Huts and habitations
Sarah Wilcox, Anton van Helden and Stefanie Rixecker have just set off on a trip with Heritage Expeditions to the Kermadecs. Tune in to our blog for daily updates from their trip!
When the Bell family arrived in Denham Bay in 1878, they built their first hut from nikau branches and raupo cut from the swamp nearby. Their daughters Hettie and Bess, then aged 11 and 9, did much of this work, “often up to their waists in muddy water, hacking at the tough reeds and raupo leaves until their hands were blistered.”*
The family also found a clay deposit in the bay and used it to make a smooth, hard floor “which, Mrs Bell found much to her satisfaction, could be swept without raising a speck of dust.” (She was a very house-proud woman.)
Today Denham Hut is not far from the Bell’s first home and heritage trees planted by them and other early settlers remain scattered through the bush nearby. This hut is a popular getaway for DOC staff who want a weekend break and is fully provisioned with tinned food, cooking utensils, pillows and blankets. I spotted a battered pink piggy bank of a shelf, labelled ‘DOC hut fees’.
Photocopied log books from the 1980s record epic fishing and hunting tales from times before pest eradication and the marine reserve. The stories from 1986 when a large quantity of alcohol was recovered from the wreck of the Kinei Maru 10 evidently make the best reading!
Today we walked over to Boat Cove hut – it’s another good trophy for the keen hut-baggers among us. A wide track took us through from Fishing Rock (the swell made for a slightly more rugged zodiac landing this time) and I loved being in the nikau forest for much of the way. Their palm leaves are so lush and green on the trees but seem like big skeletons when they lie brown and crunchy across the track.
This hut was built in 1940 and was used by the coastwatchers in World War II to look out for enemy ships. It has heritage values and a 2008 report recommended that the building it be maintained in its present form (but one of the window sills could do with a bit of work). It’s cute inside and has a comfy chair beside the fireplace, where I could have happily spent an hour.
On our way back some of the group climbed to the top of Mt Moumoukai, the highest point on the island (516 m). We had great views down to Raoul’s volcanic heart and could see Devastation Ridge above Green Lake. Trees that have the misfortune of living here look like they have a tough time, getting hit with ash and other volcanic nasties during every eruption. There’s now a web cam up here that monitors the lakes for volcanic activity to give the DOC staff early warning of any changes. (You can have a look for yourself on geonet.org.nz.)
We’ve learned of a tradition that Raoul staff often complete a ‘hut to hut’ before they leave the island. It’s a challenge to visit each of the four huts (which are quite spread out) in the shortest possible time. I’m told the record is around five hours, but under 12 is still considered reasonable!
That’s a walk that will have to wait until next time – we’re now back on board and heading to Macauley Island tomorrow.