Sunday was a rare day that my Pa and I both had off at the same time. We decided to make the most of it and head up into the Ruahine Range. Anne Nash Memorial Heritage Lodge was on our radar. If you are new to hiking, make sure you check out my 11 top hiking tips and tricks. It's packed full of handy info so you can make the most of your trek.
Great things are done when men and mountains meet. This is not done by jostling in the street.
Time 40 minutes to the lodge, from there you can head several ways, Tunupo is another 3 hours, Iron Gate Hut which is another 4 hours or down to the Oroua River which is 40 minutes there and 40 minutes back again.
Fitness The track to Heritage Lodge is unusual for the Ruahine Range in that it starts with a downhill so to finish you walk uphill again. It is not a hugely steep climb but does go on for a while.
Difficulty The track is well maintained to the lodge, it is wide and mostly free from tree roots and branches. If you carry on past the lodge either up Tunupo or Iron Gate then the track becomes more rugged. The track used to be an old logging track so the hills aren't too steep.
Acess Past Apiti you turn onto Table Flat Road then turn onto Petersons Road. There is a public carpark at the end Petersons Road, this isn't a sealed road and is narrow and windy in places so go slow and be wary that there may be oncoming traffic. The drive is very picturesque. You end up quite high in the hills so the view down into the valley presents you with rolling farmland and dramatic rivers lined with cliffs.
The Lodge The Anne Nash Memorial Heritage Lodge operates on a first come, first served basis so you won't need to book in advance. The lodge sleeps 8 people and the facilities are basic, an outside toilet, mattresses and bunk beds are available. You will need to bring your own sleeping bag, cooking equipment and other bits and bobs.
Fees If you are planning to stay in the lodge you will need to buy a Hut Ticket or Back Country Pass or a donation to the Manawatu Deerstalkers Association. These can be purchased from a range of places, click here to find out where to purchase them from. Fees are adults (18+) $5 per night and youth (11-17 years) $2.50 under 10 years are free. These get placed in the honesty box at the Lodge.
The Walk to Heritage Lodge
The trek to Anne Nash Memorial Heritage Lodge isn't long, allow 30 to 40 minutes to get there. As this used to be an old logging truck road the track doesn't get too steep. Which is good. I am not terribly fit and steep hills don't agree with my legs. Or lungs. Nature has claimed the road back (as she is well entitled to) so the track is farmland until the first gate, then dirt from there.
It is unusual for a hike in the Ruahine Range to start with a downhill. Normally you are straight on an incline. This provided a nice false sense of security. But remember, what goes down, must come up. But as I said earlier, it isn't too steep so children can easily manage this walk without too much complaint. I'm dragging my kids up there in the next school holidays for a night in the Hut.
If you are nice and quiet you can meet some of the locals. We had a friendly little stalker for a while making the most of the bugs we turned up on the path with our footsteps. A wee Tomtit flitted happily from branch to branch behind us as we made our way down the first part of the dirt track. A multitude of tit puns ensued. Let's just say our jokes went tits up from there. Boom!
Just before you get to the lodge you hit a crossroads of sorts. You can veer right and take the challenging steep track up to Tunupo which is the highest point of this part of the Range. Or you can head left and head down to the Oroua River and campsite. If you carry on another 5 minutes you will stumble across Anne Nash Memorial Heritage Lodge. From the lodge, you carry straight on past and in another 4 hours, you will reach Iron Gate Hut. Easy.
The lodge sits proudly on the edge of the hill, overlooking the valley below and eye level with the forest across the river. It is happily nestled amongst the surrounding bush, not overly arrogant instead, it is at one with nature. The lodge is a simple building with a fire for heating, some crude bunks with slim mattresses, a large table to socialise around and outdoor seats to sit peacefully upon and ponder.
Anne Nash Memorial Heritage Lodge is made from a timber frame and there is an outhouse for those times when, you know, you need to go. There is also a wooden cool box for the hunters to keep their finds in overnight.
Hunters, Fishermen and Trampers. Oh, My!
The Ruahine Range is a popular spot for hunters, fishermen (fisherpeople?) and trampers. There is a rifle range off the track up to the lodge and plenty of deer reside in the bushes. With several rivers and streams making their way down the ranges, fishing is plentiful. Hiking trails in varying difficulties ribbon across the Range, ensuring that this is a popular spot for a wide range of hikers. Be aware that if you do decide to spend a night in any of the Huts nestled in the bush, you may have to share it with a hunter, walker or two.
If you do come across people using the same track as you, prepare for a good ole yarn. Us Kiwi's are a friendly bunch and will stop for a natter along the way. We got stopped by a hunter coming back from some father-son bonding time (sans deer) and a fisherman wearing running shoes with his boots around his neck.
Down to Oroua River
Iron Gate Hut and Tunupo were a bit of a stretch for our day out, Pa is still recovering from a stroke and I am not quite at the fitness level I would like to be in to tackle either track. Plus we didn't bring enough snacks. I know, Rookie Tramping Mistake Number One. Well, we did have M&M's and a muesli bar each but they wouldn't have quite done the trick. We instead decided to head down to the river.
The track is entirely downhill to the river (making it entirely uphill for 40 minutes back again. Gah!). There are a couple of places you can stop and enjoy the view. Whilst recovering from the incline you can gaze out down to the river or look across the valley to the other side. See if you can spot where there have been slips in the past.
On the banks of the river are a few clearings where you can pitch a tent for the night. A fire pit has been thoughtfully built by a previous camper. Just check to see if there are any fire bans in place before you light up.
The Oroua River had been on a mandatory diet over the past few weeks as the rain has been scarce so she was a bit on the thin looking side. Since Sunday though, Cyclone Gita hit so I'm sure that filled up the river a wee bit.
It was rather pleasant sitting on the rocks and watching the water lazily roll over the boulders.
A Wee River Walk
After we had our snacks (lollies), built a tower of stones and got bored of taking photos, we weren't quite ready to head back up the track. Instead, we meandered upstream, crossing the river (and having to cross again as we came to a dead end on the riverbank) and carrying on our mission. The river isn't deep. One part came up to my knees. But then my knees aren't very high off the ground.
Iron Gate Hut is accessible this way as well. You can either get to Iron Gate Hut carrying on from Anne Nash Memorial Heritage Lodge or along the river. This is handy 'coz it means you don't get bored going to and from the Hut the same way.
River Hiking Tips
- If you are using a tramping pole, place it upstream and the water will push it down into the river bed. This allows you to use it for balance (and lets you know how deep it is). If you place it downstream, the water lifts it up and makes you look a little on the silly side when you end up on your arse.
- When you are trying to get to the other side of a swiftly moving body of water, don't try to walk straight across or upstream. Pick a point downstream and aim for that. The current will help you get down there with less effort.
- Usually, when there is a boulder sitting in the water, the water is a bit deeper surrounding it. Found out from experience. Just to bring you this tip.
Back to the Carpark
After we had gone as far as we felt was necessary along the river (to the fisherman, we didn't want to stomp through his patch of the river and scare away all the fish. He wouldn't have been a happy fisherperson), we turned around and splashed on back again.
The walk up to the crossroads was aaallll uphill. Luckily I found some distractions along the way. Good excuses to stop for a breather. A dragonfly hovered near us so I practised my photography trying to get a decent shot (air in my lungs) and the views were spectacular (for allowing me to breathe).
Once we got to the crossroads it was all downhill to the arched bridge. The arched bridge gallantly straddles the gap between the gullies and is far enough up that the trolls can't bother the crossers. After the bridge, it is all uphill until the carpark.
The trek to Anne Nash Memorial Heritage Lodge is a pleasant day out, not too strenuous for children and people with lower fitness levels (note: me). The views are stunning and it isn't too far to the lodge. The walk is flexible, allowing you to veer off to more advanced tracks if wished. You have got the choice of bush or river tracks which makes for a great change of scenery.
Have you ever headed up the Rahines? Where is your favourite track?
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