Te Araroa

December 2016

Bream Heads

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A chance reading of a Facebook post for Wilderness magazine prompted me to turn my attention back North. Peach Cove Hut was suggested as a great overnight hut for a weekend, and there are not many of those in the top half of North Island. We love staying in these DoC huts and find that we often emerge from them refreshed because the cares of day to day life have washed away. This one is also on a short section of TAT, which was a bonus.

Two friends suggested the car parks were not that safe at either end of this track, so we enlisted Sandra, who lives nearby, to act as chauffeur and drop us off / pick us up. The hut is one of those annoying ones you have to book on-line these days and is not covered by the annual hut pass. $15 a night is not bad though. I was booking in late October and only one Saturday night had two beds before Christmas. 9th of December it was.

The weather beforehand had just turned to summer but the 9th was back to spring with rain. We hesitated a bit before biting the bullet and heading north. Sandra dropped us off at 4.30 just as the rain eased. We took the shorter and better maintained Peach Cove track in. This is a stiff climb up lots of steps to the ridge, a short walk along the ridge before a steep and knee jarring descent to the hut. We arrived warm and damp, more from sweat than rain.

The hut was empty, but a mess. The last party had not tidied up. We had our dinner and wandered along the beach until dusk, before finishing off the paper and turning in for the luxury of a ten-hour sleep. I love those.20161210_183541.jpg

The wind was strong in the night and Gail nearly got hit by a nikau palm as it fell. As we left at 8.15 the sky was blue and the views down to the seas were gorgeous. It is nearly 700 steps to the ridge and it took 25 minutes.

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The track along the ridge climbs up and down and is a tramping track, with lots of tree roots and stones to clamber over and around. Every now and then the forest clears to provide stunning views over Ocean Beach or Smuggles Bay. We were caught up by a track runner who stopped to chat and invited us for tea of coffee when we got down. The wind was strengthening and we needed the trees for support as we neared the highest point.

We reached the summit after 90 minutes and then quickly descended hundreds of steps to the walks around Smugglers Bay. A short walk got us to the car park, and twenty minutes later Sandra appeared.

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February 2017

I have been sent up to Whangarei for work a few times now and always try and get there at the weekend because it is such a lovely spot. I was working on the Saturday morning and Gail and I took the opportunity to climb Mt Mania with Richard in the afternoon.

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This gorgeous little volcanic lump is nearly at the end of the Bream Heads and a track starts at the top of the hill before you start to descend down to Smugglers Bay etc. It was a very warm and muggy afternoon as we left the car and climbed steadly through the bush. It is only 1.5km to the top but there are well over a 1000 steps as you wend your way through the bush towards the summit rocks. There was some low cloud hovering around the tops as we ascended, exacerbating the primaeval feel of the place.

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Eventually you get on to the ridge and head left to the highest point. The actual highest point is not accessible, unless you want some real climbing, but a bit of a scramble and some steep steps land you on a broad rocky ledge about 10m below the top. In clear weather the views must be wonderful, 360 degrees from Oceans Beach, through Smuggles Beach to Whangarei and back. We just had swirling mist and glimpses of the ground in the sunshine below, before we headed back down.

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The car park is by the local club who welcome walkers. You will not a cheaper pint anywhere else, and there is a lovely deck to sit on and study the sea. Wonderful.

Easter 2015 : Pakiri to Puhoi

We have been tinkering with the Te Araroa trail for a while now and finally decided to try and walk a section over the four day break. From Pakiri to Puhoi is about 60km and can be broken nicely into four days walking. There are no campsites or huts en route so we decided to take the luxury option, booked a B&B near Warkworth and took two cars.

The days are written up from North to South but we did them in reverse.

Day 4. Pakiri to Matakana Valley Road

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This looked as if it might an easy last day but it was something of a killer as my legs were tired, there were some muscles damaged and it was rather warm and humid. The start (which only Gail did) was a gentle 3km along the road from the campsite to the village of Pakiri. We parked by the tennis courts and headed up the hill. The track wastes no time and takes the line of steepest ascent up the spur to hit the ridge after an hour or so. The track is little used, the grass was long but the views out to the coast and the Hauraki Gulf were magnificent.

20150406_113041The first few hundred meters along the ridge are gentle and rather misleading as you catch your breath and admire the views. Before long the track dives into DoC land and the path descends steeply down beside a fence, signs of hard work to come. This is steep terrain with an ill formed track, but plenty of orange markers to guide you on the way. We clambered over tree roots, hung off tree branches and stepped gingerly down clay slopes, grateful that we were there when the ground was very dry. We met another tramper at the bottom before heading up again. An hour from leaving the ridge we collapsed on the wooden helipad on the first summit and had a rest whilst eating lunch. There are magnificent views over Matakana and beyond here, and we were joined by two others who had climbed from the south side. Despite there words of caution we set off down the trial which, we were told, might be closed.

20150406_145326It was not and we quickly found the trial junction in the saddle before carrying on and climbing steeply up towards the satellite dishes. often over steep rock. This summit, Tamahunga, is 8m higher than the helipad and is hard won. The track descends east down the spur and gradually opens out as the bush thins. 1km before the road the track turns left and there is a final dreadful section down and up steep muddy banks before you emerge on the road. Our car was still there from the day before, 400m up and over the brow. I was very tired, Gail was sore from two falls and a knock on the head, but we were pleased to have completed our objective for the weekend.

it is quite surprising how tough the terrain can be so close to Auckland. This day was only 8km of tracks but took us nearly four hours. The guide book time of 2km per hour was a good suggestion.

Day 3 Matakana Valley Road to the Dome Tea Rooms

For some strange and completely irrational reason I was nervous about this day. The guidebook said to allow 7 hours (for 12.5km!), the clocks had gone back and I was tired. We did get off a bit earlier at least and finished well before dark, but it is a long hard day. Do not underestimate it, just because you are close to the largest city in the country!

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As usual Gail was keen to make sure she walked every step of the way and I wanted to minimise the road walking. So I dropped Gail off at the start of Govan Wilson Road and I parked at the start of the track. A few steps take you up onto an easy forestry track leading to the top of Conical Hill. The track leaves this just around the corner and is well marked. It is also shared with mountain bikes so keep your ears open as you walk through the regenerating bush. After an hour or so the track forks and the left hand branch is restricted to foot traffic as it follows a spur before landing you next to the stream. It is not an easy track to walk as you negotiate tree roots and a poorly cut track. It is no better by the stream but after two and half hours in total you should hop across the stream and come out into the sunshine on a forestry road. 300m up this another road takes you steeply up hill so you can dive back into the dense bush.

20150405_130923The next section follows the ridge line on a thin but well marked track. The terrain is steep and there are several ups and downs as you head towards the Dome. The ascent of the Dome itself is hard work as you negotiate trees, mud and steep rocks. The gradient gradually eases and a final few minutes walk along the top leads to a clearing and some grand views north and south. From here the track is clearer as day walkers will come up and back from the tea rooms. Even so there are some steep rocks to climb down and the ground is not easy. Down, along and down again before a final climb, still steep, takes you up to the lookout. The final 2km are along a good benched track so the pace can quicken.

Six hours after we started we sat down at the tea rooms and enjoyed some ginger beer.

Day 2  Dome Tea Rooms to Moirs Hill and down.

Although this is the longest of the four days it is quite straightforward. We planned to do it second because of the distance, not realising that the terrain is so much easier than days 3 and 4.

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The morning starts with a gentle stroll to the top of Kraack Hill via some forestry tracks, with some lovely views over Matakana as a reward for reaching the summit. Trending west along the ridge an easily missed track cuts down through bush, across a logging platform and out onto another track before heading down to civilisation and lunch under a tree.

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Some more road walking provides access to a lovely track up Moir Hill.

This is a gradual ascent up an easy20150404_112814 track through farm land. The pampas grass was in full bloom as we ascended. There is a nice house in a fabulous situation tucked under the summit. A track takes you down a spur and into the top of Puhoi Valley where are car was waiting for us. The pub in Puhoi served some welcome beer to finish a hot day.

Day 1 Aruhoa Road to Puhoi

This is a very gentle start (or finish) to this section, two short stretches of track.The first starts high up in the valley from Puhoi, just at the top of the pass. A short road leads past a collection of houses to the entrance into Duns Bush.

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The track wanders through some bush and then down the fence line on a spur through a working farm. At the bottom, Remiger road, leads back to the Puhoi Valley.  The views are rather nice as you look  south  towards the coast.

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The next section is a newly developed track. It crosses the river on a new swing bridge before ambling gently up to the ridge line on the northern side of the valley. The remainder is an easy stroll through bush with glimpses of the valley below.

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The descent to Puhoi domain has some      excellent new seats to sit on and enjoy the peace  and quiet before retiring for a well earned beer  in the pub.

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MAY 2015 Puhoi Paddle

Gail and I had been trying to do this little paddle for a while but weather and unhelpful tides had got in the way several times before everything came together when Paul and Sharon came north for a weekend. Heavy overnight cleared as we crossed the bridge and the sun was out when we arrived in Puhoi.

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A few simple instructions and we were in the kayaks and off, but not before Gail’s phone had an inadvertent bath in the river. Fortunately, it was still working when we returned and put it back together after a lengthy spell in the sun.

We headed upstream for a few hundred meters to get used to kayaks again before turning around and heading down river. The pace is slow and the river tranquil, although the proximity of SH1 in parts spoils the peace. The river is a very dirty brown after the rain and the short section upstream after the bridge was murky and overhung with branches. We weaved our way as far as we could and then headed back towards the sea.

Once back in the main river the channel gradually widens and the estuary takes over. Theis very shallow and sandbanks become exposed at an alarming rate. Several times we had to paddle quickly to find deep enough water. The final few km is pleasant enough, past the Auckland council’s bach and campsite before heading to the jetty.

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Wenderholm Regional Park is delightful. There is a track around the headland before Te Araroa heads off across the bridge towards Orewa. Naval scouts were launching rafts to cross the estuary and the sea was clear enough to tempt a swim. We recovered the kayaks from the water and returned to Puhoi for oysters and chips followed by a pint.

Lovely Sunday day out!

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September 2015  Wenderholm to Orewa

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When the sun finally came out in the spring of 2015 we hopped in the car and headed north to fill in the blanks just north of Auckland. We had climbed out of the canoes in Wenderholm several months ago. This time, we left the car by the boat ramp and headed up the perimeter track. The sky was blue and not a single cloud was  in sight, nor a breath of wind in the air. The track is a good walking track and climbs easily (and was dry despite the recent rain) to the highest point of the park. Along the way there are some lovely views over the Hauraki Gulf.

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At the top the track becomes a tramping track and there is a half hour section as you descend to the road that is muddy, poorly cut and involves a fair amount of tree swinging and mud jumping.

Turn left onto the road and cross the river before returning to the beach and heading off round the rocks. We had been delayed a bit by traffic on the way up and were later than we liked. The tide had turned and we were a little rushed as we walked along the beaches and rocky ledges to Hatfield Beach. We got there just before the tide wetted our sandals. It is a joyous scramble with nice strips of sand in between some lovely pools and ledges.

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The next hill is climbed via a selection of short tracks and alley ways, eventually landing beside a lovely look out over Orewa. A gentle downhill stroll lands you in Orewa proper. We stopped there and took a taxi back to the car, but there is a short stretch of road walking left to get to the track to Dacre cottage.

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We finished the day with fish and chips in the car looking over the sea from Orewa beach. A lovely start to spring tramping.

 

April 30th 2016  Orewa Beach

The weather this autumn has been ridiculously mild and this Saturday was no exception. Once you cross the estuary and enter Orewa there is a great park on the left. Two walkways set off from here, the newer of which circles the estuary. The Millenium walkway follows the estuary for a while before using the parks in Orewa to head north and join the beach for a lovely walk. At low tide the beach is an easy walk on firm sand whilst at high tide the walkway wanders along footpaths and grass outside private houses. The fish and chip shop by the domain serves great snapper.

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Anzac Weekend 2015 : The Hibiscus Coast

This is a little bit of a cheat in that we have strung three separate little walks together to knock this lovely section of coastal tracks off.

Capture  We walked from Stillwater (and back) to Dacre Cottage one day, from Haigh Access Road (and bacj to Dacre Cottage    another day and the Long bay section on another

Even so this is a lovely stretch and you will be surprised with the peace and beauty of this coastline.

From Stillwater, where there is a good secure car park and some rather splendid, new toilets, the track follows the river, with mangrove swamps on your left and glimpses to the yachts moored in the estuary.

Once out by the sea there is an option of a hop and skip along the beach and terraces 9if the tide is right) or a track which climbs onto the cliffs with splendid views of Long bay before descending down to the cottage. Whichever way you go it is no more than an hour and you can relax on the grass with a drink and a snack or play on the biog swing hung from an old pine. It is a beautiful spot, often deserted except for walkers.

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From the cottage you wander along the beach watching the oyster catchers play in the sand, before moving into the bush and an undulating track that hugs the estuary before spitting you out over a bridge and into Haigh Access Road. This section is about two hours and the whole thing, if you can arrange transport, is a lovely three to four hour Sunday walk. The track itself suggests you wade the Okura estuary at low tide to reach Long Bay park, but I am not so sure. It looks a long way rather muddy. The alternative is a gentle road walk for an hour before joining the path which leads splendidly along the cliff tops and down into the park.

This park epitomises all that is good about the Auckland regional parks. Long stretches of grass and beach, shaded by pohutukawa trees are filled with families enjoying the sun. Walking, swimming, surfing, paddle boarding, eating, drinking, playing… all that is wonderful about a kiwi weekend by the beach.

From the park, there is a lengthy stretch down suburban North Shore as you head to the Devonport and the ferry to Britomart.

October 23rd 2016 The North Shore Coastal Walkway

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Labour weekend had been planned as trip to Taupo and a three day tramp through the Poreora forest. However, I was finishing a cold and Gail was starting one so we stayed home. Sunday was a beautiful day and we left the car at Long Bay regional park before heading south towards Takapuna. This little trip had been on our agenda for a while and it turned out to be rather good. At low tide you can walk the whole thing along the beach and rocks, but we were there at high tide (as usual) and had to follow some roads as well.

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This piece of coast is a joy and there are even more bays and beaches than you think. The trail takes you to them all. In the spring sun the beaches were busy with swimmers, sunbathers, paddlers, paddle boarders and kayakers. It was a day for t shirts and shorts amd the Hauraki Gulf was full of fishermen, sailors and other boat people. We walked along beaches, up and dow roads and along some lovely tracks atop the cliffs.

 

 

The tide wandered out and we finished the last stretch along the beach to Takapuna. At this point a lava flow m akes its way onto the beach and someone has done a wonderful job of concreting the hols and making a delightful few kilometers of track. The track was interesting in itself, but the houses, the sea views and the house prices kept us amused.

Eventually we arrived in Takakpuna and bought an expensive ice cream before flagging down a taxi for a ride back to the car. We think this is Auckland done and there is not a step unwalked between Pakir and the Botanical Gardens. The walk from Takapuna to devonport has been done often enough when the sculpture trail is open.

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October 18th 2015 The viaduct to Onehunga and on to the airport

Onehunga lagoon is the end of the excellent coast to coast traverse of the Auckland CBD. We completed this, in reverse, back in 2012. From Onehunga the trail climbs steadily through parks to the top of One Tree Hill, befoe heading towards Epsom and the top of Mount Eden. From there you cross the Domain before heading down into Newmarket before reaching Britomart via Queen’s Street. If you want to do this as a day walk there are buses or trains to get you from Britomart to Onehunga, or vice versa. It is a fascinating trail linking the green spaces of Auckland together with excellent stops for food and drink.

Back in Onehunga the trail heads West through the newly constructed waterfront of Manakau Harbour, across the bridge and into Mangere. The trail hugs the waterfront along roads, suburban paths before reaching the edges of Amsbury Regional Park. It is nice to be back on grassy paths with sheep for company as you amble through the working farm.

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The way to the airport is far more enjoyable than you might think and the first km or so are shared with bikes. From the regional park shelter the trail heads straight towards the water, passing the plough horses in the park and the campsite. The Watercare Coastal Walkway is sandwiched between the harbour and the  sewage works that service Auckland. A lot of conservation works has been done in recent years and this is a great gravel track with plenty of birdlife on your right, and superb views of the Waitakeres.

Eventually, you reach the Otuataua Stonefields, an ancient site that has been used by Maori and Europeans for many years. Centuries ago the vents from the volcanoes were active and lengthened the growing seasons for crops and also kept Maori warm in winter. 20151018_135505The stones from the lava were used for housing and the whole area is criss-crossed with dry stone walls. It looks very English, especially when, as it was when we crossed the field, the weather is windy and wet. The stonefields lead out onto the road and a further 4km of road walking leads you past new developments for housing and light industry before depositing you at the airport shopping centre. There is a further 6km of busy roads to the start of the next section.

October 11th 2016  Puhiri Stream, Auckland Airport to the Botanical Garden

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The crossing of Auckland by Te Aroha probably sounds a bit of a mission, but it is, in fact, a nice linking of tracks and parks and it is worth planning a few days of weekend to cross the city. We are just about finished but do need to find our way out southwards. This little sections starts close to the airport and follows the Puriri stream for the most part towards the Botanical Gardens. It is not long at 11km but it is far more entertaining than you might expect, and it is also flat.

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Walking from the airport towards Manakau you turn right down Prices Road to the Puriri Reserve. Here you can pick up a track that follows the stream, bordered one side by water and the reserve and on the other by light industry. It is a curious mix. The stream is clean and boggy, so there is plenty of bush and bird life to interest the eye.

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At the end of the reserve it is necessary to walk along the road for a bit, past the Wiri Station where Thomas the Tank Engine’s Kiwi cousins rest on a Sunday, all spick and span now they have been electrified. Shortly the stream track opens up again and you follow it through state housing along a broad swathe of reserve. The roads threaten you again, but you finally duck down off them and follow one final track under the motorway and into the gardens.

CaptureThe track is signposted all the way and very easy to follow. The signing conintues through the gardens, but we turned right and headed up to the cafe and the car. We just need to link Ambury park to the start of this section and we are out of south Auckland and heading for the hunuas.

Labour Weekend October 2015: starting out along the Waikato

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The trail leave Auckland as it exits from the Hunuas and turns south towards SH2. It crosses the highway by the bridge over the Mangatawiri stream. Jan had come up from Auckland to meet us and we were staying in the Mercer Hotel for two nights. This is an odd place, probably newly opened and struggling to get going as a backpackers. It was cheap, comfortable and we had the place to ourselves, but nothing was quite working. Fortunately the television was and we could watch the All Blacks v Springboks World Cup semi final.

We left one car in Mercer and the second by the bridge on SH2. The latter might not have been the best place as it was obviously checked out by a police car whilst we were away.The track follows the stop bank along the river, a flat and easy walk, if rather wet in the lush grass. The morning rain had been torrential and only cleared after lunch, cutting short our walk for the day.  The track approaches some Fish and Game wetlands and turns sharp left before finding McIntyre Road. A stroll down this and a little tunnel under SH1 finds an awkward track sandwiched between the highway and farmland. It is a rough old scramble through vegetation before you fall out into the service station.

Gail and Jan wanted a short cut and hopped over the train line and then had to ask someone to unlock a gate before we could get to the car.

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Day two saw us set off from the end of Saturday’s walk and head up Skeet Road to a short walkway that took us across lumpy ground to an old redoubt. It is only a few km but the going is tough, with uncleared trial and lots of short ups and downs. The gorse is a nuisance too, and the nmerous stiles become rather tedious. From the redoubt, a relic of the Maori wars and now maintained by DoC, a gravel leads down to a pump house where a huge archimedes screw is used to move water up a level for irrigation.

The track was confusing here and we soon discovered that our first choice was taking us back to the redoubt. We returned and crossed the drainage ditch before following a curious track which took us under railway lines and highways and then alongside the highway. It gave up trying to stay away and there was a few km alongside the highway on the grass verge until we reached Meremere power station.

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The highway bends away from the Waikato here, so the trail leaves the highway and follows the true right bank of the river. This is farmland and the track is sandwiched between paddocks full of young bulls and the river. The fence is electrified as all of us found out every now and then.

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The track is not well maintained and is an awkward walk through thick grass and weeds with a lot of rotting debris underfoot. Trees and gorse block the route and the orange markers need to be watched carefully to find the easiest route. Eventually you are brought to the old dragway track and the start of a few much easier km along the stop bank of the Waikato.

Even this is not that easy, the grass is rutted by hooves of cattle and the ground very uneven. There are numerous stiles and the hard work took it’s toll and both of my legs cramped up as I crossed one stile too many. It was time for a rest and lunch.

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The final few km are along the riverbank and the landscape is much hillier. There are a lot of short ascents and descents around cliffs before the views open out and the Te Kauwhata pump house becomes visible. A final few 100 m across swampy ground and we were there. It had looked a gentle walk but the 18km had taken us six hours and taken its toll on my legs with cramp. We had also suffered five electric shocks from the fences and one of my teeth had broken as I ate chocolate.

For the third day we had planned to finish this section by walking from the pump house to Rangiri but the access roads were shut for a car rally. We abandoned ship and headed home, Jan to Taupo and Gail and I to Auckland.

August 2017 Hakamaritata Track

We had been thinking of doing this track for a while but I had forgotten about it. Some posts on the TA Facebook page about Remember Then, a little farm at the start of the track which provides accommodation and transport prompted us to have a go as winter seemed to be on the wane. It has been a wet winter and we expected a lot of mud.

Remeber Then must be a delightful stop for through walkers. A little farm with a very welcoming host that offers camping as well as backpacker style accommodation. Judy makes lots of little gifts as well as drying her own tea and fruit. It is a nice place to stay and we had a pleasant Saturday evening there.

We left around 8.30 a.m. on Sunday and wandered along the roads for half an hour or so to the start of the track. The first section is well maintained with steps and a good gravel track allowing fast progress up to a lookout that has good views to the north.

20170813_090315Another fifteen minutes or so brings you to another lookout, this time towards Hamilton and the south. This range is stuck in the middle of nowhere really, with the Waikato farmlands all around. The Doc time of 6-7 hours for 9km or so was looking a bit suspect as we did this section of the track, but as soon as we hit the tramping track along the ridge we knew they were correct. This is a narrow track, little maintained and was rather overgrown when we did it. It was very muddy and there are lots of tree roots that snag your feet. In places, there are steep ascents and descents which became more of a tree scramble in the mud, After two hours and just over two km we came to a fire break and sat down in the sun.

The rest of the ridge is in better condition and we made better progress. The ridge is broader, and the track was drier in places, so much so that the remaining three kilometers only took us two hours. All of a sudden you pop out at the summit with a big tower to climb for views all the way to Ruapehu. There is a very good track from Ngarauwhaia to this point and we were surrounded by lots of people from then on. It seemed rather odd after four or five hours on our own on a challenging bush track.

20170813_135439The way down is steep with around 1350 steps. Some runners were getting fit by running up and down and there was a lot of waiting at platforms to let them through. Eventually, the steps cease and there is a lovely half a kilometer or so by the stream to the car park. Judy was waiting for us and we took us back to the car and set off home.

20170813_143627It had been a warm day, close to 18 degrees with a fair bit of sun. That evening a cold front arrived with some amazing thunderstorms in Auckland and cold torrential rain the next morning. Winter had not finished with us quite.

Waitangi Weekend 2016. Walking through Hamilton

After a few weeks of dry weather the second long weekend of 2016 produced rain and very humid conditions. We gave a wet Saturday a miss and drove down to Hamilton to knock off 35km or so along the Waikato. Our booking at the backpackers had disappeared so it took a while to find another motel and get a taxi out to Ngaruawahia.  It was past 3 pm when we started, the temperature approaching 30 and the humidity must have been close to 100%.

CaptureA heavy metal rock band was playing as we left the domain and wandered down the Te Awa river ride. This was newly paved and well signed, but the surface was hard work in sandals. On relfection a more giving type of footwear would have been better and might have avoided the flashes of cramp in my calves later on.

IMG_20160208_162858The track follows the river and it is a beautiful saunter. The river was busy with jet skis, boats, swimmers and tubes. Eels were splashing close to the banks as well. The track has been opened up more than the information indicates and you can walk all the way to the end of the golf course before being forced onto the road for a km or so. We stopped for a drink and an icecream in Horohui before taking the road back to the river and under the splendid new motorway bridge, decorated with some lovely designs.

20160208_092609From here the river walk is well established, past the Fonterra plant and on into Hamilton. I had misjudged the diatnce and we had 18km or so to do rather than 12km. We were hot, thirsty and tired by the time we left the river and wandered up to the hotel. THe river walk gives a fascinating look at Waikato houses. There are some very impressive and expensive mansions along the river, and the more modest ones have often integrated the garden seamlessly into the river bank and path.

We were off to an earlier start on the second day. We retraced our steps to the river and followed it for another km before climbing the centennial steps up to the city centre. A little zigzagging through streets and malls takes you towards the rugby and cricket grounds and around Lake Rotoroa. From here there was 3 or 4km stretch along the Raglan road before we picked up some Te Araroa signs on the lampposts.

As you leave Dinsdale the path turns left and climbs up to Stills lookout. This is the city boundary and the farmland of the Waikato unfolds as you look towards Pirongia. This was covered in cloud when we arrived. It looks as if this the end of the urban sections for a while as the track heads off towards Tongariro, and the first DoC hut is on the horizon, perched close to Pirongia summit.

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There is a nice sign as you leave the lookout, informing you that we were 1/4 of the way down the track, with Cape Reinga 800km behind us and Bluff 2,200 km to the south. A 20km walk took us to Taitua arboretum where we aited for a taxi back to the motel.

Reading the guidebook later that evening I wondered if the road walking was what we wanted. The next sections have some wonderful tracks but there are also lengthy sections of road.

Anzac Weekend 2016 : Te Kuiti and the Managaokewa Stream Track

Gail and I met up with Jan on Saturday morning at the Casara Mesa backpackers, high up on a hill overlooking Te Kuiti. This was a great place to stay, cheap, clean and welcoming, not to mention peaceful.

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It took a bit of arranging to get a car at both ends of the track but we finally managed ti after a return trip to the backpackers to collect Gail’s misplaced bag and her epipen. We set off at 12 noon little realising that the time of 6 hours for 15 km was spot on. The track starts at the end of a gravel road which we opted not to walk and makes its way through farmland beside an infant stream. The stream widens and fills, the valley becomes narrower and deeper. You walk down the true left of the stream following orange triangles along a very faint and poorly maintained track.

If the river beds to the left there are flats to walk along and the going is easy. If it bends to the right it has worn into some steep bluffs and some scrambling is needed over these. The footing is unsure and several times we slid towards the river to be trapped in brambles. By the end of the day, we were all battered and scratched and Gail had had a nasty meeting with some barbed wire.

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The scenery is beautiful and the river eventually wends its way through some untouched forest and into a gorge ringed with limestone cliffs. But the track is so poor, the tramping so hard, that enjoyment is significantly lessened. We crawled out of the bush just as darkness fell. The last hour or so had been along, thank goodness, a decent track, but in the bush it was very dark.

The track ended at a reserve with several freedom campers sitting around the fire. We were offered a lift for the final 2 or 3 km to the car and accepted it gratefully. The next day was wet and bailed out to see some friends in Taupo. Monday was lovely and the Huka Falls walk was as good as ever?

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_________________________________________________________________Christmas 2014 : Queen Charlotte Track

Sometimes you just need to spoil yourselves. Gail and I had been thinking of this tramp at the top of S Island for years and finally got to do it over Christmas 2013. We braced ourselves and dug into pockets as we booked accommodation and transport to and from the track. It is worth it. The track is a lovely walk through stunning coastal scenery, the accommodation and food are great and it was a wonderful way to escape for Christmas.

The track is 70km long and most people take 4 days to complete it.  It is not hard and you only need modest fitness to survive. Take a break and get a lift for day three if you want.

Day 1 saw us on the boat from Picton out to Ship Cove. This is a wonder in itself as the sounds open up and the crystal clear waters pass beneath the boat. After an hour or so you are dropped at the start of the track and the boat continues with your packs to the first night’s hotel. It is rather nice just carrying a day pack. You could get used to it. The walk is not that long from here, just 10km or so. Up a fairly steep hill, over the saddle and along the coastal track to Furneaux Lodge. A proper bed, showers, and a nice meal await you.

Day two is not much longer so you can enjoy a leisurely breakfast and explore the grounds before walking on to Punga Cove. This is only 12km or so and takes about 3 hours. We arrived after lunch and swam in the sea before relaxing with beer, wine and a steak for dinner. This was Christmas Eve and we seemed a world away from all the consumerism of that day. The only hassle was the lack of pack transport on the 25th. We had to carry enough for a night at Punga Lodge so our packs could go straight to the next hotel,. There was no transport on Christmas Day.

Day three is much the longest, as you climb onto the spine of the land and follow it for over 20km before you finally eventually drop down to Peppers Portage hotel. The views are wonderful, we has stunning weather, and wandered rather slowly along the track drinking in the views. At some point the track becomes open to mountain bikers and the whole thing gets busier as people on day walks or bike rides join the track from Picton.

Boats potter far below you as people fish, ski and get dragged through the water on skis, boards and doughnuts.

Peppers Portage is rather upmarket, but the bar does decent meals if you want to avoid a huge bill. They also provide a lift up the steep hill back onto the track the next morning as you set off to walk the last 19km to Anakina. We nearly missed the lift before we set off into a rather damp morning.

It was just after lunch when we reached the end of the track and sat down to wait for the ferry.This is a wonderful four day walk through stunning scenery. You wont find better if you want something that combines exercise and a little luxury. If you want to save money carry a tent and camp along the way

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