Eastern Courier : January 26th 2010
17 EASTERN COURIER, JANUARY 26, 2011 NEWS Pit stop: A bite to eat on the path to Cape Brett. Photos: MATTHEW GRAY Big cape tramp is worth the effort Landmark: The Cape Brett Lighthouse is in good shape after a major revamp in 2008. TREK FACT FILE Five tips for the trek to Cape Brett. 1. Give yourself at least eight hours of daylight to get there and leave early in the day. The last two and a half hours are particularly tough and you might want to allow for a few extra breathers along the way. 2. Take plenty of water for the trip. There is a tank at the hut but there are no guarantees it'll be full at the height of summer. Check with DOC staff when booking the hut on (09) 407-0300. Boil the cape offerings well before you drink them. 3. Think carefully about any extras you might like to pack in your kit. That extra weight is a killer and you'll feel every kilogram as you struggle up and over the last ridge on your way to the hut. If in doubt leave it out. 4. The hut fee is $12 a night and an extra $30 is required for track maintenance. Don't forget to get the code for the padlock. An unplanned night under the stars isn't everyone's cup of tea. 5. Take a camera. You might not see views quite like this ever again. Historic cottage: The only surviving house at Cape Brett is now used as a hut for trampers. By MATTHEW GRAY Comments in the visitor book at the Cape Brett hut are fairly consistent. Most contributors say the walk out from Oke Bay at Rawhiti is tough and a quick glance shows the water taxi business from Paihia does a roaring trade picking up those who can't face the 16.5km trek back. A hardy few do manage the return journey. And, with a pack lightened after a couple of nights rest, it's not as bad as you'd think. The views either side of the pen- insula are just as spectacular the second time around and vertical challenges faced along the way seem less imposing with the prom- ise of a hot shower and your own bed just eight hours or so ahead. But it's still a relief to get the boots off at trail's end. Cape Brett is an experience to be savoured. It was once home to a small settlement established to service a lighthouse that was restored in 2008 after being retired from use in October 1978. Construction of the three keepers' homes, a school, workshop and vari- ous service buildings started in 1907 and was largely complete by the time the iron tower and its kero- sene powered lantern were hauled up the hill in segments three years later. Electricity provided through a diesel generator was used to fire up the light from 1955 though a power cable didn't stretch its way out to the cape and its residents until 1968. Those who lived on the grassy slopes maintained links to the larger population by telegram and shared a phone line. Their supplies mostly arrived by sea. The keepers and their people were largely self sufficient growing their own vegetables, milking cows, keeping poultry and putting down the occasional batch of homebrew. Fish were in abundant supply and easily caught at the water's edge where a large lifting crane was used to offload materials from visiting boats and barges. Everyone was at the mercy of the elements. Records still kept in the one surviving house now used by trampers document waves of unbe- lievable height that once battered the landscape. One rolled in from an angry ocean to crash down on a cottage roof about 41 metres above sea level in 1951. Mighty winds frequently hammered the isolated area, flattening outhouses, ripping the spouting from its mounts, lifting roofs and blowing chicken coops away out of sight. What nature failed to remove was eventually dismantled or burnt as the cape's lighthouse was made redundant and its minders moved away. A few foundations and disused concrete water tanks remain as do portions of the landing facilities. Sightseers are common on land but generally arrive by sea. Some on their way to the nearby Hole in the Rock don't even bother to set foot ashore. Instead they get a first-class view of the cape and the occasional seal basking in the sun from the comfort of various tourist craft. Whichever way you get to Cape Brett it's all good stuff and a reminder of just what a beautiful country New Zealand is.
January 21st 2010
January 28th 2011