The Waitawheta River, Kamai Ranges.
The Kaimai ranges is a lovely forest cloaking the old volcanic rock that separates the Hauraki Plains from the Bay of Plenty in North Island. The area is managed by DoC (Tauranga) who provide booking information for the huts, maps and advice.
The forest has a long history of gold mining and logging. The tramping is relatively gentle but it is easy enough to get lost if you stray from the tracks. Didymo is beginning to appear in some streams and rivers and Kauri dieback is a worry too. Please follow DoC advice to minimise these threats to the environment.
The Waitawheta river runs into the Karangahake Gorge between Waihi and Paeroa. Gail and I first travelled here ten years ago, accompanied by my son. The hut was new and the river unbridged.
|The final river crossing in low water.|
Now the hut has to be booked online, five of the six major river crossings are bridged and the hut is a popular destination for young families. It is a lovely gentle walk up the old tramway which was used to transport kauri logs out of the forest and DoC has provided some very informative information posts along the way. It is just under 10km to the hut, somewhere between two and a half hours and three. There is a wonderful pool at the hut for a swim in the summer. Unfortunately the hut was full of some noisy lads intent on a hard nights drinking, so we escaped some way back down the track and up to Daly’s clearing hut. Here we had a peaceful night with another couple for company. This second hut is a couple of hours walk from the Waitawheta hut if you need. There is no heating in winter, so be warned.
|Daly’s clearing hut|
The next day we walked out and camped at Waihi beach. Our final exploration of the river involved a walk from the Karangahake gorge up the river to the DoC campsite and back. A gentle 10km or so punctuated by dips in the river and snoozes in the sun.