I stumbled into the hut towards sunset, and the hounds started barking.

Dogs?

In a national park?

Yeah, there’s four DOC goat shooters just in from the other direction, it’s Thursday and they are making their way out to civilisation tomorrow after a week, err, looking for goats. The dogs each have a GPS locator radio on their collars and I find out this is to inform the hunter exactly where the dog has bailed up any feral goats.

An hour after dark someone else crashes in, dogs again alerting us to his impending presence, he’s in a hurry, having just dashed the Heaphy Track which isn’t so far to the north, but we might not have tomorrow night in the same hut, I’m not in any type of rush this trip.

I’m loaded up with 12 nights food, it’s usually only five or six days to zip up over the Little Wanganui Saddle, scoot down the Karamea River then up the Leslie to Salisbury Lodge in behind Mt Arthur and that wouldn’t be speeding. I’m thinking of taking it relatively easily or finding a few side trips along the way and of course there’s not much in the way of daylight hours at this time of year.

Technically you can make it to this hut from Nelson in a day: the only bus gets to Westport at 11am and then you can catch the Karamea minibus half an hour later which you can get drop you off at the start of the Wangapeka Track. But I had the full 24.5 hours in sunny Westport, getting the last of the supplies, there’s two big supermarkets, and staying at Bazils, it’s pleasant accommodation when there’s no one else around, a room to myself, but tonight a full busload is dropping in, 50 extra bods for the night, time to be gone.

$45 to get dropped off at that Wangapeka roadend, 10k off the Karamea Road, in the scheme of things I’ve learned on occasions you might as well front up with the cash, then there’s enough daylight to stroll the three hours up the river to the hut. Much of the walk is through regenerating forest after the abandonment of a farm up here, the bush sure is winning.

The goat boys cranked up the firebox so the hut is well toasty despite it being a clear night outside, plenty of tall stories being exchanged inside between the six temporary inhabitants perched on two communal sleeping platforms.

Day 2 | Little Wanganui Shelter: hey, that's not so far →