NC210421katipobeach.JPG The wild and wonderful West Coast.
NC210421saxontokatipo.JPG A mountain stream bubbles out to the sea.
NC210421BrendaDay4.JPG Among the nikau grove.
by Brenda Vowden
Toilets and spiders were foremost on my mind as we stepped foot into the Lewis Hut, our third night on the Heaphy. This was an older hut located a little too close to the river, which was both undermining its banks and uncovering a lot of rubbish. It was time for the hut to go, so we felt quite privileged to spend a night there before it's torn down.
There were two bunk rooms, both occupied by a woman in each. One of them kindly shifted rooms so Ed and I had a room to ourselves. I gingerly checked out my bed for the night, scoping any crevices for anything black, hairy and/or likely to crawl. All clear.
Next was the outhouse, with a surprise flushing toilet situated up a winding, uneven and rocky path. I wasn't looking forward to wobbling my way up there in the pitch black with only my headlight for company. Speaking of company, you can't pick your hut mates and some evenings can feel a lot longer than others. A lack of electricity and aching bodies can be a good way to bow out politely for the night.
Day 4 dawned with the stomping of boots and a slam of the door as one tramper departed the hut early. We ate and packed, setting off at a fairly reasonable hour, destination Katipo Creek shelter, instead of a warm, dry and very comfortable night in the state-of-the-art Heaphy Hut.
We had a steady six hours ahead, stopping halfway at the hut to say hello to more people we had met along the way, in particular to check the progress of a young family with three children, the youngest only 6. What a way to introduce them to what we have in our own backyard. I never heard those kids complain once.
After a leisurely cuppa and scoff, we were off, travelling through massive nikau palm groves and looking out to the spectacular white sand beaches and rocky coves of the wild West Coast.
We crossed many crystal clear steams, waterfalls gushing down and filling our bottles. This stretch was fairly flat and narrow, with the awe-inspiring landscape once again a total contrast to what we'd been through.
The Katipo Shelter is about halfway along this last leg of the track and with weary and aching feet it suddenly emerged about an hour and a half before I was expecting it, complete with a resident family of nosey wekas and a long drop with the seat up — need I say more.
The shelter was more than adequate for staying out of the elements, sorting gear, swatting sand flies and storing packs for the night.
Our view from the campsite was something out of a movie — roaring waves crashing on to rocky outcrops and rolling onto the expansive white sandy beach. Gobsmacking.
We pitched the tent, cooked a feed, balanced our butts on a rock and ate our tasty meal, marvelling at the scenery before us.
With our packs stacked high up out of weka reach and our insect repellent foil smouldering away, we thought what better way to spend the final fading hour of daylight and our last night on the track than to go for a walk.
With boots discarded, we made our way towards a large rock far off in the distance, along the sinking white and glorious sand which squeaked beneath our bare feet.
There were a few other footprints in the sand, a reminder others had done the same, walking along this now deserted beach most likely only a few hours before us.
This was a magical and unforgettable evening.