Whirinaki Track 3 Day Hike – East Coast, NZ

hiking, whirinaki,

AKA The Quest for the Orange Triangles

Written by: Kirsten

It was a cold, drizzly afternoon that we left the River Road carpark in our latest escapade of masochism. We were embarking on a three day journey through the Whirinaki Forest in the depths of winter.

The track started off lovely, with a 4 hour journey ahead of us, we ambled along enjoying every second. We made frequent stops to obtain vital footage with our gopro (it was a big tree, we HAD to video it!). After an hour of silliness, videos, snacking, and general tomfoolery, we crossed a bridge and reached a signpost. Little did we know that this would be the last of those two things we would see in a while…

hiking new zealand, whirinakie, hurs magamate

The signpost, to our dismay, read that we had another 3.5 hours to go to get to the Mangamate Hut. This would mean that, if it was correct, we would be walking the last half hour of our hike in the dark. Feeling slightly concerned now, we headed on with a little less ambling and a bit more purpose. This was the point that things started going downhill.

The track became overgrown with ferns and much narrower than before. Looking back, this should have been red flag number 1, but we pressed on. Then we reached a river. We looked across, and low and behold, we spotted an orange triangle on the opposite bank, with no bridge in sight. Well this is a true adventure now! We started up the gopro (vital footage), discussed the best route to cross the river, and we slowly and carefully made our way across. Awesome! Feeling like explorers, we trudged on.

Very soon after this, we came upon another river with the orange triangle on the other side. Again, we popped on the gopro, planned our route, and slowly made our way across. Then it happened again. This river crossing we did a bit quicker (although of course we still filmed it, it is still exciting after all), and it ended with Amber hurting her knee. We had a brief discussion, and decided that Amber could put her knee brace on and we would still push on, not believing it to be so bad that we would have to turn back. So on we went! River crossing after river crossing. The orange triangles became sparser and sparser. Our tramp by now had turned into a quest. A quest to find the orange triangles.

Sometimes, we would get to a river and the orange triangle was on a tree leaning over the middle of the river. Sometimes, the orange markers just weren’t there. After getting lost several times, tensions were a bit higher than they were at the start of our hike.

We were starting to realize that this was not an optimal winter trek.

Then, mother nature decided that our journey needed more obstacles, so, just for fun, she threw some rain at us. This also made it get darker quicker. Fun! Then she added cutty grass that towered above our head, cut up my knuckles as I protected my face, and swallowed more orange triangles in its sharp, green depths.

FINALLY we made it out of the river. The track widened slightly and began to climb upwards. This was the point that darkness fell fully, and we got out our headlamps to complete our first leg of our journey.

At last, we made it to Mangamate Hut. Freezing cold and soaking wet and ready for a fire and hot meal. We then made the exciting discovery that due to the consistent and sometimes heavy rain, dry wood was not a thing. I managed to light a small fire with the small amount of dry wood we could find, and we settled in for a night of constantly trying to keep the fire going, because we hadn’t done enough today. We finally gave up to go to bed.

The next day was very similar, we left Mangamate just after 11am after a well-deserved chill morning, and started our journey upstream once again. The track to Central Whirinaki Hut went through streams, up and down hills, through streams, through forest, through streams, and a few more streams for good measure. And then the craziest thing happened: the sun came out! We ate lunch in the sun, watching the steam rise off our soaked gear. Then it was back into the streams, searching for the orange triangles of doom.

Around 2:30pm, the next craziest thing happened. We reached a bridge. Oh, what a wonderful bridge it was. To us, at the time, the epitome of civilization. We were in luxury. The last half hour, we didn’t have to cross another stream. Thank goodness. Goodbye streams! See you never!

We reached the Central Whirinaki Hut around 3pm and found we were the only ones there. This hut had slightly more dry firewood, and we were able to get a slightly larger fire going than the night before. So much luxury!

hiking, whirinaki,

On our final morning, we faced our longest day yet. A 5-6hr journey back out to the carpark. Feeling broken from our previous 2 days of walking through all of the streams, we started walking. At least the streams were behind us, but man was that a long walk. We made it to the carpark, utterly destroyed and ready for the real luxuries of home. We shared a limp high five over having survived the most harrowing of quests in search of the damned orange triangles.

We would recommend this hike in summer, with a GPS, a PLB, and masochistic tendencies.

10 min vlog of the actual adventure