After over a year without a tramping pack on my back, carrying a 13kg load was a bit of a shock to the system. Elmo is now over six months so is able to travel in a framed back carrier. We’ve gone with the Osprey Poco Plus, which is super comfortable for the baby, fully adjustable for the carrier and has good rain and sun protection. It feels like a normal tramping pack to carry, or maybe one where you’ve loosely packed a small television at the top. It took a while to get used to my new centre of gravity, and I admit I outsourced part of the carrying to a friend. I was also ashamed at how quickly my no-longer toughened shoulders bruised. Need to harden up!

For our first family tramp we picked a private hut that is owned by our tramping club. I would have liked to tell you this is an epic backcountry retreat, only accessible by scaling vertical rock faces and abseiling down waterfalls, so as to prove our outdoorsy credentials are intact post Elmo’s birth. This would be a lie. Paua Hut is a mere two hours from the road end, and a highly civilised place. The opportunity to avoid Elmo keeping anyone awake with his burbling, gurgling, crying or nappy changes attracted us there. That said, the hut’s luxuries of a good fire, non-mouldy mattresses and an inside sink did not go unappreciated.

To reach the hut, we walked two hours down the perfectly maintained Orongorongo track, then doubled back when we reached the river at Turere bridge. We walked downstream about 20 minutes, crossing the river several times before reaching our turn off up a four wheel drive track. The river was in low flow so it was all straightforward, though it was a slightly eerie feeling carrying one’s progeny through flowing water.

Hut life with a baby is pretty sweet when you have it to yourself: camping mattresses make for ideal playmats and you can load up the fire with logs to make it baby-ready. And slowly but surely I remembered the pleasures of the backcountry and the benefits of getting away from my phone for a few hours.

That’s not to say I am totally back in the swing of things. I’ve gone a bit soft. I desperately wanted to properly wash my hands with hot water and soap. I cringed at mosquito larvae boiling in the billy and felt scared of the dark when I trekked to the longdrop. Such thoughts did not concern Elmo though.

Hut tv

The walk out was easier, barring a factor 4 shouting meltdown mid-track by one of our party. Even though I had only walked 2.5 hours each day my body felt like I had done a full weekend of bush-bashing. It is good to be back but it is going to take some effort to get amongst it properly!

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