Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Trip Report: Otamatapaio Hut, and bonus feature "How not to be a Dick in the Backcountry" - Oteake Conservation Park, Canterbury

Recently I went for a short overnighter with Elmo, following the Otamatapaio River up to Otamatapaio Hut.

Note: This track shows Day 2. The small purple dot indicates the car park where I started the walk on Day 1.

I had a bit of fun trying to find out the rules regarding dog access, but luckily both stations I talked to were more than helpful.
According to the DoC brochure, the people to talk to about access are Bog Roy Station, contact phone (03) 438 9400. However, Bog Roy station have now built a 6km easement across their land from Backyards Rd, allowing vehicle access across a 4wd track to the car park at the point where Bog Roy, Otamatapaio, and Otematata Stations meet. Dogs are allowed along this easement under control or in vehicles.

I was still feeling a little under the weather recovering from a cold, so we drove to the car park. The track was quite bumpy, and there was gorse close to the track in places, so I wouldn't advise driving in if you have a low car, or are precious about your paint job. Very shortly after the car park, you come to a barbed wire gate, wired shut. I climbed over it and sent Elmo under. He's pretty good about scrambling through gaps in wires.

For 7.5km after the car park, you are crossing Otamatapaio Station Land. I'm not sure if they would allow dogs off lead, but they were more than happy with Elmo on lead. Their phone number is (03) 438 9709, for a courtesy call requesting access.

This part of the walk is grassy meadow, meeting a 4wd track that heads up into the valley. It passes an old stone hut, and what looks like a Musterer's Hut, while following the Otamatapaio River up the valley. There are a few river crossings here, don't expect to keep your feet dry!

The track quickly fades to non-existence here. However, the route is poled, and so long as you stay on the valley floor and follow the river upstream, you can't really get lost.

The ground track then becomes more visible, and you will pass a sign indicating Dog Leg Gully.

A couple of km beyond that there are a couple of gates. According to the DoC signage previously, somewhere around here is where Oteake Conservation Park begins, but there is no signage to indicate this.

After you enter Oteake Conservation Park, dogs are allowed under control, but don't have to be on leash.

Elmo exhausted himself running backwards and forwards after rabbits (never coming close to catching them), and I enjoyed a lovely wander up the valley floor to the hut.

We had afternoon tea at the hut, and then walked a little way up towards peak 1435, but we didn't make it too far as I was in my camp shoes and trying to keep my feet dry. It will be a lovely walk for another day. I pitched my tent near the hut and settled in for the night.

Around midnight, a group of hunters arrived at the hut, having driven down from the tops. They invited me in for a drink and I respectfully declined. We had a bit of conversation about where we were from and what our plans were, then I tried to get back to sleep. A short while later, the drunkest of the hunters came back out of the hut and asked if I wanted company in my tent (I didn't). He offered to cuddle my dog (Elmo wasn't keen), then tried to unzip my tent flap (I told him in no uncertain terms to piss off).

I tried to get back to sleep, but Elmo wouldn't settle. I heard whispering outside the tent, then next thing I know, the hunters put one of their dogs in the vestibule of my tent. At this point I gave up any hope I had of sleeping the rest of the night, and packed up my bag and tent. As I came out to pack up my tent one of the hunters (the sober driver) was standing outside in his sleeping bag, complaining it was far to hot in the hut as his mates had lit the fire. We chatted as I packed up, he apologised for his mates behaviour, and I got to meet his dog, who was a lovely creature.

It was 2am at this point, misty drizzle, and approximately 3m visibility. Luckily I had tracked my path via GPS on the way in, so I could follow my path out and make sure I was on the right track, there was no hope of seeing the orange track markers. Elmo seemed to enjoy the impromptu night hike. We walked until we were out of sight and sound range of the hut, and I re-pitched the tent well off the track in case the hunters decided to drive along the walking track the next morning. Back to bed and we both got a relaxing sleep-in.

The walk out was another beautiful blue sky day, with a few fluffy clouds. Elmo chased some more rabbits, and I splashed my wet boots through some more river crossings

Where the track turns off to the new Bog Roy Station Easement and car park, the turn off is not marked and exceedingly hard to spot.

If you reach this bridge, you've gone too far.

We walked past the car park and followed the 4wd track out to Backyards Rd, and got picked up from there. Cell phone coverage should return around 1km from Backyards Rd, but it pays to check on your way in.

How not to be a Dick in the Backcountry

1) Respect other people's property. Messing with somebody else's tent is really uncool.
2) As with everything in life, no means no! Do not climb into somebodies tent or bunk without permission.
3) Following on from 2, if somebody nearby is trying to get some sleep, try to be considerate.
4) Keep your dogs under control. We are lucky to be able to take our dogs into conservation areas, so don't let them be disruptive or destructive.
4) Maybe, in the middle of summer, the hut fire doesn't need to be lit. Just a suggestion...

Local DOC Office

Kā Moana Haehae / Alexandra Office
Phone: +64 3 440 2040
Address: 43 Dunstan Road

Alexandra 9320
Email: alexandra@doc.govt.nz

Te Manahuna / Twizel OfficePhone:  +64 3 435 0802
Address: Wairepo Rd, Twizel 7901
Email: twizel@doc.govt.nz

Pest Control Operations

DOC Land
Bog Roy Station +64 3 438 9400
Otamatapaio Station +64 3 438 9709

Closest Vet

Veterinary Centre Omarama
13 Chain Hills Highway, Omarama
Phone: (03) 438 9868
Email: omarama@vet111.co.nz

Opening Hours: Monday to Friday: 8.30am – 5.00pm. 
Out of hours calls with be transferred to Oamaru clinic.

Further Information


  1. Wow. You were brave. I would have been worried dealing with drunks on my own. Not cool is a major understatement. Sounds like a lovely exploration for you and good exercise for Elmo. Amazing photos too. Thanks.

  2. Great information and photos thanks. A real pity you encountered that behaviour on your travels.