Back in the day the deer were protected, but it turned out they were doing severe destruction to the forest, so after World War II deer culling operations intensified. Then in the early 50s a group of ten men culled over 8,000 deer in the Urewera. At the time there were only a few huts, so the decision was made to build another four huts between Ruatahuna and the lower Mohaka River. A group of deer cullers went into the bush to cut tracks and build huts. For the first hut (Te Totara Hut), horses were used to cart the felled totara. Unfortunately for Rogers Hut, horses could not make it all the way in so materials had to be backpacked in, including the windows, one of which is an amazing stained glass. These men were hardier than I: imagine hauling in all that gear! After carrying in all the materials, they then had to build the hut. Just before completion, one of the men, Rex Forrester, had his first child, naming him Roger. So, the men decided unanimously to name it Rogers Hut.
We scoped out the small hut, which had six bunks, a small fireplace, dining table and a deck of cards. What else do you need in the bush? We lit an outdoor fire, sipped on some whiskey that Bob had carted in and had our dehydrated meals for dinner. After a few yarns, we climbed into our sleeping bags and wished each other ‘good night”—there was no need for the “sleep tight” part as we were bloody shattered.
There’s something about waking up in the bush: the birds’ chirp is the alarm for me, much better than a smartphone! I swung open the creaking door of the hut, and saw the mist was clinging to the bush and the Moerangi Stream was flowing. We had some breakfast whilst looking out at our stunning surrounds, and not much was said between us. Moments like these are why we venture into remote places; just sitting there in silence makes you appreciate it.
After packing up our bags and throwing them onto our rigs, we were out. This section of the trail had some awesome undergrowth, with vivid green moss that was simply amazing. The singletrack zigzagged and meandered through massive tree trunks, over stream crossings with wooden bridges and tucked hard against ridgelines. The ones when you don’t want to look down! Being this deep in the forest is the beauty of an overnight bikepacking adventure. Waking up and hitting some super lush riding right out the door is so good. Again, it don’t come easily; you need to get into these places so there’s a cost of entry.
We pulled into Skippers Hut, another stunning DOC hut perched on the riverbanks. I am fascinated with these huts, with all the small things lying around the place. Things like tins of beans, maps, names etched into the bunk beds and stories of times gone by in the old-school visitor book. We brewed the kettle and tucked into some lunch: no more cheese slices, this time it was scroggin, biscuits and jelly beans. We chilled at the hut without a care for time. Time is irrelevant on these trips: as Bob says, “It will take as long as it takes.”
A short and mainly flat trail took us to the exit, which was Okahu Valley Road. A few fist pumps were raised as we made it outta’ the bush! What followed was a long gravel descent through Te Urewera with a few horses coming onto the road; there wasn’t a car in sight. The black clouds we could see lingering in the hills came for us, and with them a few rain storms, so we zipped up our jackets and pedalled on. Splashing through a ford crossing or two, we finally joined back onto SH38. I was somewhat disappointed as the road turned to tarmac, however in a few kilometres the road turned back to gravel. Then a few hard climbs took us closer to our end destination, Murupara. We were still in the stunning native bush, but the legs were toast at this point. Bob was chanting, “beers and burgers” as he dropped off on the final few ascents, but he was getting tired. On the last climb, the chant just became “beers.” He was now smoked! We pulled into Murupara Store and grabbed some chips and Coke to celebrate. As I looked up and over the stark shops of Murupara and saw the Te Urewera mountains standing tall behind them, we were tamed by their severity and beauty. Bob and I drove back to the “big smoke” (Auckland) with big grins, and Nick went back to his home in Rotorua. This was another part of the cost of entry, the travel home and back to “real life.” We are all, however, willing to pay whatever it costs for the next adventure.
Words & Images: Liam Friary & Nick Lambert
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