Barlow Hut – Ruahine Forest Park 14-15 March

The day dawned fine and clear, with the promise of two gloriously fine days ahead of us.  Everyone was in good spirits, looking forward to another classic trip away in our faithful old H.T.C. truck.  We had only just managed to crack the magic number of 6 trampers, as a requirement to justify using the HTC truck.  However, it was not to be… We had to improvise on our original travel plans due to our truck developing Covid-19 virus like symptoms on Friday night.  Our cunning plan to improvise involved Derek using his large SUV to take 4 people, and Des using his recently pimped out Toyota Corolla to transport the remaining two people.  With our transport all sorted, we loaded up our private vehicles and departed from Te Aute Rd; at 9:30am. 

On arrival at the road end, at around 10:30am, we noticed that the farmer was busy crutching a mob of sheep in the yards where we park our vehicles.  We explained that we had unsuccessfully tried to contact him several times by phone, to seek permission to access the Makaroro River thru his property.  He was most accommodating, and fortunately for us, had no problem with us arriving unannounced.  He was in fact most helpful in explaining where the direct route down to the river was.  His sister, Alison who was helping out with the sheep crutching, offered to take Des on the back of the farm quad bike to show him exactly where the track was.  It was a very exciting ride, and very generous of her to take the time to show us exactly where the track was. 

The river access track, which starts behind the shearing sheds, makes it so much easier to get down to the river flats, and basically reduces the time it takes to walk up the Makaroro River, to Barlow Hut, by at least 45mins, compared to starting from the old Yeomans Mill carpark further downstream.  We started on our tramp from the shearing sheds, just after 11am, and stopped for a nice leisurely lunchbreak, sitting on the side of the Makaroro River, at about 12:30 am.  The river level was very low, so we had no difficulty at all making the many river crossings. Some of the deep, gin clear pools, on the bends, looked very inviting for either fishing or swimming.  However, we pushed on at a steady pace, and arrived at Barlow Hut at around 2pm. 

After sorting out our sleeping arrangements, and having a brew, Derek and Des decided to do a little track exploring to fill in the remainder of the day.  The track that they were interested in checking out, is called the Parks Peak ridge track.  It is situated on the true left bank just a few minutes upstream of the hut. After climbing steadily up it for a couple of hours, we decided to turn around and retrace our steps back down, before the changing light made it impossible to spot the infrequent track markers.  The track markers were pretty few and far between, many were hard to spot as they were completely covered in lichen or black mould.  There were many parts of the so-called track, that were overgrown and devoid of any visible track markers, making getting off track a distinct possibility, particularly in the steep country and failing light that we experienced.  We were pleased to get back to the hut safe and sound right on dusk.  In our absence, the numbers in residence had swelled considerably.  We now had the two resident hunters in the hut with us, and camped outside, a group of Central Hawkes Bay Collage students who were on their silver award, Duke of Edinburgh tramp, accompanied by two of their parents.  They had been overnighting at Sparrowhawk Biv on Friday night and had spent Saturday coming along the tops and down the Colenso Ridge track to Barlow Hut.  Scott had decided to opt for a more personal sleeping arrangement, choosing to sleep outside under the stars in his famous poncho-tarp shelter.  It’s a real work of art to see, and he takes justifiable pride in erecting it.  Well done Scotty. 

The stars were actually something that Derek encouraged us all to go outside and check out, once it was properly dark later on in the evening.  So, before we all hopped into our sleeping bags we did as we were told, and what a magnificent sight it was.  The sky was amazingly clear, and just a blaze of cosmic splendour.  Nature at its best…  The next morning, the two hunters were up and away before first light, hoping for an early shot at a deer on their walk out to Yeomans Mill carpark.  We all just rolled over and enjoyed a couple more hours in our sleeping bags, before getting up to have our breakfast and pack our gear up.  The hut has two sleeping benches which comfortably accommodate three mattresses each.  There are a couple of spare mattresses, eight in total, so two people can sleep on mattress, on the floor if necessary.  In other words, the hut has an 8-star rating… We had a very comfortable stay at Barlow Hut, and thoroughly enjoyed the company of the other like-minded people that we met there.  We were packs on, and heading out to civilization by around 8am.

On our way back up the farm track, where there are several bee hives, Des was busy with his camera taking a photo of Derek as he approached the top of the track, when he was attacked by some very angry bees. He sustained at least three separate stings to his face and had a lovely Botox lower lip to prove it. Ouch… We were back at our transport and heading home by around 11am. On the way home we stopped off for a debrief coffee, at McCauley’s Café, Otane. Everyone enjoyed chatting away, sipping their coffee, and the consensus was that we had all thoroughly enjoyed our relaxing overnight tramp into Barlow Hut.

                                                                                                                                  Party:  Des S, Derek B, Janice L, Jude H, Anne D, Scott C