier through beech trees and the location of the old mill and then it was just traipsing around the hills until we met back up with the loop track to head out. And still we didn’t see anyone until we were back out at the carpark!
The photos were taken by Paul and I!
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