It's the school holidays so I took one of my children and one of my friends (a young adult) for a tramping trip to Cape Brett Hut on Monday and Tuesday. It's nominally an eight-hour walk each way. The hut used to be a lighthouse-keeper's house and is in a spectacular setting right at the end of the Cape, on a grassy slope with the ocean on three sides. The walking track is through lovely bush with great views north to the Bay of Islands and south along the Tutukaka coast. It's an excellent trip, just a few hours drive from Auckland and because it's up north and coastal, it's good to do during the winter. The hut is almost never fully booked, perhaps because the walk is quite long and arduous (compared to other walks in the area).
I went there eight years ago with a group. That time we took a water taxi to the hut and a water taxi carried our packs out while we walked back along the track. This time I wanted to do it "properly": walking with our supplies both ways. The nature of the group was also quite different; eight years ago the group was much larger and with a greater variation of fitness, while this time there was just the three of us and we're all pretty fit (but I'm eight years older than last time!).
We stayed at Whangaruru Beachfront Camp on Sunday night so we could get to the trailhead early on Monday and start walking around 7:45am, not long after sunrise at 7:30am. The days are short and I wanted to reach the hut with plenty of daylight to enjoy the destination. We ended up being pretty fast and got to the hut in about six hours, just before 2pm! It's a tough track, with lots of steep uphills and downhills, and we all felt a fair bit of soreness in our legs. Nevertheless I was pretty pleased with our speed and my ability to keep up with the younger people. The weather was great both days — mild, mostly cloudy, and a light breeze in places — and the scenery was brilliant. We had time to rest in the sun and explore the end of the Cape before it got dark, then we cooked a tasty meal.
Around 8pm, when it had been fully dark for a while, a couple arrived at the hut. They told us they'd walked to the hut in just five hours, most of that in the dark. That deflated my pride a bit!
During the night the skies cleared and the moon set, giving an excellent view of the stars through the windows next to my bunk.
On Tuesday we again got up pretty early, around 7am. The sun hadn't risen but we'd already been in our bunks for ten hours. We got to see a lovely sunrise over the ocean. We left the hut at 8:20am and this time finished the walk out in just five hours and twenty minutes. Perhaps surprisingly, I felt a lot better on the second day than the first, and so did the others. Our packs were a little lighter, but I think the previous day's workout had made us all a bit fitter. I found it exhilarating grinding up steep hills without pausing and then stretching the legs for a fast walk along the flat or slightly downhill, and I also felt more agile on the steep downhill sections.
This was a great trip and I really feel thankful to God for the privilege of being able to it. I look forward to doing it again with other people; the walk isn't for everyone, but there's always the water taxi option.