A Gorilla to Cart Your Bike Carrier: For those, who find their e-bike carrier a bit heavy to carry between towbar and storage place, I've found a solution which suits me. A Gorilla garden cart from Bunnings, $149, model number GOR801, item number 3361038. Flat deck which fits the carrier well. The mesh sides supplied are superfluous for use with the carrier and don't need to be fitted. Comes as a flat pack so experience with Meccano is useful. Tools required: long-nose pliers and a couple of adjustable wrenches. Happy to send a photo of the assembled cart with carrier on board. (If viewing this on a cell phone the image may appear at the very bottom of this page)
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
TAIRUA WEEKEND Feb 2021
‘Twas on a Friday morning that nine of us left home
En route to Coromandel, well known to some
A coffee stop at Matamata the Hobbits to snap
Then on to Tairua our packs to unwrap
A beach tramp via dotterel nests to Sailor’s Grave Bay
Then up and down till kauri die-back blocked our way
Back we came still up and down, some braved the surf
But for that day enough was enough
Into town for fish and chips outside in the heat
We deserved them and all felt beat
On Saturday morning to meet Raewyn we drove
On the road to Broken Hill area with its treasure trove
Up, up on roots to Collins Drive and lookout we stumbled
Hobbits were nearly past it as for snacks they fumbled
Then joy of joys it was downhill and through a tunnel
All with head-torches on, it was like a funnel
The track along the water race was fun
Tried to eat lunch by the river but rain won that one
Later into town to a restaurant we made our way
A delicious dinner was to end our day.
On Sunday morn two groups divided
Three to the beach, six on the cycle track decided
Easy walking all agreed
Then back to Raewyn’s mansion for a feed
Hobbits especially were very pleased
How back into hilly tramping they eased.
A great weekend and thanks are due
To Gill, Raewyn and Carroll our driver too.
TRAMPERS: Gill Tate, Carroll Robertson, Sarah Bloomer, Val Wilkinson, Vanda Marshall, Anna Van der Kaay, Sandy Fletcher, Raewyn Rush, Austin and Isabel Hutcheon
Taupo - Ohakune- Wanganui -Taupo Cycle trip
Day 1 October 1 2020
Vanda, Jill L, Barbara, Raewyn, Dave and Jill, Jenny V, Bernie and Sandy, Kay and Roger, Sarah B, Brian and Celia, Gill, Ngaire and Gerald, Nicky D, Lyndsay B.
Loaded all 17 e bikes and 2 normal bikes onto Hammersley trailer and carriers and we set off in Bernie's van, TTC van and Dave’s SUV. Lunch in Ohakune out of the wind in a random car park. Had a great ride out of Ohakune to Rangataua Village to Harrods. Cycled thru a farm on a paper road where the farmer knew how to farm his stock. No dirty bums on sheep and lovely grass and trees. Out onto road again and around a wee lake. Back to Ohakune to motel and dinner at Osteria.
Day 2 October 2
Up early and off to Pipiriki where we had lunch in a shelter. Batteries helped heaps and were showing a range of assist. That made good discussion about how to get the best benefit from battery and gearing. There was a big range between bikes and individual's. Jill W kindly followed in her SUV so that she could take Bernie back to collect his van. Pipiriki to Matahiwi Old School camp where we left 6 to stay, where the option was a lovely Roast Lamb meal. The rest of us were shuttled back to the convent at Jerusalem Church and
Dormitory accommodation. Bernie is good at taking short cuts BUT...
The convent was like being in an old hospital with curtains wrapped around each bed. Doesn't stop the snoring sounds though or the shadows formed of body profiles with your light on. Lots of different meals made up our dinners from sausages and mash to dehydrated meals.
Day 3 Saturday Oct 3
49 kms bike to Upokongaro where we ordered a lovely lunch. Kay ordered her lunch and then the glass cabinet exploded giving everyone a hell of a fright and sent glass through all of the beautifully prepared food. Biked into Wanganui. The wind was blowing a gale so made it hard biking to the sea. QDave you nailed it. Bikes loaded up and after an icecream it was back to Taumaranui where we refuelled. Bernie was concerned about tyre pressure fault on dash board so pulled forward to the air pump and checked the tyres. Guess what 30kms down the road Bernie realised he had completed a successful drive off without paying for fuel. Of course no reception for phones at that time so we continued driving expecting the men in blue to catch up with us. The phone call eventually contacted BP Taumaranui and they knew it was a Blue Van that had driven off. Payment made on line. Thanks to Dave and Jill, Bernie and Roger for driving us safely. Dave you are a machine on that normal bike.
A total of 164 kms biked. A new experience for some and we all loved the biking and companionship. Thanks Bernie and Sandy for organising. Hope we get invited again.
TARANAKI GARDEN FESTIVAL OCT 30 - NOV 3 2020
The weather reports were dire for the days to come, but our group of seven set off from Gillies Ave on Friday morning with great anticipation for the sights and experiences ahead of us. As it turned out we were most fortunate in striking wonderful weather apart from one solitary downpour at the end of our last day.
We kicked off with a good stretch of the old legs on the White Cliffs track after our picnic lunch. We followed the gas line and Dave Wilding kept a count of the steps on the way down – he reckons 630 of them. The beach was stunning with black sand, round rocks and towering cliffs that looked more grey than white to me. Lots of waterfalls off the cliffs and straight down onto the beach. We moved on to the Stratford Holiday Camp next to the Patea river. An excellent choice of accommodation.
Bernie selected a superb array of gardens for us to visit, too many to mention every single one. We started on Saturday with the lovely Hollard Gardens where we had plenty of time to explore, followed by Openlands with its restored chapel and Oakley with the flamboyant hanging baskets. The remarkable thing about the whole trip was the fact that Bernie and Sandy are so well known in Taranaki that, wherever we went, somebody would know them
and give us so much more information than we would otherwise have gleaned. Gravetye garden in Hawera was very different with impeccably maintained hedges radiating from the house. This was one of the most impressive gardens we saw. Tawhiti museum, our lunch stop, was truly a wonder to behold and we could easily have spent days there.
Dave did the driving for us and there was a fair amount of that because the gardens are pretty widespread over a big area. Some of the Rhodo shows were over at the Pukeiti gardens but enough were flowering there for us to enjoy. Te Popo has to have a mention
with all its impressive metal African mammal sculptures – that’s where the rain came down! At Bertrand Bridge we held our collective breath as Dave negotiated the ultra narrow bridge with a couple of centimetres to spare! On we went to the Jury gardens which were lovely but no cup of tea for us there, much to Jan’s dismay! We managed to squeeze in a good walk up the river in New Plymouth, starting off from the Windwand on the impressive Coastal Track. We had lunch one day near the beautiful Te Rewa Rewa cycle bridge and Elsie spotted a rare bird, the Cape Barren Goose. I duly reported it to the Rare Birds NZ committee.
The three sustainable gardens that we visited were a real eye opener for us all. I reckon that a dedicated visit just to see these gardens would be awesome! We also managed to visit the private gallery of Margaret Scott – what a prolific artist she is and her colours are so vibrant. The gardens at Tupare were another feast for the eyes and I was delighted to have Jan point out a garden sculpture designed by Julie McDonnell, a badminton buddy of mine! We ate out one evening in Stratford after first watching the Glockenspiel display of Romeo & Juliet.
En route home on Tuesday, Bernie treated us to the Forgotten Highway with a stop in Whangamomona for morning tea and yummy cake. A long drive for Dave and he never complains. The scenery was fabulous for the entire trip and we all had a most wonderful time thanks to Bernie, Sandy and Dave.
Participants were :- Bernie Hammersley, Sandy Fletcher, Dave Wilding, Jan Harding, Elsie Skelton, Anna van der Kaay, Jean Caulton
A Piece of Coromandel Doggerel
6th to 10th November 2020
Coromandel tramp, great anticipation,
Eve of departure, great precipitation!
I chew the fat with the old club cap,
Check the forecast on the weather app.
Optimistic eleven venture forth,
Compass heading, “North”.
The sun is soon shining, Kapai!
Eighteen eighties old gold mine,
Steep inclines Butlers, May Queen to climb.
We sweat a bucket in next to no time,
Thank goodness for the flat section of tramline.
Thames Dickson Holiday Park,
Didn’t hit the Triple A mark.
Up with the Tuis on Saturday morn,
We soon vacated the Double D dorm.
The Kauaeranga Valley beckoned.
We could be turned back at any second.
At eight fifteen we’re through quarantine,
Boots and poles sprayed with detergent Trigene.
The Pinnacles our destination
We set off with grim determination.
Swings bridges, steps of stone,
The calf muscles creak and groan!
Nikau palms in tropical glades of green
Orchids – four different kinds were seen
Most unusual Kei Kei flower.
Billy Goat Falls over us tower.
Up and Up and up, ladder and rung,
Till we stand at the top the Pinnacles won.
Yahoo, Yipee, I can see the sea
This is the sight that greeted me!
Tairua to the East, Hauraki to the west.
As the East Beast says, “East is Best!” (Apologies to Dr Seuss)
Bush clad valleys in deepest green,
Cover the landscape in between.
A friendly gent from Taiwan,
Urges us to go further on
To stand at the top of a great abyss,
So glad this spot we didn’t miss.
Now reluctantly it’s down and down,
Feeling we deserve the Victor’s Crown.
Ladies opt for a quick “Tea Bag” dip,
Kingfisher sings ooh la la pip pip!!
Shelly Beach here we come.
Will we make it before setting sun?
Ah Corina has done us proud,
Lovely units to house our crowd.
Sunday morning rise with the sun.
Another adventure has just begun.
To drive up the Coromandel Coast
To the rest of the world a scenic boast.
Vistas superb mark our way
From Fletcher to Stony Bay.
Kaka give us a Royal Fly By,
Sheep and Cattle barely blink an eye.
Warblers warble and cuckoos call
From Manuka sculptured like a dense wall.
Rocks at Stony roll and rumble
With each wave they wash and tumble.
Curving waves break upon the land.
Leaving designs of white spume on the sand.
A sighting of Dolphins along the way,
Is a perfect end to a perfect day.
Monday, a day to rest and relax.
We’re done with all those tramping tracks!
Let’s dawdle a while along a beach,
New Chums, Whangapoua is within reach.
This white sand beach has International fame
But we’re too early for Pohutukawa flame.
A maiden swings, hair flowing, cheeks glowing,
Others from rain spots in caves are cowering.
Matarangi for lunch on the sand spit,
Binoculars trained on the birds at the tip.
Dotterel, Godwit, Oyster Catcher too,
Tiny bumble bee sized chicks clean and new.
Coffee calling at Kuaotunu
Luke’s Kitchen – good food but no view.
Fire siren sounds it’s time to leave,
Back to Shelly to prepare for the eve.
Drinks and nibbles on the deck by the sea.
Back into Coro for a slap up tea.
Tuesday we bid farewell to Beach Shelly.
We’re off to see the Tapu Square Kauri.
A colossus of the living kind,
Not many bigger can you find.
Twelve Hundred years to get to this size
Pleased it wasn’t a saw miller’s prize.
Up the Valley of Waiomu,
More Kauri there for us to view.
We lunch in the midst of these gentle giants
Their bark patterns, a designer’s patent.
Now it’s time to set course for home.
Our care free days are done and gone.
For this wonderful world in which we live
To the Creator of it all we must give
Honour where Honour is due,
Lord, we give the Honour all to you.
(Participants: Elsie Skelton, Dave and Jill Wilding, Vanda and Peter Marshall, Jill Lloyd, Claire Furniss, Jean Caulton, Laura Andrews, Helen Bosch, Gill Tate)
Stewart Island 14-22nd November 2020
Participants - Jenny Verschaffelt, Christine Elmiger. Robyn and Jill from Whakatane, Trudy from Rotorua, Lynda from Tauranga.
Our route - The Rakiura Great Walk with an add-on of two days taking in Freshwater Hut and Fred's Camp.
We flew from our different locations, some with other trampers and some without and met up at the South Sea Hotel in Oban for the night.
Day One saw us at the visitor centre prior to setting off to gather any relevant information including weather. Some alarm was caused when the DOC lady declared Christine would be sleeping in the shelter as her booking was not correct! (Later confirmed to be in order). The group opted for the luxury of a taxi to Lee Bay to miss out on the road walking. Only light drizzle to contend with and this soon stopped. This section of the walk is truly beautiful with unspoilt bush and the sea right alongside and an easy walk to Port William Hut complete with semi tame white tailed deer grazing in front of the hut. This section of the track is very manicured with hardly a scrap of mud to be seen. Bunks were sorted and the hardy few took a quick dunk in the freezing water to freshen up.
Day Two over to North Arm is a longer day and the track is no longer so fancy and more like what you expect from Rakiura. More climbing now and away from the sea until you come back down to the North Arm. Two huge old log haulers provided a good rest stop and a great point of interest. This old machinery and the evidence of the tramways certainly make one think about how hard it must have been getting logs out at that time. Today and every day after, we stopped for a 'boil up' on the side of the track. This is such an enjoyable thing to do and something we should do more often - just sit a bit longer and look and listen.
Day Three we were off to Freshwater Hut. This involved Thompson's Ridge - a long, hard climb and descent and a nine hour day. The DOC time was seven hours but all those we spoke to needed nine hours so we didn't feel too bad. All very tired on arrival at the hut to find a group of Stewart Island school children out overnight. Eventually everyone found a bunk after the boys in the group set up their bivvy for the night. We spent two nights at Freshwater Hut which is quite a long way up the Freshwater River and a popular exit point by water taxi for people walking across from Mason Bay. The next morning the fire was lit,
washing dried and the cards set up on the table for a leisurely morning followed by three hours of exertion in the afternoon. Up Rocky Mountain we went for 550 m pretty much relentlessly to be greeted with mist and drizzle at the top but still with some views and the mountain conquered.
Day Five - into the unknown over the wetland to Fred's Camp negotiating the swamps and dodging the bogs. One lady got it wrong and sunk up to her thigh and had to be dragged out! Care needs to be taken here as trampers cannot just spot a pole and head towards it. We walked on higher ground occasionally seeing much more variety in the podocarp forest and hearing more birds, then up and over and down to Fred's Camp where we had the hut to ourselves. Everyone into the sea and appreciating the sunshine on emerging! Around seven hours this day. Cosy fire and more card challenges.
Day Six. The water taxi turned up half an hour early due to an incoming storm so a quick scramble and onto the boat and over to North Arm hut where we waded ashore. Lots of trampers here leaving for the walk back to Oban so boots back on and away we went. The bush is not so spectacular here as it has been milled in the past and there are interesting relics to see. A bit drizzly but we still managed our boil up for soup or tea, then on to Oban to our lovely bnb and lots of hot water, soap, shampoo and washing powder consumed!
This was a great trip with lots of fun and laughter and so lucky with weather following a simply atrocious weather forecast and a massive gale the day after we finished. Only one kiwi spotted but many high pitched calls heard at night.
Whanganui Kayaking Weekend: 20-22 November 2020
Thanks to the expanding non-tramping repertoire of the TTC with forays into e-biking most recently, four of us were able to test our amateur kayaking skills under the able tutelage of Bernie Hammersley backed up by Russell Watts in their single-man kayaks. We partnered up sharing two-man Canadian canoes, the ‘steerer’ seated aft and the ‘motor’ seated fore.
The maiden run started at Pipiriki late morning after our drive down from Taupo in the club van. Smeared with UV-factor and trussed up in lifejackets, we looked reasonably proficient until we dipped paddles into the water. For obvious reasons, a linear route is preferred to facilitate paddling efficiency, speed and energy-saving. We differed from this with some spectacular zigzagging as we meandered down the broad reaches of the accommodating Whanganui River on day 1. We paused for lunch in the quiet contemplative atmosphere of the grounds at Jerusalem, otherwise known as Hiruhᾱrama. The place has special significance, historically being home to Mother Mary Joseph Aubert whose Catholic mission exists here. The old convent still stands and offers modest accommodation in its gloriously preserved dormitories to the increasing passage of cyclists and kayakers. Jerusalem was also home to that eccentric giant of NZ poetry, James K. Baxter, who started a commune here in the 1970’s.
Our overnight base for both nights was at Matahiwi in quaint cabins. A communal kitchen catered to our cooking needs as we whipped up individual culinary storms in little pots and frying pans.
Day 2 on the river was a similar 22 km meander, our paddling quality still questionable although going with the flow is a reliable backup when a new skillset is developing! The scenery was stunning: steep riparian cliffs bursting with feral goats, an avian choir and even the occasional fallow deer with a little stiletto-heeled fawn in her wake. Jean’s ornithological knowledge came in handy and she was able to spot a Nankeen night heron that morning.
We stopped for a pre-booked lunch at the most extraordinarily quirky place, the Flying Fox. Access to this gorgeous retreat embedded into lush bush with its delightfully eccentric cabins, is only via the river or the flying fox which carries four adults at some height over the river in a small open cabin. The female ‘rowing fours’ went for a post prandial ‘flight’ over the river in this. The gardens surrounding the cabins are bulging with fat blooms tangling with jungly bush and fruit trees that are testament to the temperate climate of the Whanganui River Valley. Our lunch hosts described frost-free winters and an abundant annual avocado harvest which has them taking 1500 fruit to town weekly over the three-month season.
On day 3, we became landlubbers and laid our weary paddles to rest. We visited an historic flour mill at Kawana, followed by a steep walk at Atene (Athens) up to a ridge with spectacular views over the river and its previous water course which was altered by an earthquake in 1843.
It was a fascinating three days and we returned home feeling deliciously stimulated and stretched in every sense! These short breaks in our lovely countryside are as good as having a deep inhalation of some powerful tonic.
Grateful thanks to Bernie for coordinating yet another trip down this magical river, our third-longest and a taonga to be treasured.
Participants: Bernie Hammersley, Russell Watts, Jean Caulton, Claire Furniss, Carol Johnston, Gill Tate
GRAND TRAVERSE March 2020
Three months and a post-Covid lockdown later, many of us have forgotten the detail of what we were doing in the days leading up to our temporary bubble lives. For once, mercifully, I don’t have to rely on either photographic triggers or my crumbling memory to remember exactly where I was.
Five of us from Taupo, Gill Tate, myself plus good husband and two neighbours, succumbed to the lure of hiking the Grand Traverse in non-DOC style. This involved using a company that provided the ‘package’ deal padded out with those end-of-the day essentials like hot showers, three course meals followed by a draughtless, vermin-free solid sleep beneath a duvet. I should feel embarrassed by sharing this with some of the hardy beasts I’d like to call my tramping mates, but such was the pleasure of the experience that it begs sharing.
The entire tramping experience was quite glorious and splendidly scenic as it can only be when afoot in the postcard landscape of Aotearoa. At the risk of boring the reader silly with what he/she already knows, the scenic splendours of Fiordland are beyond description. From chlorophyll-dripping pristine bush, to rivers and waterfalls plunging downhill to ancient valleys with the ever-present avian orchestra trilling from sluggish sunrise to sudden sunset, The Great NZ Outdoors delivered in excess. The lodgings with their gradual incline from comfortable rustic to super comfortable luxe in remote bush have ruined me forever. For some of us, DOC huts are now much lower on the list of preferred accommodation when ‘going bush.’
To the facts then before adjectival overload distracts. The GT (Grand Traverse) covers 65 km and follows the Greenstone Valley through to the Routeburn track. On the first day, we were driven up the extended dogleg from Queenstown alongside Lake Wakatipu, through Glenorchy to the mouth of the Greenstone River. Here we disembarked, hoisted our light packs on and plunged into an immediate immersion of red beech forest to follow the Greenstone River. Our destination was Steele Creek Lodge, a manageable 18km away. Our small group of ten comprised a regular Australasian mix of six homegrown Kiwis, and four delightful imported ‘bushwalkers’ from Tasmania and Sydney. We were accompanied by three guides, young and shockingly fit enough to be our children who all ably epitomised the multitasking concept (even the boys) doubling as chefs and lodge hosts each night.
On day two after a Continental and/or cooked breakfast and having assembled our lunches from an array of good nutritious goodies, we set off for Lake McKellar Lodge, our accommodation for the next two nights. Much of the walk was on broad tussock-tufted river flats with sweeping views of the Ailsa and Livingstone ranges.
Day three offered the choice of a rest day or not. The ‘not’ took precedence naturally as typifies this tramping reflex we all share. The morning workout was a scenically distracting uphill plod, ghostly mist drifting through ancient arthritic trees until we emerged beyond the bushline. The lookout rewarded us with stunning cameos of Lake McKellar and the Greenstone Valley slipping in and out of the misty mizzle.
That afternoon, with a bellyful of lunch onboard, some of us fired up our legs and lungs and hiked in heavy rain dripping through the magical bush skirting Lake McKellar to the Caples/Greenstone junction.
Day three delivered a greatly anticipated highlight. After the February floods, the track between McKellar and Mackenzie Lodge had been closed due to slips. Our anticipated tramp across this section had, most excitingly, morphed into a helicopter hike. The ride was exhilarating, aerial perspectives revealing that dimension that one misses on the ground. From the air, Mackenzie Lodge was impressive and even more so once we’d landed. This is the type of comfort that threatens to ruin any tramper’s resolve to ever do it tough again! A vocal extended family of Keas greeted us enthusiastically, flashing orange underwings as they hopped heavily to ‘inspect’ our bags and poles. One solid feathered fella decided to devote himself to a closer inspection of helicopter’s rotor blades so our pilot ate his lunch on top of his flying machine guarding his precious blades until he could escape Inspector Kea.
Originally our group would have expanded by another twenty trampers joining us at Lake Mackenzie Lodge. However the Covid effect was in full evidence even out in this remote bush, the majority having cancelled with only two joining us as we started our Routeburn experience here. Dare I say that we weren’t unhappy to maintain our cosy small group dynamics.
Having squandered the morning being airlifted between two lodges, we took to the trail with gusto after an early lunch, the Earland Falls our afternoon destination. The track to these eye-watering falls was a mere three-hour return hop, skip and squelch over muddy track diversions and a glorious way to stretch one’s legs on a Sunday afternoon. The falls plunge a loud 17 meters down from their origin in Lake Roberts. There were plenty of photo opportunities with much lens wiping as water seemingly gushing from the falls and sky simultaneously. A night of sumptuous comfort, cuisine and card-playing camaraderie with our cosy group signed off a perfectly rounded day.
Day five dawned with a heavy sky hanging overhead and a dripping soundtrack. Perhaps this was the unscripted setting for a grand bit of unplanned drama ahead. Leaving the soft, dry comforts of our lovely lodge, we plodded wetly uphill through splendid vegetation, a botanist’s garden of alpine Eden. At Ocean’s Peak corner, increasing icy rain obliterated the promised views towards the Tasman Sea at Martin’s Bay. A lunch reprieve at our highpoint on Harris Saddle in a warm hut owned by the guiding company, put temporary hairs on our collective chilly chests. Fortified, we set off on the remaining downhill hike to our last night’s accommodation at Routeburn Falls Lodge. Fantastically, it started to snow as we headed down, but we were still rewarded with epic views across Lake Harris and the rolling upper basins of the Routeburn Valley, with occasional glimpses of whitening peaks through the gloom. 9.
We'd barely walked into this gorgeous lodge (I was thawing in the shower and mentally easing into a fifth and final night of comfort), when an 'emergency' meeting was called by our young guides. They announced that we had an hour to repack our sodden backpacks before being flown out. This decision was made in the light of having 48 hours to get home before our government implemented the level four lockdown.
The heli evacuation from the Routeburn Falls Lodge in poor weather would not be what ordinarily spins many wheels. I must grudgingly concede that as a maturing mammal hugely uncomfortable traveling at altitude, the evacuation (our second heli flight in two days) was a bonus. Perhaps it’s these less comfortable experiences that endear and embed some memories forever. We are all in agreement that Ultimate Guides distinguished themselves in managing this as well as they did.
Once safely returned to Queenstown, a literal ghost town forty-eight hours before level four lockdown, our journey back to Taupo was linear. This was not the experience for our Sydney and Tasmanian hiking mates. Their journeys home read like a devilish game of Snakes and Ladders.
The past few months have been surreal times for all of us but I can’t help feeling grateful for the launching pad of our GT experience into lockdown. I imagine these memories will drip-feed our magnificent group of ten fellow hikers, the ‘final class’ of summer 2020 on the GT.
Our other kiwi tramper, Murray, has been amazing since our trip and put together a great website. He’s very kindly allowed us to include this link if you wish to read further. (lots of photos too) https://grandtraverse2020.weebly.com/
TWIN COAST CYCLE TRAIL
Opua, Bay of Islands to Horeke, Hokianga Harbour 87kms
Given that a number of our members have added E cycling to their outdoor pursuits, I thought I would share my enjoyable experience on the Twin Coast Cycle trail in the Far North and maybe pique some interest amongst them. A group was drawn from the ranks of the Old Farts, a band of local mature gentlemen who ride together on a weekly basis. There were eleven riders which included a number of our wives while two others provided a support and rescue service.
Our shuttle operators, Twin Coasts Cycle Transporters provided an excellent service. At their suggestion, we started each day at Kaikohe which is both the mid and highest point of the trail. This means there is negligible uphill riding.
Kaikohe ,34 kms to Kawakawa, passing through the town centre and then 11 kms to Opua. This section utilizes a disused railway line passing through farmland for almost the whole journey. There is about 10 kms on purpose built trails through harvested pine forest and a short section on road but traffic volumes are very light.
It's very easy riding in this direction with no uphill work. It is graded level 1-2 which in terms of off road riding, is assessed as being the lowest level of difficulty.
Kaikohe 14 kms to Okaihau (grade 1-2) then 28 kms to Horeke (grade 2-3).
The old railway line continues through to Okaihau. All easy riding although there is a tunnel but it is manageable without a light. Coffee stop at Okaihau, choice of two cafés, one very rustic. As well, there are some curio shops which attracted much interest amongst our group. Leaving Okaihau, the trail meanders through horticulture and orchard blocks and then it's suddenly 3 kms of down hill riding to the valley floor. The track has a very good surface and there are several switch backs to ease the gradient. It can be ridden uphill but we appreciated the good advice of our shuttle driver.
From this point, the track is a little undulating and follows the valley through sheep and beef farm land. We passed through an alternative lifestyle community while other points of interest were some extensive lily ponds and as we approached the upper reaches of the harbour, the kilometre long board walk ride across the salt marsh.
On reaching Horeke, we were to be slightly disappointed to find the pub closed. The trail end is another 3 kms at the historic Mangungu mission station established 1828. The largest signing of the Treaty of Waitangi took place here.
Overall, the trail is easy riding with good surfaces and is ideal for those wanting a ride that is not demanding. A lady in our party had never ridden anything like this distance ever, but on her trusty E bike, coped admirably. The only downside is that the squeeze bars and cattle grids at the road crossings do have some design flaws and need to be treated with caution.