Holdsworth Lodge; Tararua Forest Park. 9 & 10 Feb 2021.

I have been wanting to get out bush and clear my head for awhile. It was well overdue and thanks to a couple of friends we locked in a date and off we went. A lot of trips would be out of my “range” at the moment so I deliberately picked Holdsworth Lodge, a bit of a cruisy, glamping trip. I have walked past Holdsworth Lodge plenty of times on my way into Donnelley’s Flats and thought “I need to measure up that ramp and the doorways”. This was the perfect opportunity to do a measure up and see how feasible this site could be for others to use. However the main intent for this trip was to get out of town and cellphone range to chill for the night.

ADNZ Raven is sitting, looking at the camera in the fore-ground. In the background is a lofted out blue sleeping bag, an orange stuff sack and part of an empty black backpack.
Are we going somewhere?

It was an opportunity for Natt to get out bush for her first night and get some “off road” walking under her belt. Pete needed to get away from his email. MJ needed a night in the bush and I have had itchy feet for ages but some “complications” from my medication change has prevented me taking on anything that pushes my heart rate up too much. This was also Raven’s first proper away from home, staying in the bush type trip. All these things meant that Holdsworth Lodge was the perfect sneaky mid-week trip. I had planned to take lots of photos, but I ended up just soaking in the experience and barely got my camera out.

On the way to the road end we stopped at the supermarket to get some supplies, this was an adventure in itself. MJ stayed in the car while Natt, Pete and I headed into a supermarket that none of us know! So I don’t regularly do the grocery shopping at home, so I have no idea why I thought I would be useful to the two people who can’t actually see properly! Shout out to Natt who made sure we actually got the mince for the nachos!

Another bonus to going during the week is that in general, the tracks are a wee bit quieter, which meant that the likelihood of having to deal with general public is lower. Why would that be important?? Well… first off a lot of people seem to think dogs are communal property and I wanted to reduce that if possible for Raven’s first trip out. Otherwise I have to explain why Raven (previously Ben) needs to focus on their job etc., believe me, it gets tiring. Another advantage to being fewer public meant that Pete and Natt didn’t really didn’t have to deal with the “why do blind (white cane users) want to be out here for?” type questions. Another reason I chose this site for Natt’s first tramping experience is so she could get her feet under her on a better maintained track. This mostly worked, even if we did get jumped on by someone’s off-leash dog that was not under control.

A landscape photo of native NZ Podocarp and Black Beech Forest looking from Holdsworth Lodge towards the East Coast.
Not a bad spot to chill for an evening

For those that use the Mt Holdsworth entrance to the Tararua will probably be going “but Antnz, they won’t get over the bridge”, yeah I know, that is where piggy backs or possibly a quad & trailer will come in to get over the river. Which was the secondary reason for going on this trip. In all honesty this was a bit of a “let’s go and chill” trip with the bonus of getting the information about exactly how accessible this hut actually is.

This hut was a typical access retrofit fail. As I said I have been walking past thinking “That ramp they’ve put in looks pretty good, I wonder that the rest of the access is like?” The bathrooms would work for those in manual chairs that do require full change tables. The ramp itself was good, although large power chairs may not fit through the external door to the bunk room. The internal door however was far far too narrow for a lot of wheelchairs (less than 14inch width chair, with 0 to 3 degree camber) to get from the bunk room into the kitchen/dining area. There are camping options that could be utilized and we should be able to at least drive any additional gear into the hut. I think I have to do some work with Dept of Conservation to see if that internal door can be widened.

We got settled into the hut, chilled out for awhile. Pete taught Natt and I some of the basics behind using a taiha (spear) with the white canes and talked. This hut really is glamping territory people; flush toilets, electricity and hot showers! I recommend this hut if you don’t have access needs, this location would be ideal as a base for a family or group to then head out on the handful of tracks in the area.

Natt, Peter and I headed out to walk the Donnelley’s Flats loop that afternoon. It was a nice wander, with the high-vis vest and cap on, Natt and Peter had a bit of an idea of where I was, I was giving verbal track descriptions and directions, any obstacles and drops. There was one point where we ran into some tree-fall where it was a lot easier to manually guide both Natt and Peter across individually. We only had one “Natt!….never mind” when Natt stepped/slipped down a small rock before I had a chance to actually give her direction. I had been speaking to an guided adventurer from the UK who said “tell them that if they haven’t fallen over a rock or smashed their face into a branch it’s not a real trip out”. Well all 3 of us tripped over a rock and fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it) neither Natt or Pete got a branch to the face. No injuries, which is the main thing!

After our wander we got dinner organised, had a meal, sat around chatting, then we made a campfire for smores (Roasted marshmallow between 2 chocolate thins is my preferred recipe) . Pete had never had smores before so we thought it was a good time to introduce him to the smore life… It was at this point we discovered that process of cooking smores needs some guiding on height of flames, and the “squidge” test works, as long as the cooking guide is onto it and doesn’t actually let the marshmallows catch fire. We also discovered that even Pete can see the sparks thrown up by my flint.

A picture taken at night of a campfire. The campground is in the foreground center of the picture. Natt and Peter sit to the left of the fire, to the right of the fire you can see a torch. In the the background are the lights at the hut.
Nothing like chilling around a campfire!

The forecast had predicted some drizzle Tuesday evening and some showers on the Wednesday, we had a couple of minor spits of drizzle for the last maybe 10 mins to the hut. The sky opened and poured overnight (Tues night) and it was threatening to bucket down so we made the decision to chill for a bit and head home instead of trying to try head up the hill. When a full class of (I think Year 9 or 10) teenagers wandered past the hut headed into the grotty weather, I was somewhat relived that we didn’t have to try and deal with getting off the track and getting more than 20 people past us.

Although we had crossed the bridge to get on track on the Tuesday, we hadn’t actually been down to the river, so on the Wednesday morning MJ took us to a couple of spots they had found while we were walking on the Tuesday. A bit of turning around and guided down-climbing meant we all got down into the riverbed safely. The hope of not having “wet-dog” smell in the car on the 1 &1/2 hour drive home was quickly shattered as Raven caught sight of a lead that “needed” to be retrieved!

It wasn’t actually until Peter asked me as we were headed for the car that this was my first proper out bush stickless wander! I also did not fall when jumped on by an uncontrolled young chocolate lab so I am #TakingTheWins

ADNZ Raven, a black Labrador is standing ankle deep in a river. Raven is shaking, water droplets can be seen flying off her. Her ears in a line perpendicular to her head as she shakes
No longer a dry dog!

Content warning: Suicide

Going on in the background of this trip was the fact that the creator of a NZ tramping (hiking for the non-kiwis) group could no longer fight his own mind. In his own words “There’s a place for each and all of you in my heart and soul, I’ll take it with me on my new adventure. There was this story I wanted to tell you about a guy who walked the most beautiful walk, but I’m too tired and need to rest, I’ll tell you when I see you again xx”

Brad had used walking and his love for the outdoors to turn his life around, make change for the next generation. He encouraged all around him to take time to find yourself and feed your soul by walking, moving and just getting out there, being humble, honest and the kindest person you can, each day we’re here. Unfortunately a couple of bit hits recently had landed Brad in a rocky place and he reached out too late. I will continue to find peace in NZs natural places. Brad thank you for all the encouragement to keep walking into the wilderness, no matter how big or small, even when my body didn’t always want to.

Kua hinga te totara i te wao nui a Tane. The totara has fallen in the forest of Tane (Whakatauki; Maori Proverb)

As I said in a post in the group, you were on my mind Brad as I introduced others to the great escape of nature. Walk on my friend, walk on. We will share your love for natures places. #WalkForBrad

a picture of a small river, on the opposite bank is a log lying partially in the river surround by brush. The background is the edge of beech forest
Finding the quiet spaces, is good for the soul.

I have navigated my share of rocky places both figuratively and literally, and I know how hard it is to hang on when the hits keep coming. I also know how hard it is to reach and ask for help when you need it. The biggest lesson I have learned in the last 2 years of rebuilding my life is; instead of the usual kiwi “yeah, I’m alright ay” that being honest and saying when you are struggling and being realistic about our limitations, our energy levels and how we are coping or not coping is key to getting through the hard times. So if you are struggling please reach out, I know many of the systems that we have to “help” are crap but if we all support each other a bit more and share the load we can weather the storms.

The last couple of weeks (since this trip) have in fact been a bit rocky with my body still throwing a bit of a tantrum that the chemicals in it are changing. Although the last few months have been challenging, we are nearing the end of the major medication adjustments which means my body will then adapt to its “new normal” of medications. I am already feeling the benefit of this medication change however it is a fact that those of us that use medications to help manage our symptoms build a tolerance and dependence to a specific medication, so it makes sense from a physiological perspective that this was always going to be challenging.

During writing this blog New Zealand has moved around our Covid Alert Levels a little, am reminded that as a country we got through 2020. That I made it through the last 2 pretty weird and challenging years and the only reason that I, and that NZ made it, is because we all need a team to achieve anything. Gather your team, lean on your team when you need to; but more importantly (and is something I am still learning) is be honest with your team and when you need help reach out to your team.

Take care everyone, be as safe as you can!

Picture Description: A picture of 3 people with arms around each other smiling at camera. They are standing by a river with native forest behind. From left to right stands Peter, Antnz and Natt.
Not the finest photo, but we had a blast!

Ehara taku toa i te toa takitahi, engari he toa takitini. Our strength does not come from ourselves alone, our strength derives from the many. (Whakatauki; Maori Proverb)


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