One of the great things about New Zealand is that multi day and overnight tramps are so accessible. The DOC (Department of Conservation) hut system is vast, with 950+ backcountry huts scattered around the North and South Islands. The huts range from basic 4 bed shelters to the more luxurious and modern 50 bed bunkhouses on the Great Walks. We’re going to be relying on these huts for big stretches of the Te Araroa so wanted to see what they were like first.
Port Craig Hut on the Humpridge Track was our first destination. The Humpridge is a 3 day, 58km circular walk on the South coast (although we opted for an out and back 2 day, 1 night trip instead as the private hut at the top doesn’t have a fire or heating and it’s still mid winter.) This was our first hike carrying all of our Te Araroa gear on our backs and my God was it heavy! The 20km leg of track meanders up and down through native Fiordland forest before spitting you out on to stretches of sandy beaches and quaint coves and back in to the forest again. It took us about 6 hours in total, the uphill sections taking us (me) longer with the extra load, especially as I kept stopping to fill my backpack with paua shells.
The DOC hut is in the Old School House; the last remaining building of the timber village that once was Port Craig. It is basically one room with 4 sets of bunk beds, a wood fire, table and sink. We were surprised to see 3 other groups already there! People love hiking in New Zealand… We cooked some dehydrated dinner – mashed potato, peas, gravy and salami which I was very proud of – before heading down to the beach for a fire with two of our new hut buddies.
All in all it was a good first experience of the hut system. It cost $15 each (approx £7.50) which seemed a little much considering there was no electricity, heat or lighting but I guess ultimately we were happy to pay it as they must take a fair bit of up-keep and it would be a shame to loose such accessibility to the wilderness.