SANDY BAY HUT, UREWERA NATIONAL PARK - 16th & 17th October 2004

With plans for an overnight tramp falling through last weekend, I decided to make up for it by taking off into Urewera Park this weekend. Having spent many hours pouring over my tramping books and the DOC website, I picked this tramp out as it seems fairly straight forward and provided a chance for a bit of loop on the tramp.

The tramp starts from near the Aniwaniwa visitor centre in the park. There are some beautiful waterfalls near the visitor centre well worth seeing on their own. After an hour on the easy, yet gently raising track, you reach the Lake Waikareiti shelter and boy did I need a shelter today - not from any rain (although it had been forecast) but from a blustery northerly screaming straight across the lake towards the hut.

From the shelter there's a rowing option across the lake to the hut. The boats have to be hired back at the visitor centre. A group of hunters/fishermen had hired a couple of boats but one of crew had turned back as it had taken them an hour just to get to edge of the bay by the shelter. I met then resting up in the shelter, looking very wet and knackered.

After a quick lunch I started out on the last section of the track to the hut. Although the track goes around the lake, most of it is a fair distance from the lake shoreline taking you through beautiful Urewera forest. Usually there's no sound in the forest apart from the odd feathered friend making a bit of noise. But today there was a constant roar of the treetops being blown about by the stroing northerly.

After about three hours I reached the Sandy Bay Hut, perched on the edge of a small sandy bay (!) on the far-side of the lake. The second group of intrepid rowers had made it across the lake and along with a couple of other trampers were tucking into a trout they had caught on their trip across. I spent a quiet evening cooking dinner and chatting with the others in the hut.

The next morning the wind had died down and the weather cleared up. After my usual tramping breakfast of dinner leftovers, I set off back along the track around the lake. The weather had definitely taken a turn for the better and the day soon warmed up. Along the way I spotted a trout in one the side streams feeding the lake. After a couple of hours I reached a junction with the Lake Ruapani track. It was this track that I intended to take to get back to the visitor centre.

The track took along a very beautiful route past some lovely swamps and lakes. I would recommend doing the loop that this track forms with the Lake Waikareiti