April began with me trying to get the footage I had taken at Alice Nash edited (I’m still trying!), some meetings and preparing to take 3 friends out to Alice Nash for an overnighter. Then I realized that the deer hunting season had kicked off, that there was a lot of talk of father/son hunting trips and that Aotearoa was in full lockdown this time last year…

With Alice Nash being an NZ DeerStalkers Association hut, the likelihood that the hut would be busy was quite high. A few years ago my sister’s dog had also gotten into a bit of a scrap out there with a hunting dog. I decided it was probably better not to take myself, my assistance dog, 2 visually impaired friends and another wobbly walker in for this trip and made a quick pivot in plans to head out to Atiwhakatu Hut, in the Eastern Tararua.

In between the meetings and heading out to Atiwhakatu I was fortunate enough to get on a horse for the first time in well over 10 years. Pavlova is a lovely albino, retired Riding for the Disabled horse, and could almost beat ADNZ Raven in “the biggest sloth” competition. It was amazing to get back on a horse, something I haven’t done in a long time. My legs definitely reminded me that I hadn’t been on a horse for a couple of days afterwards. A huge thanks to Abbi for giving me the opportunity!

A large white horse stands sideways in the middle of the frame. On the horse Antnz sits, leaning fully forward on the horses neck, patting the base of the neck of the horse. Another woman is standing by the horses head patting the horses neck.
Pavlova is lovely, thanks Abbi!

The walk to Alice Nash is about 2.5km, however, Atiwhakatu was looking just over 7km. This would have been my wobbly walker friends first tramping trip and he had decided it was a wee bit out of range for his current fitness levels. I appreciate the fact that he was realistic about his limitations, too many people get themselves in over the heads in the outdoors and they then risk other people to get them out. I knew this would be definitely pushing my limit, but I had my crutches, a dry hut to aim for and a full set of “pitch up if I have to” gear. The weather forecast wasn’t flash and I personally wouldn’t be headed for the tops by Powell and Jumbo Huts, but we were sticking to the side of the Atiwhakatu River down in the valley. Got some food shopping a couple of days before we were due to head out. Pete, Natt and I were all looking forward to getting out of cellphone range for a night and go for a wander. Natt had never done a walk for a while, then stay overnight in a hut or tent trip before so she was itching to get out and give it a go. Time in the bush is my preferred place so I’m keen to head out as often as I can!

The morning before we were due to head out, I woke to a message “Message me when you are awake” from Natt. “Oh Shit, what’s happened” was my first thought. Turns out Pete who is a group fitness instructor had fallen off the stage and was awaiting x-rays etc. Pete has been doing these classes for a long time, and he usually places his bench 1 step further back on the stage. Being visually impaired Pete could not see that he had in fact placed his bench too far forward and when he went to take “one step forward” he stepped right off the stage. Turned out he had messed up his rotator cuff and is out of action both as an instructor and tramping for around 6 weeks.

So this trip was already turning into a bit of an adventure; Natt and I decided to go anyway, we’d both packed our gear, I’d prepped all the food, we had our bunks booked so figured we may as well head off and have a bit of a girls trip. Although the weather forecast hadn’t gotten any better we set out on the track just after lunch. At the road end, one busload of high school students were about to be picked up due to the weather, while 2 van loads of older high school students were headed to the Powell – Jumbo loop. Personally, I wouldn’t have wanted to be up on the tops in that weather with a group of teens!

A night panorama of the milky way, trees frame either side and a tree is silhouetted just slightly left of the midline.
Spectacular night sky at Atiwhakatu Hut; Tararua Forest Park

The weather quickly proved it was going to be a wet afternoon so out came the jackets as I packed my camera away in drybags in my pack. (Sorry for the lack of pictures for this trip.) It turned out to be a longer afternoon than intended; all the research I had done had people walking the track to the hut in between 1 and 3 hours. It was almost 5 hours of walking when we finally dropped packs at Atiwhakatu hut, with my GPS telling me we had done 9.4km to the hut.

We had discovered Natt had left her white cane at Pete’s place when we went to grab some lunch from a bakery close to the track. We found out that boardwalks just disappear into the environment for Natt’s vision, that Natt cope’s better uphill and I cope better on the downhill. We also learnt that ADNZ Raven does fine on swing bridges with actual wooden bottoms; she really doesn’t want to get onto the swing bridges that have mesh floors and sides with metal slat rungs; once I got the both of us up on the bridge she was a bit unsure but made her way across. I don’t blame her for being a bit unsure on that bridge, most people find them a bit scary too! After the bridges, working our way along a slip, which then had a small washout, more bridges, more up and down (those damn 20m contour lines are deceptive) the sight of the hut and a dry place to shelter for the night was a welcome sight.

A picture taken on the deck of a Dept of Conservation Hut, with a sign saying "Atiwhakatu Hut" above a door that is open. Antnz, ADNZ Raven and Natt are crouched in front of the door. Antnz is looking at the camera, Raven is licking her nose and Natt is looking where she thinks the camera is. A mans face can be seen through the window on the left of the door.
Natt’s first “walk in” overnight.

A couple of guys had passed on the way into the hut, they were having a drink out on the deck when we arrived. We found our bunks, got into dry clothes, settled in and started getting a cuppa and some food ready. I made a complete rookie mistake and didn’t check the pot stand on my cooker so as soon as my billy started to boil it fell off the cooker, knocking the cooker onto the floor. Natt said all she could see was “flame on the floor” and “figured if you weren’t yelling directions at me that you were fine.” Luckily neither of us were in the direct fall line of the water or the cooker, I managed to spin the cooker around with my foot and pick it up from the bottom and place it back on the benchtop with no harm to persons or property. Wiped down the bench from all the water, refilled the billy, checked the pot stand, and got some water reheating for our dehydrated meal. The Roast Lamb and Vegetables with Instant Mashed potato wasn’t too bad for dehydrated food. The guilty pleasure Aunt Betty’s Carmel Steamed pudding with UHT cream was definitely appreciated after a day that found my limits (about 2/3 of the way in) and pushed me past them, but I pulled out my crutches and getting to the hut regardless.

A landscape of NZ Beech and Podocarp forest. Looking into a valley with a river running from the bottom right up to the midline of the photo. To the left of the river are several standing, dead trees.
The power of water and the cycles of nature.

Somewhere between 8.30 pm and 9 pm, Natt and I were sitting outside having a chat when we thought we heard voices, the guys had retired for the night by this stage. Raven definitely was acting like there was someone out there. She wandered off to investigate with her red flashing light blinking on her collar. Two somewhat wet women made their way into the hut. They had done a bit of a mission that day coming over Mt Baldy from Powell Hut, after waiting a day for more favourable conditions after literally being blown over the day before. They were rustling around in their packs putting together whatever they had left for something that resembled “dinner” when we withdrew to our bunkroom. I was headed for one final wander to the long-drop for the night when I looked up to see a beautiful night sky peeking through the bush canopy. After hauling all my camera gear in my pack I decided to get out the camera and at least try for some night sky shots. I was literally shooting in the dark, and hoping I was; a) I had the sky in the frame & b) I had the settings somewhere near ok. I’m pretty happy with a couple of the frames I caught.

A night picture of the milky way. with a slight red tinge. In the lower part of both sides the silhouettes of trees can be seen.
Sometimes after a hard day, this is the reward

Natt and I were up and had a fairly lazy morning, I had prepared for 3 ( including 1 bloke) people for breakfast so there was plenty of porridge for Natt and myself; we also gave some to the women that arrived late as they only had some snacks left to get them down to the road end. We were on the track by 10 am in the hope that we would beat the weather down the hill to the car. We did pop the jackets on and the camera back in the pack pretty early on, which again meant no photos were taken. We did however manage to make it to the car and a good leg of the drive home before the weather really caved in completely.

So all in all it was a wet and wonderful trip out for Natt’s first walk-in overnight bush trip. If you can a good trip in adverse conditions and challenging circumstances, life can’t be that bad. Well at least I think Natt had a “good time” as she wants to head back out with me. All in all this trip was truly an adventure!

A picture of a swing bridge with a solid wooden floor, taken from downstream. The surrounding riverbanks around covered in NZ beech and podocarp forest.
ADNZ Raven was fine with these wooden bottomed bridges!

Today we went and paid Assistance Dogs NZ (ADNZ) Ravens (ADNZ Raven) support crew a visit at the court. The Victim Advisors have a donations box that people fire some change in, and the court staff social club puts in a wee bit each month to go towards our fundraising efforts. Raven adores her trips to visit and everyone loves to hear what the ADNZ “adventure dog” has been up to since our last visit. As always a huge thank you to the staff at the Palmerston North District Court for their ongoing support!

If you would like to contribute to Raven’s fundraising please feel free to make a donation with the following details:Bank: Bank of New Zealand (BNZ)
Branch: Lower Hutt, Wellington
Account Name: Assistance Dogs New Zealand
Account Number: 02 0528 0138534 00
Payment Reference:  Dog 201365
GST Number: 101153568

Thank you to all of you who are ongoing supporters of AntnzVentures.

A photo looking east, down Atiwhakatu valley. Taken looking through bush and down over the valley. In the sky from the horizon to the top of the frame a line of clouds can be seen. The valley is bright with sunlight.
Trying to race the clouds down the valley

Whāia te iti kahurangi, ki te tūohu koe me he maunga teitei. Seek the treasure you value most dearly: if you bow your head, let it be to a lofty mountain (Whakatauki: Maori Proverb)

Keep on Adventuring!

  1. This is a great story! You sound like me… feeding the whole hut! lolz


    1. Thanks Julz, it was a great trip! Even if not quite the trip we planned! I figure if Natt can have fun for her first walk-in overnight she’s really going to enjoy blue sky days!


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