Hump Ridge Track

1 – 5 June 2018

The Hump Ridge track is a 52km loop track ran by a charitable trust. Upon organising our tramp, our trip leader Dan discovered the fee for staying at Okaka Lodge in winter with no heating, cooking facilities or running water was still $50. He warned us, it could be very cold! We were suitably warned.

Our departure day started out wet and drizzly as I met my ride at the Rolleston BP. Seven of us went in two cars for a full day of travel to Tuatapere, with Dan our leader and Lee travelling separately via Central Otago. First stop Oamaru for morning tea then Milton for lunch. The further south we travelled the better the weather became. Making good time we arrived in Tuatapere by 4.30pm to check in to our accommodation, Last Light Lodge, which was an old forestry camp upgraded to tourist accommodation. Rooms sorted, we gathered in the dining room for pre-dinner drinks then a lovely meal.

Sunday dawned clear and fine. We were up early ready for pick up at 8am, our group of nine were promptly delivered to the start of the track at the Rarakau carpark. Packs sorted, off we trotted through the gate into regenerating native bush. It was a nice flat meander before the 200 steps down to the sea edge. We enjoyed a pleasant walk to a beautiful dawning day on the beach with views up to the ridge where our destination Okaka Lodge was, for today. After walking several kilometres we re-entered the bush close to Te Waewae Bay until reaching our turn off up the hill. Much of the first hours of walking were on boardwalks, the bush dense, lush and green.

Lunch was had where we could find sunshine filtering through the trees. Despite that, we chilled off quickly, even though it was fine, the temperature was in single digits. After a short stop, we moved quickly up and onwards, followed, at times, by a beautiful black fantail. We reached the Water Bridge which has a shelter and toilet facilities. It is the last stop for water before the lodge but only half way up the hill! We decided against carrying water for the night as we could obtain it from a tarn near the lodge. Good to top up water bottles though, so Dan set to lowering the billy from the bridge into the stream and successfully managing to haul some up. Heavy packs started to take their toll and progress become slower as the track became steeper. Then a view of the lodge in the distance, told us we were making progress, but knowing we had at least another 45mins to go.

A lead group of four reached the Lodge first and checked it out. Stu came back to let us know it had running water. It was a relief we didn’t have to collect any. In all it was a nine hour day. We settled into bunkrooms with solar lights, Dan got the cooker going and we all congregated in the dining room with no heating. Hats, gloves and down jackets were donned to try and keep warm. It was already freezing outside. Dan cooked a beautiful meal of fresh vegs and smoked chicken. We were joined by a group of 5 walkers who had come up from Port Craig, which had taken them 9 hours. Then it was off to bed as soon as possible to try to keep warm. It was a beautiful starry night with far away lights twinkling in the distance.

We woke to a big frost and clear skies. Another long day so Dan planned to be away by 8am. Our destination, the Port Craig Old School House. Admiring the views before we left, Di somehow managed to drop her walking pole over the edge into the abyss and tangle of bushes. Keen to be reunited with it, Di with the kind help of Barry, climbed down to hunt it out. After some major bush crashing, the mission was accomplished. At the track junction, a vote was had as to who wished to go up and have a look the tarns above the Lodge, 5 votes to 4 so off we trotted. This had to be the best scenery of the whole trip - 360 degree views over to Lake Poteriteri and the Cameron Range, out to sea and Stewart Island. The tarns were all frozen, it was a winter wonderland.

Back to the junction and onward down the Hump Ridge, aptly named. Again lots of boardwalk and steps on our progress downward. It was a beautiful sunny day with no wind, we couldn’t have been luckier with the weather for this time of year. A quick stop to look at the Luncheon Rock where there is a shelter reminiscent of an animal barn and toilet. We continued onwards down the long ridge. We found a patch of sunshine through the trees for a lunch stop. The ambient temperature remained low, so yet again only a quick lunch stop. We continued down eventually reaching the beginnings of the old tram tracks and the viaducts, amazing feats of engineering for their time. There was another 7km to go along the old tram tracks to Port Craig. We finally reach our destination at 5pm after another long 9 hour day.

DoC has done a great job of converting the Old School House into a tramping hut. Three tiers of bunks, luckily we didn’t need to use the top tier. A warm welcoming pot belly stove and running water. Dan got to cooking and Barry lit the fire while 5 of us women took off to explore the area, thanks guys! I took my torch keen to look at the site of the old port as the chances were it would be raining in the morning. Miriam accompanied me to the steps down to the beach. There were informative display boards and old machinery lying around. Dan again cooked dinner, tuna and pasta with more fresh vegs, yum!

Next morning, we woke to overcast skies with rain starting by 7.30am. We had planned to get away by 8am as our pick up was at 2.30pm and the time to walk out takes about 6 to 7 hours. Jackets on, we warmed up quickly. The showers came and went and it was cold. We initially walked in bush, and then we hit the glorious coastline, walking in and out of bays and across beaches. While crossing a stream, Dan spotted a red deer in the river. Off it shot, a blur for some and missed by others. It was a magnificent beast for those who saw it. We stopped for lunch in the shelter of a porch of someone’s bach. A welcome respite from the cold rain showers. Then it was the last stretch back across the beach to the starting point, being graced by beautiful rainbows in the distance. The last of us reached the vans at 2.40pm. Then it was back to our accommodation and hot showers. We then headed off to the local pub for a drink and meal. A warm and pleasant evening spent chatting.

It snowed that night, and we woke to hear that there were road closures on our route home. On departing Tuatapere, it wasn’t clear which route was best to take home. We ended up going three different ways, all safely arriving back to Christchurch.

Thanks Dan for all your effort in organizing and leading the trip. It was a great trip and I highly recommend it. Though next time I think I’ll come back in the summer to take advantage of the longer days.

We were, Daniel Pryce, Lee Varty, Penny Coffey, Diane Mellish, Stuart Payne, Miriam Preston, Joy Schroeder, Barry McKessar, Angela Grigg. (AG)