The late Joanna Lane-Taylor was a regular visitor to the valley and Tainui Hut in the 60s. At the time Joanna was a reporter for the Evening Post and thankfully for us, published a few stories about the valley which are a fantastic asset to our archive. I would like to share this one about old Tainui Hut. Joanna wrote so poetically here and it describes the essence of tramping during a time when it was a popular social activity.
End of the road near – Orongorongo’s Tainui soon to disappear, 16 November 1968
Over in the Orongorongo Valley, a couple of hours’ tramp east of Wainuiomata, a select band take up weekend residence in a colony of privately-built huts nestling in the dense bush on both sides of the river.
Rum Jungle, Journey’s End, Erewhon, Boar In, Stag Lodge are some of the delightful addresses of these retreats.
Soon one of the earliest and best-known huts, Tainui is to disappear. Tainui is a true bush hut, built in 1938-39 to house the then newly-formed Customs Tramping Club, later affiliated as the Tainui Tramping Club.
Octagonal-shaped with free-standing roof, the frame-work is entirely of Manuka, cut from a stand across the river, and covered with flattened sheet iron which was brought through the 5-Mile Track a two hour slog from Wainuiomata, by reaching teams of two men, each carrying bundles of 50 to 75 lb.
When they arrived they dumped the tin and dived thankfully into a pool beneath a nearby spring, while another team trudged back over the hill to take their turn as pack-horses and the girls somehow managed to produce meals to feed the hungry horde.
The hut is 36 feet across, and up to 42 trampers, unable to cross the river in flood, have squeezed themselves into Tainui’s ten bunks.
In its brief heyday, the club weekend in full force, and usually the 40lb of meat carried over had to be supplemented with game. As members swung into the high gear of track cutting and maintenance, trips became more ambitious under the watchful eye of the chief guide, Eric Hambleton. During these years the club participated in the annual trampers’ sports weekend in the valley, winning the Tararua Tramping Club’s marathon in 1938 (R H Dyson) and again in 1941 (A G Stewart).
Many were the days when the hut was full of laughter, carefree young people, raising the dust to the tune of an old harmonica and the wheezing gramophone; and many the winter night spent before a blazing rata fire, with the rain pounding on the roof, and the river running a ‘bunker,’ rushing by, and the carbide lamps flickering, wet boots steaming, toast burning while someone rescued a sock which had fallen into the fire, and the big black kettle boiling for a cup of tea.
So, through the 30 years that have passed, those who have come and gone have left a part of their youth and dreams with the old hut, and perhaps she has given them something too.
When the club went into recess some years ago, the hut remained under the control of ex-chief guide Eric Hambleton, well known to the valley today as “Ham.”
But the river, over the past few years, has become Tainui’s enemy biting away at the bank on which the hut stood so securely until now 300 feet of I has gone and Tainui stands on the edge of a thirty foot cliff.
But not for her an ignominious plunge down to the seas her namesake sailed; careful hands had built her so careful hands will take her down and the heart of her will rise again to welcome all, in another hut.
Already, a new site has been selected, and plans are well under way for a new hut. Vale, Tainui!
Joanna Lane-Taylor, The Evening Post, 16 November 1968
Tainui Hut, John Farrell - 2nd from right, Don Oliver - middle (Farrell Family Photo Collection)
Tainui Hut Warming 1939 (Ross Kerr Photo Collection)