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The Strenuous Yet 'Oh-So-Relaxing' Kawekas

Updated: Nov 21, 2021

Date: Wed-Sat 23-26 April 2014

Location: Kaweka Range, Hawke’s Bay

Trip leader: Julian Bryant Trampers: Carl Barnhill, Alice Ferguson, Ida Toala, Anastasia N., Jason Dimock, Nico Dian

Author: Julian Bryant

With mid-semester break finally upon us and the weather forecast for the next few days looking promising, our trip to the Kawekas was all go. After battling some morning traffic out of town, we were en-route to Taupo BurgerFuel to savour the last luxuries of civilisation before we left it all behind. Then, by late afternoon, the Kaweka range was almost upon us. Here we found our first challenge: the road leading to our destination blocked by a mighty and fast-flowing river that

spelled out “Thou shalt not pass”. Yet, such rivers are no match for a Ford Mondeo and a Toyota Levin. With a high speed run-up, and our hats held on tight, we were across to the other side where the Kawekas awaited.

Within a couple of hours, we were at our first night’s hut (Te Puia Hut). However, if we had been hoping for quiet and seclusion, we were to be disappointed. The combination of an easily accessible hut and school-holiday-season spelled scores of families and young’ns, with no mattresses in sight. Thankfully, after some epic mum-wizardry by those already there, a whole section of the hut was cleared free and we had somewhere to sleep. After wolfing down dinner, our head lamps were put on and it was off to the hot pools. An easy 40 minute walk through the bush led to the Mangatinoka pools where two naturally heated pools provide a relaxing place to sit back and enjoy life.

Day two was an early start, and before we knew it our first big uphill was upon us. Here our fitness began to be put to the test. By lunchtime, we had emerged from the bush and it felt like we were at the top of the world . The next few hours provided stunning views as we walked along the ridgeline, including passing across Whetu (1650m) with views out towards the ocean and across the Kawekas. We were eventually back down into the bush, and with evening approaching, it looked like our head torches were going to have another appearance. The big final uphill up to our nights’ resting place at Venison Tops Hut was a tough one, but a warm hut with roaring fire awaited us. It didn’t take long to get to sleep, even with the magnificently loud snoring mysteriously emerging from one of those amongst us.

The third day would complete our loop back to Te Puia Hut, with hot pools again to look forward to. If we had any doubts as to how high we had climbed the previous day, it was quickly made apparent as we began a descent down towards the river that seemed to never end. Nevertheless, after several hours the welcome sound of the flowing river became louder; finally the river cross-wire was upon us. At this point, we were faced with a choice. Another huge climb over the next ridge, or take the river path around to our destination? We chose the river, getting to enjoy some cool bush scenes and “refreshing” river crossings. Arriving at the hut, dinner was eaten and then it was back to the hot pools where we could again sit back and enjoy a well-deserved rest.

With commitments of Auckland beckoning, our final day saw us up at the crack of dawn. We followed the river-side track back down towards where we first began, getting to see amazing views as the sky became lighter and the sun came out into a brilliant day. It wasn’t long before we emerged and began our journey home. After several hours, many windy roads, a burnt-out clutch, multiple roadside card-games, a tow-truck, and several more hours, we were all safely home, and ready to plan the next trip!


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