I’m going to cut right to the chase, we got lost and separated all in the one day on our way to the Waihaha Hut.
We broke camp at 8am and had decided to take it a little easier on December 30th, 2015.
Our destination for the day was the Waihaha Hut and we had planned to have a day off on January 1st, 2016.
However, just as we were leaving the Kakaho Road campsite, our mate Keith needed to go to the toilet and said he would be back in five minutes.
That would be the last we would see of him for that day.
Ten minutes had passed and Keith hadn’t returned to our camp spot. Matt, Nelson and I went looking for him near the toilets, around the campsite and we went as far asking strangers if they had seen him.
Unfortunately, no one had. By this stage it was 9am and we started to get a little concerned for the whereabouts of our mate.
As we knew he had the GPS and knew where we would be staying that evening, we decided to press on and follow the paper map that we had.
Surely, we couldn’t get misled by the map again and find ourselves lost a second day in a row?
That’s exactly what happened. The plan was to head south for five kilometres and then take a right and head further west into the forest.
However, there were three options for us to head west and none of them were signed. Given that we had already become separated from Keith, we agreed we wouldn’t take our chances on an unsigned trail with the possibility of us going the wrong way again.
In hindsight, we probably should have. Instead, we kept heading south through the forest on the gravel road and eventually came out into a cut-down section.
We continued on through this area for another hour; where we hiked up and over a small mountain covered in cut-down trees which didn’t actually have a formed path.
After stopping for some lunch and quickly trying to work out just where the hell we were, we decided to head back to where the forest met the cut-down section and reassess there.
When we arrived at the reassessment point, we sat for a good 15 minutes and decided what the best course of action would be.
Fortunately, there was another way for us to get to the hut. However, it involved us getting back to State Highway 32 and somehow getting the alternative route which included a formed trail.
We headed back to Kakaho Road campsite and managed to secure a ride as far as the main road.
It didn’t take us very long to secure another ride down State Highway 32 with a local tradie named Manny. If you’re reading this, we are forever in your debt!
He was heading to a tavern in a small town called Tihoi (which was on the way to the trailhead), and was only going to take us as far as that but mid-way through the trip he decided to take us to where we needed to be.
Once we found this track, our spirits lifted a little. We were still concerned for the whereabouts of Keith (spoiler alert: he didn’t die or wasn’t hurt), but knowing that we were only 9 kms/ 3hours away from the hut was uplifting.
By this stage it was just before 5pm. We spent the next 3 hours walking an absolutely amazing track called the Waihaha Track.
It follows the Waihaha River upstream, and takes in some amazing views of the river and the terrain in general is rocky with a few hills. We even got to walk over another swing bridge.
Just before 8pm, and as we thought we may never reach the Waihah Hut, we stepped out of a forest area and into a clearing where the hut stood.
It was a feeling of relief but also of worry as Keith wasn’t there. In fact, he didn’t turn up at all that night.
Our hope was that he would arrive sometime on January 1st, which was also our rest day.
There were plenty of things we learnt that day that were both good and bad.
Despite our reasoning as to why we didn’t do it, we probably should have taken our chances on one of those three trails. Two out of the three ended up heading in the right direction anyway.
I think one of the good things we learnt was that when presented with a situation as stressful as this, we didn’t panic.
We could have easily lost our shit but I firmly believe how we reacted determined the rest of our day.
Another was making the decision to head back to the campsite and hitch a ride to the alternative route. For those of you who might freak out about hitch hiking, it’s essentially a staple for most hikers/trampers in New Zealand.
What I want to know from you all is this – did we make the right decision in leaving the campsite in the first place?