Mt Heale Hut to Harataonga Beach

It was cold and clear when I woke up at Mt Heale Hut. I probably should have been more proactive and gone to the summit for sunrise but instead I cleaned the hut. There had been a rat the night before. Probably because of the food people had left behind.

Really, on the bench there was an egg, and open UHT cream, 1/10th of a bag of chips, a little bit of cider, and some butter. A little note beside them proclaimed that the egg and cream were good on the 15/06/17. What a wonderful person to leave their rubbish behind for others to carry out. There was probably around 3kg of left overs as well.

Rubbish at the Mt Heale hut.

Hirakimata (Mt Hobson)

After leaving the hut you skirt around the base of Mt Heale and then up a large old slip (same big storm) to the start of the stairs that lead to the summit of Hirakimata (Mt Hobson). There are quite a few of them.

Hirakimata is home to a Black Petrel colony but you don’t see much of them. You might be better to sit down in Whangapoua at sunrise or sunset? That’s the only time I have seen them. There are the usual calls of Kaka (demented parrot) and Pńęwakawaka (fantail).

The upper part of Hirakimata was one of the only places on the Island that wasn’t logged or burnt off so it still has original bush. From the summit you pretty much have a 360 degree view of the Barrier and surrounding landscape. Nice place for a break.

Palmers Track

Taking Palmers Track away from Hirakimata you follow the ridgeline to Windy Canyon. There isn’t much full bush which means you get really good views down into the Whangapoua basin and Kaitoke, Awana valleys. The track is good and clear but can be slippery in the wet.

Halfway along is an arch made of tree trunks. This was part of a logging system. It is incredible how valuable logs must have been back then. It is also incredible how few remain.

Further on is Windy Canyon. It is worth stopping at the top of the stairs and looking back down the valley at the columns rising from it. There is a triptych in the waiting room of the Claris Health Centre. It’s worth looking at. ūüôā

Whangapoua Basin from the top of Windy Canyon.

Palmers Track winds through Windy Canyons steep slopes and then carries on until you reach the road. I was going to The Harataonga Coastal Walkway tracks northern end so I turned left on the road and started down Okiwi Hill.

Harataonga Coastal Walkway

Strangely, when you get to the start of the¬†Harataonga Coastal Walkway the sign says there ¬†is cellphone coverage. This isn’t actually true. Probably the last cell coverage you will have will be as you leave the Whangapoua Basin at the end of the peninsula.

The¬†Harataonga Coastal Walkway is stunning. It isn’t steep, the track is well maintained, it has great views of Rakitu (Arid Island), and small beaches. Unfortunately, you can’t go to the beaches as it is private land. Both sides of the track are private land.

When you get to Harataonga it will more than make up for that. As will the camp ground with sheep and geese wandering around. Eels in the stream and no one there.

Forest Road to Mt Heale via Southfork

One end of Forest Road starts at Port Fitzroy and the other at Whangaparapara Road. I started at the Whangaparapara end. It was closer.

Forest Road

The entire track is supposed to be 13km and it can feel that long.  It follows the ridge line at either end but there are three deep valleys and, especially heading south, a hill that seems to climb forever. Forest Road can be quite slippery at times. You definitely have to keep an eye on where your feet are going when it is wet. Not so much muddy, just slippery.

Little barrier in the distance from Forest Road

Maungapiko

Halfway along is one of my favourite places on the Barrier. Maungapiko lookout. Sitting on the junction of Forest Road and Kiwiriki Track, with a nice little table, is a short ten minute track that leads up to Maungapiko.  There is also a piece of railway line stuck in the ground at the entrance. The track can be a little slippery but it always amazes me how far you can see from the look out and how few houses there are in view.

Southfork

Near the end of Forest Road is the start of Southfork Track. It got pretty nailed in a storm a couple of years ago and you have to walk up the Kaiarara Stream for 500m or so before picking up a ridgeline that takes you up out of the valley. In the stream you will see the devastation that can be caused by weather on the Island.

The track rises fairly steeply at first but then levels out a bit before coming to a wire bridge. It must have been one of the first DOC wire bridges on the Island. Maybe even a Forestry Service one? It isn’t to far from the end where Southfork meets Peach Tree. Take a left and you’re only a hundred meters from the Mt Heale Hut.

Wire bridge on Southfork.

Mt Heale Hut

Nice hut. No heating but there are mattresses for about 20 people, gas burners, water, and toilets. It does call itself a serviced hut although that hasn’t really been true when I have passed through. Twice the gas wasn’t working, once the water had to be got from the outside tank, and generally there was no toilet paper. This time was the exception with everything working.

There are electric lights in the hut but no wall socket. Cell phone coverage can also be intermittent.

Training

Training at Whangapoa

Well, I suppose I had better start writing some stuff down. I have done a couple of training walks (shock treatment I call them) in order to get my fitness/confidence up. The Barrier is pretty much the perfect place to train for anything like this.

My Training

The first walks were pretty much beach walks but they didn’t last long. Then a little bit for Rural Fire with the weight pack on (20kg’s), a walk with Logan, a couple of pack-less walks in along Tramline track and a 10 or 15km walk with pack up to Mt Heale and back.

Followed the next weekend by walking Forest Road to Port Fitzroy and over the hill to Whangapoua where I camped the night to test out my tent and equipment. Jeff Cleave spotted me at the end of that walk and described me as having a purposeful stride :). I was a little bit shattered. But it was a nice night and I got to test out my filtration kit as the water at  the campground looked a little bit like effluent.

Everything seems to works fairly well. The only minor screw-up being I lit my gas cooker wrong, set off the thermal shutdown, and then couldn’t reset it so I was forced to fall back onto my emergency supplies of wine and cheese instead of having a cooked dinner. That’s why you do prep I suppose. Saves me walking down Ninety Mile beach living on cold soggy noodles or something.