06 May 2014

Postcard from {Wellington}: Orongorongo Track

School holidays have come to an end and for the first time in a while, I was quite sad about it. We spent time with family and friends relaxing and doing a few planned activities which culminated in our very first group camping trip last weekend. This overnight stay was arranged a few weeks ago so the girls had been counting down the days until they could go camping with their friends. I'm not talking about driving to a powered site with full amenities either. This was a carry-your-body-weight-in-food-and-clothes-and-sleeping-bags-two-hours-into-the-bush-with-no-cellphone-reception-or-hot-showers-or-flushing-toilets-waiting-at-the-end kind of excursion. Brilliant.

The Orongorongo Track (we have the coolest place names, don't you think?) is quite a popular route in the Rimutaka Forest Park, which is about an hour's drive from Wellington. With Renee and Aimee unaccustomed to walking long distances and none of us particularly fit, I had some misgivings about how we would handle the trip. It started ominously with Renee asking if we were driving to the hut and lying down on the track still in view of the carpark when told we had to walk.

Once we got moving, she surprised me with how well she coped, including tackling some decent climbs towards the end and I think it had alot to do with the fact that she was in the company of other children. It was quite nice to watch little exchanges between all of them as they walked together.
I don't know why I took these photos of the trees. You expect to see a couple of those when you're in the bush but I was struck by the pattern and rich colour of the palm trunk.
The track is really well maintained with lots of little bridges to cross and twists and turns and slopes to keep things interesting. Plenty of short stops were needed especially for our 4 year olds, but generally, I was really quite impressed with how well they handled the two hour walk, and even with how we coped with our packs giving us plenty of resistance training. It was a different story on the return leg though. Aimee provided some resistance training of her own and refused to walk out so we took it in turns to carry her. So fun.
Does my pack look big in this?
Our friends organised the accommodation, a DoC hut overlooking the Orongorongo River, which is where the first photo was taken. As far as huts go, Turere Lodge is a great facility and well worth the $80 fee per bunk room. There is cold running water, a fantastic wood burner with easy access to chopped wood and a really spacious communal dining and kitchen area that worked so well with our large group. There are four bunk rooms that sleep up to eight people and we were lucky to have the whole lodge to ourselves even though we only booked three rooms.

We did discover that there is lighting on a timer in the kitchen area, but the ambience was great in the hut with just the candles lit, the fire roaring and the children running around with their glowsticks and torches.

I was reminded of how the night sky is so beautiful when there are no streetlights to dim the stars. The older children were very excited to go possum hunting and managed to spot three of them in the trees just a short distance from the hut. Even using the longdrops is an adventure in itself when darkness falls. You'll have to imagine that as there are places not even this intrepid blogger will capture in photos.

This experience has shown me that I must stop placing limitations on my children and be more open to these kinds of adventures. I wondered if the trip might be too long, too wet, too cold, too too. We encountered these issues, but they were easily resolved with some proper planning and (serious injury or death aside) by keeping a relaxed attitude when things don't go according to plan.

If anyone has any tips on how to get children to sleep longer than 5.30am, even after a massive hike and later-than-usual bedtime, I am all ears.

* All of the photos in this post were taken on my phone. Pack space was limited so it was a toss up between taking my big camera or lollies. You understand.


  1. It looks as though you had a great time Leanne!! What an adventure for your children, and even if they were a little reluctant to make the hike, it sounds as though they all had a wonderful time once they arrived, and now you have done it once and they know what to expect and what to look forward to, they will perhaps be more eager to do it again with less resistance to the walking! Lollies would of course win out over big camera!! I totally understand! Your pictures are great, big camera or not! xx

  2. Sounds like one very cool adventure - love that you were prepared to give it a go with the littlies along for the ride! I can imagine our 4 year-old being 'resistant' too - sounds so fun (not). You'll have made some great memories for life on that trip :-)

  3. Sounds like an amazing weekend! Heading into the bush for a while no matter how short always leaves you feeling so refreshed. Sorry, no tips on sleeping past 5:30 and if someone else does, send them to me :) haha xx

  4. Looks like a great trip. My husband wants our family to do the Pinnacles Track in Coromandel. I can do day hikes, but haven't done the carry everything hike before. Sleeping after 5.30 am - I guess you could always try Pamol. Mine always woke up very early when camping too.

  5. Hahaha Lollies or camera - understand :) Sounds and looks amazing! that name is fantastic too - that alone would get me going! Kids are weird on the sleeping aren't they? Where is the logic? Yay for first awesome experiences x