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GREAT BARRIER ISLAND TRIP 20-26 March 2022
Eleven Taupo Trampers met at Auckland Domestic terminal on Sunday 20th to fly to The Barrier. Stormy conditions with strong winds made a few of us more than a bit anxious that the flight may be cancelled. We need not have worried as we discovered that when the conditions are difficult Barrier Air calls up the “Silver Foxes”, older retired Air NZ pilots who are up to the challenge, with Jenny, Dave and Russell in the front seats making sure all was well. We landed while being blown sideways to the sound of stability alarms and sight of Pukekos and Variable Oyster catchers on the side of the runway.
Our hire van was waiting for us and ignoring dodgy brakes, an empty Waikato beer bottle and lots of chippy crumbs on the floor, it was excellent for our group.
We drove to Tryphena where we were booked into a 100 year old house right on the water. The Irish Pub in Tryphena was pre booked for our first dinner, and we had an excellent meal. We discovered it was also comedy night and we found ourselves quickly becoming the butt of jokes! We left at the interval as we all were finding the travelling left us weary and with lots of people, loud chatter and not a mask in sight it looked like a Covid 19 super spreader event.
The week’s weather forecast was for 4 days of rain with thunderstorms followed by two days of gales. Not flash, and most of us had packed at least two rain jackets.
The reality was on the Monday morning of our first full day on the Barrier we woke to heavy rain so after a slow start we got in the van to drive to Port Fitzroy on the opposite end of the island. This was our first introduction to the roads of the Barrier: winding, steep, narrow, with blind bends and locals in a hurry. How glad we all were to have Dave at the wheel, and he was very happy not to be driven by one of us!
Port Fitzroy was just so beautiful. The sun shone and the bay was blue green and flat calm. We walked to the Glenfern Sanctuary. Tony Bouzaid had gifted the predator proof fenced land for public access, and it was managed by a trust. It was the first time any of us had walked over a swing bridge into the crown of a large Kauri Tree.An extraordinary experience. It became hot and humid as we walked to Sunrise lookout but the views over the Little Barrier Island and the inlets of the Barrier more than compensated. We then walked the Bridal and Warren’s track which could be walked as a loop. The bush was lush and the waterfall had a good flow, we all enjoyed the walk down the stream to the road end where we could walk back to the van. The clear calm harbour water was just what we needed to cool off and most of us followed Gill by enjoying a wonderful swim.
Another winding drive home to Tryphena House to find our excellent host Peter had been fishing and we had two big plates heaped with freshly caught snapper. Dinner!
Tuesday dawned fine and warm. We drove to the Harataonga track a 11 km coastal walk. We split into two groups to walk a cross over with van keys changing hands halfway. It was an easy enough walk but high humidity and 27 degrees made it harder. One group missed a loop track turnoff which promised coastal views so suggested to the other group they try it out. Not to be recommended,00 after the second group found themselves grunting up a very steep hill to a Pa site and then struggling down a vertical hill using the wire fence as a support. They had the last laugh as the first group had to wait by the road for an hour due to the extra walking involved.
We then drove to the end of the most northerly road where a beach walk leads to the Graveyard for some of the 137 victims of the SS. Wairapapa which was wrecked in 1894. We read the sad history from the boards beside the graves.
We enjoyed a swim in super surf before heading back to the van and home again via the winding roads. More fresh snapper awaited us, and our host had prepared sashimi which was fantastic. Two adventurous trampers sampled the two hot bathtubs that were a feature of the house. Hardest part of experiencing the beautiful hot water tubs sited on hilltop, both looking out over the bay through old Pohutukawa’s, or under a starry sky, was having to get out again!
Wednesday we decided to spend time enjoying the kayaks and SUPs that were available for our use. Russell went fishing with our host. Tryphena House was such a great venue that we were happy to take time to enjoy it.
We left at midday to go to the local Pa Café for lunch before driving to the Kaitoke hot pools track. Dave and Russell decided to drive further up the road to explore an old mill site complete with steam engine. The rest of the group elected to walk the 45 minutes to the hot pools. It did not start well with a flooded track. We waded on and the track reached higher ground and we walked around the edge of the wetlands which was lovely. The hot pools were flooded and no hot water to entice us in. We explored further upstream, but still no hot water so walked up to the look out before walking back to van. It was good to walk slowly and listen for the Fernbirds that live in the wetlands. We could see the rat problems, but the highlight came when Carroll called us all to be silent and keep still. We had the most special treat of seeing two Ruru(Morepork) roosting in a ponga tree just by the side of the track, such a memorable experience for us all.
We returned home to hot swims in the tubs and a steak dinner.
Thursday dawned with the promised gale force winds which meant we had to cancel the boat trip we had planned. Plan B involved a drive to Whalers Lookout. This is the most southerly point of the island. We walked into Johnsons Bay and then up the hill to Whalers Lookout. The Colville Strait was wild and windswept. We looked out towards Coromandel and the Mercury Islands and could just imagine the whalers watching out for the Brydes and Humpback whales as they migrated through the strait.
It was then a short van drive to the hill behind Tryphena where we walked the Station Rock track. This track had two amazing lookouts and beautiful Nikau bush.
Home for more fine dining with Peter once again providing fresh snapper which we complimented with a salad made by the local café.
The gales continued to increase and the bay became a spectacular raging sea. The wind was so strong a gust blew the double kayak onto the beach. Enjoying the hot tubs in a gale force wind also was an experience with towels and clothes being blown away leaving those in the bath somewhat compromised!
Friday was the day we decided to climb Hirakimata (Mt Hobson) via the Windy Canyon and Palmers Track. This track was absolutely gorgeous, and we all said was the highlight of our time on the island.
We were in awe of the track quality although the steepness and number of wooden steps took some adjusting to. The windy canyon did not disappoint. It is steep sided and spectacular and worth just standing and admiring. We walked on towards the summit. The track is all board- walked and ladder steps rising to the 625 m of Hirakimata. The steps are built to protect the burrows of the endangered Black Petrels that nest near the summit. Close to the top we walked through virgin Kauri forest and although a small area it gives an idea of what the Kauri forests must have looked like before the loggers came. We all reached the summit and were able to see the incredible views of the island although it was misty in places. Dave and Russell decided to walk further to see an old kauri dam but found the 700 steps steep and narrow with the dams derelict. We walked back on the same track and enjoyed the chance to review all we had seen.
We visited Medland’s Beach on our way home and were impressed once again by the golden sand surf beaches that the Barrier is so famous for.
A fine dining night to follow with a steak BBQ and Raewyn wore a posh frock, accompanied by Russell in a bowtie with Buttonhole Hibiscus and Dave in his Hat. It was a fitting way to conclude our 6 nights at Tryphena House with Chef Dave creating a beautiful dessert to finish our fine dining experiences. We all felt Raewyn could not have found better accommodation anywhere on the island for the group. The house was in a magic site, with noisy kaka in the nearby trees. It was comfortable and our hosts Peter and Lucy could not have looked after us better. The Barrier is off grid so keeping power going for us all was not easy but we never went without and the staggering quantity of quality fish was such a treat.
We all raised our glasses to Raewyn for all her organisation and planning. We saluted great teamwork, unbelievably fine weather given the dreadful forecast and the deluging rain in Taupo and flooding in Waipukurau and Waihau Bay. It had been a special time for us all, we felt so fortunate to be there.
Our last day dawned fine and still windy. We packed up and said goodbye to our hosts before driving to the Pa Café for brunch and coffee. It was nice not to have to rush and we even called into a quirky museum in Claris which provided much interest and amusement. We returned the van at the airport island style by leaving keys in it. On check in, our pilot said as we were all there, we could leave 30 minutes early so we were on the plane and flying into Auckland before we were meant to leave.
The sign of a successful trip is when you hear everyone discussing how quickly we can return and just how many walks we haven’t done yet and just how much we would like to do them.
We will be back to Great Barrier. It is just the most precious place and we felt so fortunate to be able to spend 6 days there. Thank you Raewyn for making it happen and Gill for suggesting we go there.
We were…Dave the driver, Raewyn…planner and team leader, Russell…BBQ chef and fisherman, and Brian, Celia, Christine, Gill, Jenny, Jean, Carroll and Sarah H. We were sad that Sarah B couldn’t join us but we always thought of her and there is always next time Sarah.
ANGELUS HUT, NELSON LAKES 15-17 January 2022
We left Travers Sabine Lodge and took the boat across Lake Rotoiti to Cold Water Hut. Taking the Cascade Track we climbed to Angelus Hut via the waterfall on what we discovered the locals called the hardest route up. Initially following the Travers River in beautiful bush on a rough track, gradually getting steeper. From the bushline and waterfall it was very steep, on a hot 30deg day. After a long, hard day we popped over the brow to stunning views, any discomfort forgotten.
The 28 bed Angelus hut with 4 new toilets was great. However, the water pump was out of action requiring many trips down to the larger of the 2 lakes for fresh water. Swimming was confined to the smaller, shallower but warmer lake next to it.
The next day we woke to another beautiful day. After a relaxing start we ventured off towards Mt Angelus stopping at Hinapouri Tarn. Then back for a swim and exploring the area.
Day 3 was another hot stunning day. Exiting via Robert Ridge was an experience and a half, with a 200m climb out of Angelus basin onto the exposed rugged ridge that was very challenging in parts for around 10kms, but amazing views. Then a steep
descent zig zagging down the Pinchgut track in extreme heat to the carpark. Here we were met by our shuttle driver, John, with homemade delicious icecold lemonade and cookies. Gill T & Jenny V
HEAPHY TRACK Nov 2021
Day 1 and our team of five, Gill, Jean, Louise, Sarah and Carroll started with an 8am shuttle departure for 2 ½ hr drive to Brown Hut. Yeha, 10.45 and the tramp is under way, three ladies in rain coats soon changed to sunhats. While a consistent 800m climb, it was rarely steep, but very rough underfoot, requiring welcome stops to look through windows in bush to views of mountain ranges (Mt Olympus) and Aorere River. Small waterfalls at side of the wide track and stepping stones allowed us to keep boots dry. From Flanagan’s Corner, the highest point on the track, a reasonable pace was possible as the track undulates easily to Perry Saddle Hut. Bird life kept us busy, trying to identify by sight or sound. Jean found dead Powelliphanta snail shell. Arrived 4.45pm after 17.5km, super pleased with the days effort. Hut was very full and noisy, and warm with the fire heating, but quite cold in the bunk rooms. Sufficient kitchen area, pots etc. 3 bunk rooms of 12, 8, 8. Impressive views across valley.
Day 2 Perry Saddle Hut to Saxon Hut 12.4km. Woke to a beaut frost. Vegetation changed to the golden tussock of the Downs. A comfortable 2 hr descent to Gouland Downs Hut for entertainment from a weka family with chicks popping out of scrub. Then a shy takahe walked the perimeter of hut area before giving us a bonus viewing, and photo shots, enabling us to record in hut book, the colour of leg bands. No rush today so went off track to look at some caves. Tussock area changes to mossy forest where Jean’s sharp eyes pick out varying flowers and mosses. Gill’s day to find a dead snail shell. Pressure is on for a live one. Arrived Saxon Hut 1.15pm. Limited kitchen and bench space. 2 x 8 bunk beds. Down to the creek for a very cold wash, the braver ones taking a plunge. Not a good time to practise photography Sarah!! You did delete, delete, DELETE? Rinsed a few clothes and settled in for cups of tea, reading, cards, and chatter with fellow trampers. Louise is the hut book bug. A guide treated us to an evening walk looking for kiwi. Sadly it wasn’t to be but there were koura in river.
Day 3 Saxon Hut to James Mackay Hut 11.8k. Mostly easy walking on track of coarse gravel and occasional tree roots. No sightings of takahe today just reminders of where they cross track and bridge. Mackay Hut sits with distant view of Tasman Sea and Heaphy River mouth 750m below. Hut has 3 bunk rooms of 12,8,8. Large living kitchen area with several double gas burners, some push button starters. Good supply of pots and pans. 2 flush toilets with covered access to hut. Short walk for a wash which 3 ladies navigated steep rocky access. Time for nibbles, reading and cards, with Sarah and Gill providing good competition. 12.
Day 4 Mackay Hut to Heaphy Hut 20.5km. 7.30am – 2.30pm Yeha mostly easy downhill through bustling forest and lovely bush. Good bird life again. Two flash new swing bridges today. Two thirds along track is the magnificent new Lewis shelter. Enjoyed large limestone rock formations, and entering impressive coastal forest area, including rata and nikau palms. Heaphy hut has 4 x 8 bunk rooms. A room to ourselves again courtesy of Sarah’s skills and Louise’s Wellington friend. Wash and cool but pleasant swim in Heaphy River. Warden advised where to look for live Powelliphanta shells and Gill was rewarded for searching under fallen nikau palm fronds. The Powelliphanta (brown shell snail) can be found near limestone outcrops where there is sufficient calcium to nourish their sizable shells which can grow up to 8cm. They feed on native worms which can grow up to a metre long. In turn the numerous weka feed on the snails, as do pigs. Applied insect repellent and set off for beach walk enjoying some coastal birds, red and black billed gulls, oyster catchers, a pair of paradise ducks with 8 chicks and shags. Looked unsuccessfully for kiwi, although there were several weka.
Day 5 Heaphy Hut to Kohaihai 16.2km. Set off at 7.30, aware of forecast rain. Mountainous forest laden with nikau palms, a few large rata trees, and large rocky outcrops. The coastline is rugged with sandy and rocky beaches, and some big bluff drop offs. Coastal path is narrow and easy, mostly flat walking until Kohaihai Bluff Hill. We saw or heard numerous birds over the five days. Kaka, tui, bellbird, weka, kereru, S.I.robin, morepork, tomtit, fernbird, swallows, rifleman, long tailed cuckoo, paradise ducks and the very special sighting of takahe. The last half hour of light rain was just a reminder that we had covered 78k to the West Coast. Just time for lunch at the Kohaihai shelter before shuttle trip to Karamea and the heavy rain. Super effort ladies, and great memories of not only the track but the fun and laughs along the way.
And hats off to Karamea Motors for their efficiency in providing shuttle return trip from Kohaihai to Karamea, and Karamea to Nelson. Also, rental vehicle one day hire which we had use of from previous afternoon and no need to refuel. Only on the West Coast!
Carroll Robertson, Jean Caulton, Sarah Bloomer, Gill Tate, Louise Fawthorpe
Kopiko Aotearoa (Cape Egmont to East Cape): the first half – Cape Egmont to Waiotapu (not quite the guidebook version). 430 km.
Sunday 7th November – cycles loaded on to Eastern Taranaki Experience shuttle and we were off to Stratford. A long drive!
Next day, shuttle to Cape Egmont lighthouse and after lighthouse inspection and photographs it was on yer bike! Our first deviation from the guidebook route which goes around the northern side of Taranaki; we went the southern side back to Stratford via Wiremu and Opunake roads. Picture perfect views of the mountain and easy cycling.
Day two: Stratford to Whangamomona. A day of pleasant cycling along the Forgotten World Highway. Pastoral and very green, and the sun shone, but plenty of climbs over saddles to keep us honest. Just out of Stratford a sight not often seen – Mounts Taranaki and Ruapehu visible at the same time. Along the way Barbara’s odometer hit the 8000 km mark – drinks on her that night at the Whangamomona hotel.
Day three was a long one, 87 hilly kilometres to Taumarunui, with a welcome coffee at the lavender farm. Outstanding accommodation at Taumarunui, a 4-bedroom 3-bathroom BnB, where the owner cooked us roast chook and all the trimmings, plus a delicious cream and raspberry dessert. If this was cycling, we were all for it!
The Covid border stuffed up our original planned route via Waimiha and Benneydale – we were not cycling the guide book route of Timber Trail and Arataki swingbridge with panniers. A plan change and we headed over the long and winding Waituhi Saddle to Omori for the night, about 53 km.
The challenging section of the route change was, of course, the Western Bays Highway, 73 km of not-too-difficult terrain but trucks and milk tankers kept us alert and very much on edge. However, we did notice the spectacular broom in flower along the highway and an unexpected bonus was dumplings – yes, dumplings – and delicious coffee from a roadside van (Hearty As Dumplings) on the corner of Poihipi road and the highway. Comfort food and calming for the nerves to tackle the road into Whakamaru. Overnight in an ex-electricity managers’ house, part of That Dam Lodge, and dinner at Russman’s Café was excellent.
After six days of perfect weather, we woke to rain. Disappointing as this last day of 77 km in the Waikite Valley had promised to be scenic and interesting cycling. Off we went in the drizzle to Atiamuri, favouring the road instead of the Waikato river trail. Many twists and turns from Ohakuri road onwards, some good hills and a muddy gravel section which wasn’t pleasant.
A welcome stop at Tyburn Monastery, a community of Benedictine nuns. We parked our bikes in the implement shed and a helper came out with pristine white towels (!) – we were very drippy! A restful hour sitting on the deck, enjoying the misty view and devouring sausage rolls, sandwiches and scones with cream and jam. Oh dear, time to leave! Unfortunately the weather didn’t entice us to look around the gardens – maybe another day. Wet raincoats back on and another 20 km to the very steep climb from Waikite hot pools to Waiotapu pub and the end of our ride. Fist pumps for the photo and then loaded the bikes and home!
Next challenge is the second half from Waiotapu to East Cape. Covid roadblocks and other problems around Waikaremoana might present some difficulties. Cyclists: Kay and Roger Feather, Ngaire and Gerald Kissick, Pat Ilsley and Barbara Morris.
Waiorongomai Valley Tramp October 2021
This was a very interesting day tramp. Waiorongomai Valley is situated on the southern flanks of Mt Te Aroha, an area rich in gold mining history so there are many relics of those days to view and you can be assured of a good cardiac work out at the same time. We were joined for the day by the redoubtable Raewyn Rush and a group of her tramping friends from Pauanui.
There are several walking tracks to choose from, the native bush is largely untouched, there is plentiful bird life and some spectacular waterfalls sourced from high on the mountain.
An incredible feat of engineering was the early 1880's construction of the Piako County Tramway which transported the ore from Quartsville mines for five kilometres down the mountain to the stamper battery, built in what is now the parking area. The cost was 18,000 pounds, financed by a version of our Provincial Growth Fund, half each by the Government and the Piako County Council, hence the name. I am sure the rate payers of the day would have been rather disappointed as the whole operation was never really viable and depressed gold prices saw it close down about twenty years later.
The tramway has three steep incline sections and we attacked the fully restored Butlers incline, the longest section, 400 metres at a continuous slope of 30 degrees. On reaching the top, a sign proclaims one has just climbed the equivalent of 845 steps so the cardiac comment earlier was well justified.
Now to the descent, the choice of the boring pathway down or the abseiling without ropes option. Leader Gill assessed us as being up for the challenge so over the cliff face we went. Quite a bit of dirt to brush off at the bottom and all agreed we should not attempt it if it was wet underfoot.
At that point, Raewyn's mob favoured a side trip to a Kauri grove and invited us to join them. Again, wise counsel from our leader suggested we could be time compromised and just as well. A call from Raewyn at 5 pm as we crossed over the Control Gates bridge informed us that they had encountered much windfall and damage on the track and were yet to reach the car park.
Queen Charlotte Tramp (18 – 23 May 2021)
The weather throughout this tramp could not have been better for the group of seven ladies and one brave husband who used his mountain bike while the rest of us did the track on foot. Carroll Robertson did all the organizing, using Wilderness Guides to make our water taxi and overnight bookings. We spent the first night in motels at the Top10 in Picton then set off on the water taxi next morning to arrive at Ship Cove in beautiful sunshine. The forest was almost tropical going up that first hill on a track that was very good apart from one fallen tree to navigate. We spent a very relaxed day tramping up and down admiring the spectacular views from many points and loving the multitude of beautiful streams along the way. Our first night was spent in luxurious comfort at Furneaux Lodge. We paid for our dinners along the way, but packed lunches were provided at each overnight venue. All our meals and accommodation were way better than expected and this trip really was excellent value for money with the whole trip costing less than a thousand bucks.
On Thursday we had a very easy tramp to Punga Cove where all the facilities were once again top notch. A couple of the girls enjoyed a paddle around the bays while the rest of us enjoyed relaxing on the jetty.
Next day our tramp required much more energy, but with frequent stops to admire the stunning views and generally just enjoy our tramp, we made good time to reach Portage Resort with plenty of time to relax and clean up. The distances each day seemed to be a variable feast with no two signposts (or pedometers) agreeing on how far we had walked. Not that it mattered as we were enjoying ourselves so much in that beautiful sunshine with no winds to make us miserable – quite superb. Dinner was an enormous buffet so most of us ate too much but we needed it for our final day.
Saturday dawned with a little mist to keep things cooler as we climbed and climbed. This was a very long uphill but mostly we never noticed, being in such awesome company. The very few cyclists also seemed to be taking a bit of strain except for the young fellas on their electric bikes. The mist cleared, so we once again could enjoy fabulous views. Four days in beautiful bush with perfect weather, no wind and great companions – what more could one ask? At the end of another long tramp (over 20kms) we made it to our rendezvous with the water taxi in good time to wash some of the mud off our boots before enjoying the smooth ride back to Picton. A final dinner of Blue Cod and next day we made our way home, feeling pretty pleased with ourselves.
Members of our group were Carroll Robertson (leader extraordinaire), Sarah Bloomer, Jean Caulton, Donna & Greg Gordon, Lynda Rihia and Val Wilkinson.
East Cape Cycle Ride – April 2021
In some ways, the most difficult part of this trip was not the cycling, but finding accommodation with food outlets nearby. However, with much research we managed to get something suitable for all nights on the road.
Day 1: Opotiki to Te Kaha 68 km. Our first day started from Opotiki, vehicles left in storage at the Motu Trails compound. After a coffee we were on our way along SH35, easy riding, light traffic, good weather and very scenic with the ocean on our left. We didn’t ride the Dunes trail which parallels the highway, as squeeze bars and panniers don’t mix. Terrain was cycle-friendly, rolling countryside with only one noticeable hill of about 200m at Hawai. Overnight stop at Te Kaha Beach Resort which sounds grander than it was, but still comfortable and with great sea views.
Day 2: Te Kaha to Te Araroa 92 km. A big ride today! The first 50 km was an easy gradient along the spectacularly scenic coastline, the route turning inland just after Cape Runaway and the hills greeted us. A brief stop at Raukokore, site of the well-known church on the promontory. Being Sunday, a service was about to commence so we didn’t go inside. Traffic was light and considerate making for enjoyable cycling, and made more so with a stop at Waihau Bay to visit club member Christine Elmiger who coffeed and caked us most royally. Reluctantly we had to leave as still many kilometres to ride and the hills beckoned. Eventually we rolled down the last hill into the Te Araroa Holiday Park. Despite the rather dire reviews of the cabins and communal facilities, the motel units were just fine – a bit dated but comfortable. The food supply was about 6 km away but the camp manager kindly lent us her car to get our fish and chips.
Day 3: Te Araroa to Tokomaru Bay 79 km. After breakfast at the Manuka Café with one friendly and one not-so-friendly staff member, we headed off for a fairly taxing day with some sizeable hills, highest about 200m, to get over, but otherwise pleasant farmland. The logging trucks were busy, but drivers got 9/10 from us for consideration when passing – although we did our bit by getting out of the way if we heard them coming, getting an appreciative honk in return. People towing caravans were less thoughtful seemingly forgetting about the appendage attached to their car. One in particular raised our ire as he cut in on two occasions – we were longing to catch up with him to give a few choice words.
A stop at Tikitiki, St Mary’s Anglican Church on the hill, another landmark, but covered in scaffolding so we didn’t visit. Milk shakes and coffee at Te Puia where the friendly shop owner obligingly topped up a couple of batteries. Te Puia Springs Hotel is opposite but, unfortunately, no longer a good place to stay. While sitting in the sun we were greeted by a friendly couple who turned out to be the owners of our night’s accommodation at Tokomaru Bay – they saw our cycles and decided we were “their” group. So, on to Tokomaru Bay to The Post Office, built 1909, now delightful period accommodation and highly recommended if travelling in the area. It still has its walk-in steel safe, now a linen room. Takeaways again from down the road.
Day 4: Tokomaru Bay to Tolaga Bay 35 km. Before leaving Tokomaru Bay we cycled to the old wharf and abandoned red-brick freezing works and cargo store, all looking somewhat decayed and unloved. The only sour note of the trip so far when a pint-sized local told us to “get out of our country”. After that an easy saunter to Tolaga Bay where we stayed at fairly basic cabins in the camping ground near the wharf and about 3 km from the shops – so a ride back into town to get our dinner just as the rain was starting. A wild night, heavy rain, wind, the sea crashing and in the morning Kay and Roger found the floor of their cabin awash with water.
Day 5: Tolaga Bay to Gisborne 57 km. We set off with the rain gear on and dark clouds around, but eventually the raindrops ceased and we cycled happily along the gently rising and falling road into Gisborne. Traffic density increased but we were able to hop on to a cycle lane a few kilometres from the city centre. A comfortable motel and dinner at the local pub.
Day 6: Gisborne to Mokonui 51 km. The sun was shining, the rural scenery diverse – vineyards, orchards, farms – the road was sealed and climbed gently and traffic was sparse. In all, a perfect cycling day. A brief visit to the Eastwood Hill arboretum but unfortunately most of the autumn colours were over. Next stop was Rere Falls, a 20m wide and 10m high waterfall on the Wharekopae river and on our visit plenty of water falling. A stunning sight. Further along the road is the Rere rockslide, the river flowing over a flat slab of rock, 60m long, descending at a 30-degree angle into a deep pool, providing fun for those who slide down on body boards or anything that comes to hand. We resisted the temptation to have a go and continued on our way to our accommodation at Mokonui Station cottage. A delightful place – warm, comfortable, with dinner and dessert delivered by owners Tas and Sam.
Day 7: Mokonui to Motu Village 63 km. Another day of sun and 47 km of gravel road uphill to Matawai. Pleasant rural scenery, very steep, rugged country. Food and coffee at Matawai store and then on to the Motu road, a couple of climbs but mostly downhill to Motu Village. Accommodation at the Community House, the old post office built in 1921, now a comfortable backpackers. Dinner was delivered by the local café owner. We shared the accommodation with a couple from Wellington, touring on a tandem – we admired their pluck at tackling the Motu Road next day.
Day 8: Motu Village to Opotiki, 67 km. A misty damp morning, and a mostly downhill ride on the gravelled, bush-fringed Motu Road, parts in good condition, other parts potholed and rutted requiring concentration. Eventually we reached sea level and made our way along SH35 to Tirohanga, milkshakes and other goodies, and back into Opotiki. A most satisfying cycling challenge and with a few extra kms added we had completed about 540 km.
(Kay and Roger Feather, Ngaire and Gerald Kissick, Barbara Morris).
Taranaki National Park Tramp
Friday 26th March 2021 to Tuesday 30th March 2021
Pouakai Crossing, hmm, never heard of it. Must be good if folks from “The Naki” compare it with the Tongariro Crossing. Yes, better get my name on the list pronto.
Sandy Fletcher was organising this trip so it was sure to be good fun. When we met at her home at 11.00 a.m. on Friday 26th I was delighted to see the other participants namely:
Dave and Jill Wilding
Just the ten of us, leaving a couple of spare seats for extra baggage.
It seemed an odd time to be leaving for a tramp but Sandy had a treat in store for us at Tongaporutu which required us to be there mid-afternoon. The sea was a deep blue under a sunny sky making the journey along the Taranaki Coast a delight. We pulled into a car park on the south side of the Tongaporutu River where signs told us that the best time to visit the Three Sisters was two hours either side of low tide. We were there an hour after low which left us just an hour to gallop down to the river mouth and along the beach to visit the Sisters, a trunkless Elephant and various other monoliths that had been eroded from the coastal cliffs and now stood alone on the sand, high and dry, but most of the time they are being buffeted by the vicious west coast seas trying to bring them to their knees, as they had the fourth sister and the elephant’s trunk not so many years ago. It was lovely to be out in the salt air and to try to photograph Egmont/Taranaki framed in one of the “windows” created by the holes in the formations.
We returned to Mokau to stay the night in motels there. We had time to explore a little of the Mokau river before retreating up the steep cliffs to gather our “take a way” dinners at 6.30 p.m.
A group meeting that evening worked out the finer details of the Pouakai Crossing van moving and who would go in each group of five, all enjoying a “pink sky at night” sunset over the mountain, promising us a good day on the morrow.
Saturday morning and we were almost all present and correct in the van at 7.00 a.m. One member seemed to have trouble with finding his way about before the sun came up and I can still see Jill M. toting his big bag down the outside staircase to the van while the “late one” scrambled along behind with the rest of his gear.
The starting point for the group I was going to walk with was from a car park on Egmont Road while the other five drove around to Mangorei car park to start their walk.
Our path started off in lovely bush, the trees were resplendent in coats of moss and adorned with copious quantities of epiphytes perched precariously on their branches. I was delighted to see a clump of Easter Orchids (Earina Autumnalis) with flowers in bloom beside the track where it had fallen as a “Widow Maker”. The undergrowth was dense, showing that Taranaki National Park has done a good job of ridding the area of browsing animals. The track was wide and well formed. We dropped down to a river to cross a swing bridge and on the other side we found our first steel ladder leading us up to our morning tea stop at Kaiauai Shelter. From Kaiauai Shelter the track started to climb up over tree roots and cascades of steps in varying sizes. I was pleased to be going up these steps and felt sorry for the group starting from the other end as they would strike these going down late in the day when they were feeling tired.
We continued to climb with the trees shrinking in size until we broke out of them into alpine vegetation with beautiful, long, golden tussock grasses trying to block our way up the ever upward escalators of stairs. We reached the top of Henry Peak at lunchtime, as we had hoped, but the peak was clagged in with mist and it was blowing a gale up there so after a cursory look at the view that wasn’t there we descended off the top to stop on the boardwalk in a sheltered spot to eat our lunch. The mist swirled, now giving us a view out
down the coast, now blotting it out and giving us a glimpse of Maude Peak ahead of us up the trail. We didn’t linger over lunch as it was cold. We soon descended steel ladders down onto the ridge that runs between Henry and Maude and as we looked up we could see our counterparts coming towards us through the tunnel formed by the leatherwood beside the boardwalk trail. They hadn’t had lunch so we suggested that they do as we had and have it before they reached the top of Henry.
The trail skirted around the side of Maude and we were soon up on a plateau at the Pouakai Tarns in the Ahukawakawa Swamp area trying to see the world famous reflection of Taranaki in one of the pools. Alas, it wasn’t to be for us as Taranaki had its head, and well down to its shoulders, wrapped in cloud.
Workmen, contracted to DOC, were busy replacing parts of the board walk and we stopped to chat, learning that they are flown in to the Pouakai Hut by helicopter for a 10 day stint, but they are not allow to sleep in the hut having to sleep in tents alongside. It had taken a helicopter, working solid for two days, to bring all the timber and digging equipment up to the site. He suggested we call into the hut on the way passed to put another log on the fire to keep the hut warm for them. We did call in but we didn’t touch the fire as there were several other occupants there.
From the Pouakai Hut it was a continuous down, down, down on board walk all the way, making our legs tired, but as Mt Egmont gets 2000mms of rainfall per year on the northern side I guess if we weren’t on board walk we’d have been up over the tops of our boots in mud and I know which I’d prefer!
It took us two hours to walk out from the hut to the van car park and in short order we were back around where we’d started waiting for the other group to emerge from the bush and “yes”, when they arrived they said that they had struggled with those tricky downward steps.
While we waited we were privileged to have a conversation with a chap who had come in to check on a kiwi with a tracking device on it. He had found it quite easily today but sometimes it takes much longer. He said that about 100 kiwi had been released in the area around the Egmont Information Centre but that only a handful are monitored so they don’t know how many of the others have survived.
As soon as the others arrived it was fast forward to Stratford for supplies at the New World Supermarket and then on to Konini Lodge at Dawson Falls.
Konini is a brilliant Lodge with electric stoves, fridges and hot showers for the princely sum of $25.00 per night and we had it to ourselves most of the time.
Sunday morning my alarm went at 6.30a.m. as the plan was to walk up a track towards Fantham’s Peak. The day was misty, drizzly, a “coat on, coat off” sort of day and we made slow progress up to the Sir Edmond Hillary Memorial and the Hooker Shelter where we had morning tea.
Jill M. returned to Konini from here which was fortunate as she was able to retrieve a camera that one of us had left beside the track at a previous stop. The rest of us continued upwards breaking out of the trees and tussock to be confronted with a very steep, scree covered slope. The sun was out, the wind had dropped. The top of Fantham’s Peak was in full view beckoning us up. A quick conference then Russell and I looked at each other and set off like a robber’s dog for the top. We made good progress and kept parallel to each other so as not to knock a loose stone down on the other person. We climbed steadily. We
looked back to see Cassie not far behind us, then Dave and Jill and further back Lindsay. The
others had decided that scree climbing was not for them that day and retreated to a hut down a side track and then returned to Konini after lunch.
Russell and I breached the top at 11.30a.m. Three and a half hours after leaving Konini, the time stated on the signs back down the track, so I, especially, was pretty chuffed with my effort. The top is not a “peak” as one might think of a peak. This one covers quite an extensive area and has been made smooth by constant wind erosion. Syme Hut, a 10 bed hut is well tied down on the far side of the plateau with its matching loo some 80 metres or so away which must make night time visits a bitter business on a freezing, snowy night.
There are three peaks around the edge of The Peak and it was hard to decide which one was actually the highest one. The view out and down from the edge of the plateau was breathtaking, a sheer drop for hundreds of feet and then green forest, to farmland and then the sea – truly spectacular. The top of Mount Taranaki was visible on our side – the south west -with the wind blowing the cloud across her top and down the eastern side like a bridal veil. I was so excited by the whole scene I wanted to dance!
We all had lunch in the lee of the hut before making the climb down. I must admit to being more worried about the downward journey than the upward one but once I got back into scree sliding mode it was fun and I really enjoyed it. We gathered together at the bottom of the slope then made our way back down the never ending steps to the lodge highly elated with our days efforts.
Statistics: Konini Lodge altitude 890 m – Syme Hut 1960 m Elevation climbed 1070m
Wet, Wet. Wet, overnight heavy rain. The forecast for Monday was for clearing weather at around 11.00 a.m. so we stayed in the lodge, reading, chatting, playing cards, sleeping, reading the information boards around the walls and still it rained. We lunched at 12.00 then donned our wet weather gear and headed out to walk Wilkes Pool Track through to Plateau Road Car Park. The sun put in an appearance from time to time causing the moss to sparkle and glisten as the rays hit the tiny drops suspended on their way to the forest floor. This was gorgeous, goblin forest, the trees covered in fur coats of moss or ferns so soft you just wanted to hug them. The waterfalls were full and giving us rainbows through the spray. Smiles appeared all around but turned to a frown as we came to a sign telling us that the Wilkes Pool and Cascades Track was closed for renovation work. We erred, we were civilly disobedient and ignored them, pressing on with our chosen course feeling sure that no workmen would be out in this weather to turn us back and so it turned out. The old steps had been pulled up leaving the path soft and muddy but not difficult and we were soon out at Plateau Road looking up to where the ski tows start. By the time we walked the short distance to the Lookout it was a “Mist Out” and we couldn’t see a thing! I was quite disorientated and couldn’t have told you which way was east, west, north or south.
Our return journey was along the Waingongoro Track, following the many steps down, down, down, while the rain tippled down, down, down and rivulets flowed down, down, down those blessed steps and water trickled down, down, down my neck…..
It was a beautiful track and I’d love to do it again in fine weather instead of having to peer at it out from under my hood through rain spattered glasses! Waingongoro Track came out just five minutes walk from the lodge on the road running up to the car park. The others went on to Konini but I thought that as I was wet I may as well go to look at Dawson Falls. It was a good decision as by the time I got back the showers were free. A hot shower has never felt so good!
And still the rain poured down, the lightening flashed and the thunder roared right above us and was so loud that it made the whole building shudder.
The return to Taupo on Tuesday was uneventful. We noted that the Three Sisters were up to their knees in water so there was no way of visiting them again. We had morning tea at Mokau and some who hadn’t tried their Whitebait Fritters for dinner on the first night gave those a try.
We stopped for lunch at Pio Pio and were all safely home in Taupo around 3.00p.m.
Our thanks go to Sandy for organising a wonderful trip and to Dave and Lindsay for driving us so safely.
Tuesday March 9th 2021: In cool & overcast conditions 10 friends -Jenny Verschaffelt ,Gill Tate, Gerda & Tiemen Corporal, Ngaire & Gerald Kissick, Brian Hicks ,Gai & Phil Menzies & Kay Feather were off to walk the Paparoa Great Walk from the southern end starting from the Smoke-ho carpark on the Croesus Track ,which has remnants of the areas gold mining history. In the first hour the track climbs through podocarp & beech forest ,crossing a wire suspension bridge over the Smoke-ho creek .Morning tea with the local weka was at the first of two historical hotel sites. The track zig-zagged up the ridge between Blackball Creek & Roaring Meg catchment for the next hour until we reached the turnoff to Blackball
Creek ..the hut warden had passed us and told us the Garden Gully was worth a look and the stamping battery was very much worth a look .We dropped our packs and took the hour return trip to Garden Gully to see more relics of the gold mining days -a miners hut dating back to 1930 still stands ..we wandered further up the track to view the old quartz crushing battery to find the suspension bridge draped in 'Under Repair' tape - 10 “engineers” looked it up & down and couldn’t really find too much wrong with it …Brian was very keen to give it a go and wander over it but the 'Gold Card' common sense prevailed and we decided against it ..in hindsight we could have passed over it as the hut warden told us “Oh the track Maintenance crew were doing minor maintenance and maybe forgotten to remove all the tape …how annoying !!! Packs back on and onwards & upwards as the track climbed steeply through subalpine forest towards Ces Clarke hut. We passed the Croesus Top Hut which is purely historical, although some of our group used it as an “ensuite” to freshen up & change, as the hut was open plan and provided no private space. Ces Clarke Hut was perched on the edge of the bush line set among low alpine scrub and on a clear day you would be rewarded with spectacular views of Lake Brunner, the main divide down to Mt Cook …we had to wait a couple more days for these views. We 10 shared the 16 bed hut with 4 other trampers and a biker.
Wednesday March 10th : Ces Clarke Hut to Moonlight Tops Hut 9.7 km. What a weather experience we had today. Left the hut at 8.30 in full wet weather regalia, hats & gloves in low cloud damp conditions and NO views. After about 30mins from the hut we passed the Croesus knob turnoff -this is a 1 hr 10 min return trip to top of knob (1204) where views of Mt Cook & out to the Tasman Sea …sadly none of our group bothered as the weather was so bad The weather got progressively worse as we tramped through sub alpine scrub & tussock on very exposed ridges of the main Paparoa Range .The wind was vicious reaching 90 kmph (according to hut warden once we all blew inside) The rain was relentless as we “crept” along the open ridges holding on to any tussock for fear of being blown off. Four pack covers were blown away never to be seen again..nit was the most vicious conditions most of us had ever endured. After 3.5 hours we arrived at Moonlight Tops Hut drenched and wind blown. However a young Australian guy and his Kiwi girlfriend had a great fire going and the kettle on boiling …they had planned on going all the way out but the hut warden advised them to stay put ..I think they slept in the storage shed for the night. It was an afternoon of drying gear, playing cards & dice, numerous cups of coffee & tea and then the luxury of watching the Americas Cup on a punter’s phone …Mark had a very heavy power pack which allowed us to watch the race. The Moonlight Tops Hut has panoramic views across to the escarpment, Pike stream & Paparoa National Park We shared the hut with 5 other trampers and one biker.
Thursday March 11th : Moonlight Tops Hut to Pororari Hut 19.1 km .Thank goodness we woke to a very welcome clear ,still & dry day. We felt like we were on top of the world this morning .We set off down trail that dropped into the Goblin Forest ..an enchanting mossy forest .We stopped for morning tea to enjoy the near 360 deg views ,then on to walking along the escarpment of the Paparoa range with expansive views of steep limestone cliffs and impenetrable wilderness ,with the ocean far beyond. It is truly breathtaking! Just before we dropped off the escarpment, you look down into a deep valley ,the valley that held Pike River Mine. Three air shafts are visible and today we could hear work going on in the hope
of retrieving bodies .
Leaving the alpine forest, we descended down towards Pororari Hut going through a beautiful rainforest, with this day being our longest, taking 8hrs. With the hard, compacted track, quite a few of our group experienced, if not one, then multiple blisters making for a hard walk out.
This hut is a replica of Moonlight Tops. We shared this hut with 6 mountain bikers and 3 other trampers. One Kea called in for a visit sitting atop a high tree.
Friday March 12 Pororari Hut to Punakaiki 16kms
We descended into the Pororari River valley for a pleasant day walking through an amazing gorge and beautiful beech forest. This whole area was stunning.
Once at the end of the track we all made a beeline for the Punakaiki Tavern to await our shuttle back to Greymouth, refreshments in hand.
Kay and Jenny