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Southern Crossing


. Distance: 34 km
· Time: 2 - 3 days
· Grade: Fit
· Higest point: 1530 m
· Island: North
· Location: Tararua Forest Park

Day 1: Otaki Forks to Kime Hut (4-6hrs).

The warden's house at the Otaki Forks car park you can make your way down to the Waiotauru River, a popular swimming and camping spot in summer. A bridge crosses the Waiotauru, and then the track climbs onto a terrace, where the fork of the Waiotauru and Otaki Rivers. The track then enters some typical Western Tararua bush, larger trees crowded with a tangle of vines and ferns, supple-jack and ponga, as it starts to head up the spur proper.

The bush smells rich, and remains largely unchanged for the second hour to Field Hut. It is a steady, rather than steep.

Field Hut is an historic, Tararua Tramping Club institution, with old schoolhouse windows, but a new firebox . It has a great view towards the Main Range.

After a climb through a short section of bush and over an old slip the climb sidles a knob on the ridge, and rounds the corner onto Tabletop, a plateau with panoramic views in all directions. it's best to leave the tramp for another day, as it is at least another two hours before Kime.

Kime Hut is sited in a tussock filled hollow. Again, an older-style hut, painted in cream and brick red, it can be popular with school groups for overnight tramps, so it may be necessary to squash up on the platform bunks. It has no heating, and its popular nickname is Kime Fridge, but the views from behind the hut are magnificent. The Kapiti Coast, away to your west, the cities of the Hutt Valley and Wellington can be seen.

Day 2: Kime Hut - Alpha Hut (4 - 6 hrs).

The route descends into the saddle between Hut Mound and Mt Hector before climbing steeply up to the summit, marked with the Hector Cross, which is a memorial to tramping club members killed in war. Mt Hector (1529m) is the highest point on the tramp and around 45 minutes on from Kime. It attracts quite a few day-trippers, continue around the Beehives and the Dress Circle on your way to Mt Alpha.

This part of the route is some what confusing with ridges that splay in all directions, making careful route finding necessary.

After the short slog over Alpha Peak the track drops back towards the bush, and a short section of leatherwood and beech takes you through to Alpha Hut. Large and modern, the most disappointing aspect of Alpha is the lack of firewood.

Day 3: Alpha Hut - Marchant Road End (7-9 hrs).

Day Three starts relatively flat, amongst the beautiful goblin forest (beech trees draped in moss), before descending steeply into Hells Gate. Hells Gate is the saddle between Alpha ridge and Marchant Ridge and upon climbing back up to Marchant Ridge there are several options. Heading north from here onto Bull Mound allows a steep but direct descent to the Tauheranikau River where it is possible to ford the river to Cone Hut, or, following Marchant Ridge south, there are several old tracks created for hunting use (some, such as Block XVI, now well marked with orange triangles) which also descend into the Tauheranikau. This also allows the option of a third night at Tutuwai Hut (allow 4-6 hours to get there from Alpha and the same amount of time out down the Tauheranikau the following day. There is a bridge to cross the Tauheranikau to Tutuwai Hut).

Marchant ridge itself is not steep, It has wonderful a mossy goblin forest to begin with. Gradually the beech trees increases in size, but fire and logging mean that the lower end of the ridge is shrubby, and eventually you will walk between thickets of gorse as you start closing in on the car park. The last section of track, from the well-named Puffer Saddle down, gives a glimpse of the rural farmland of the upper Hutt Valley, and it is not long from here to the highway which feeds you back into Wellington city.