North Shore Tramping Club
Another bumper crop of trampers ready to go and a full Big Yellow loaded up heading to Piha. Piha is one of those places that never fails to impress as you drop down out of the hills and see the first striking views across Piha Beach and Lion Rock!
Big Yellow makes it's way along to the northern carpark and we alight, and break into a number of groups ready to hit the sand. One group heading north over the extremely recently resurfaced Laird Thomson Track at Te Whara Point and the other groups head south along the beach. My group taking a quick stop at Lion Rock for some of the group to climb to check out the views across the spumy, hazy, windswept Piha.
Then we're on our way back along the sandy path around the lagoon, as the tides have changed stretching the lagoon to the base of Lion Rock making it impossible to walk south along the beach without getting non-sea water friendly leather boots wet on our mission to Tasman Lookout Track.
Muscles already getting a workout on the sand, then up the short, but sharp steps to the lookout and vista over Taitomo Island. The tides were too high to go for a scramble up the island, but I don't think anyone minded, as the waves were crashing around the base of the cliff and island, creating plenty to frame!
A brief shower rolls over as we find respite under a gracious Pohutukawa to demolish our lunches before making tracks up the Piha Valley, that we've missed so much due to the Kauri Dieback track closures. Kitekite Falls area, our destination, has had major track upgrades to "Kauri Dieback" dry foot standard so it's now mostly boardwalks and graveled. It's still pleasurable to have the acoustics of the stream trickling away next to us for of our walk up to the falls sharing information about native flora and fauna and Kauri Dieback as we travel.
Reaching the falls, there's an abundance of people enjoying the splendor of the waterfall and a few game guys who'd just been for a swim in the chilly pool at the base of the waterfall! None of our group was brave or maybe a little sidetracked by the curious Eels in the pool.
Time was pressing on, but you can't go to Kitekite Falls, without going up the falls, can you...... ?! So we ventured up more well structured steps to the top of the falls, with 3 tiers, towering about 40 metres above the pool. The view from the top of the falls of healthy Kauri rising from the opposite hillside in heartening, but not enough to entice all our group to enjoy. Standing near the top, there are few pools, and then there's another another tier below, so it's not as scary as some might imagine.
Back down the track on the other side of the stream, we pop out at the boot station again, ready for the second scrub and spray. A few light showers starting to fall as we tread back along to the bus and the other groups, and there might have been a brief stop at the Piha Store for creamy delights.
Eighteen of us drove down to Murupara, where we spent the night at a motor camp, then travelled for another hour or so to Mataatua where our tramp began. This is in Tuhoe territory and, before beginning our walk, we were privileged to visit the iwi’s whare, built in 1888. The interior was filled with fine carvings and photos of tribal ancestors. We split into two groups, a “fast group” of eight and a slower group of ten.
First there was a walk of about three kilometers along a gravel road, then we followed a track high above the river. There is a horse track which sometimes coincides with the walking track, and sometimes diverges. As the horse track was often more obvious than the walking track it was always necessary to pay attention. One of our veterans felt unwell and turned back, accompanied by a friend – and then there were sixteen. We reached the Tawhiwhi Hut which was empty but pushed on to the eight bunk Ngahiramai Hut, which was occupied by a party of hunters. Only a couple of the group were able to share the hut, the rest of us put up our tents. It was a cold night. We now understand why hunters refer to this season as the roar – stags were roaring and bellowing around us all through the night.
The following day the track dropped down closer to the level of the river. Much of it was overgrown and track marking was erratic – often no markers at all could be found. At one place we were puzzling whether to continue along the river bank or climb higher up the hillside when someone observed “Look up!” – there was a swing bridge thirty meters right above our heads. We had lunch at the Hanamahihi Hut – a pleasant position above the river and another swing bridge, but swarming with wasps. Once across the bridge, rather than follow the river along a broad loop we cut across inland, climbing two or three hundred meters. The track became extremely difficult; narrow, steep, with loose stones underfoot. Shadows lengthened, the sun sank behind the hills, and it became clear that we would not reach the Waikare Junction Hut before dark. The fast party forded the river and camped on a grassy verge, the slower party found a campsite a few hundred meters behind on the opposite bank. With less than a hundred meters to go, Rose had an accident, broke a fibula (one of the bones in the lower leg) and was evacuated to Rotorua by helicopter. Then there were fifteen. Apparently, one or two of her team mates wished they could accompany her.
With time to make up, we started early the next morning. Even when fresh and with good light, it took us two hours to reach the Waikare Junction Hut, sited on a spectacular position high above the river. We noted a large weed-whacker, indicating that a track maintenance crew was based there. Still plenty for you to do, boys. We descended to the river and, once again, completely lost the track. Some climbed to the top of a very steep, densely forested hillside, others tried lower down but all routes seemed to end up in a ravine. It was Campbell who finally located a route through the jungle. A hundred meters further on, there were stairs and a foot bridge, just as if we were on one of the Great Walks! Soon afterwards we entered more open country and made better progress. The land in this area must have been cleared for agriculture at some time in the past, but was now heavily overgrown with blackberry and ferns. We reached the Ohura Hut in mid-afternoon. It was empty and had nineteen bunks but some detected an odour of rats and preferred to sleep in tents.
At 6am next morning it was still dark and raining steadily when we were rudely awoken by a loud “Cock-a-doodle-doo!” We had a thirteen km walk ahead of us, to be followed by a five or six hour drive back to Auckland, and a very early start was necessary. We noticed that utes were passing along the river bed and decided to follow this route ourselves to save time. This required us to ford the river about a dozen times; the water was knee deep, fast flowing and not excessively cold at this time of the year. We heard a shout of greeting from the other side of the river and met up with the two who had left us on the first day. Over the last hour of the walk torrential rain fell, and it would probably not have been safe to ford the river later in the afternoon. We reached the road near Ruatoki and were soon aboard Big Yellow.
This tramp proved to be more challenging than I had anticipated. The track closely followed the river and route-finding appeared to be straight-forward but this was far from being true. At times the track climbed high above the river, or went several hundred meters inland, and was often badly overgrown and poorly marked (or not marked at all). Despite these difficulties it was awesome country and I enjoyed the experience very much. Thanks to Ralph, the organizer, and to Campbell and Bernhard, the drivers.
18 trampers set off at 7pm on the Thursday evening for an adventure in the Urewera’s. First stop was at the Murupara Motor Camp where we arrived close to midnight. 6 had decided to stay in cabins prior to the adventure into the Urewera’s while the others slept on the bus. It was a good decision to stay in a cabin as it was comfortable and quiet whilst outside it was quite cold. Come the morning we were able to use the kitchens available for our breakfast.
8.30am and we are off to start our tramp at Ruatahuna with one tramper having forgotten to pay for their cabin. We first stopped at a new village development at Ruatahuna before proceeding to the end of the Mataatua Road where we were to meet our driver who was to transfer the bus to Ruatoki (the end of the tramp on the Whakatane river). Tommy the driver arrived soon after we met resistance with a locked gate – this was the start of the tramp.
Having met Tommy he introduced us to the local Kaumatua, Tai, who invited us to the Maree a hundred or so metres away. Tai gave us explanation of the arrival of the Maori in the Urewera’s and invited us inside to view the many intricate carved panels and memorability. This was a very interesting and unexpected visit which was met with appreciation by the members of the party.
We were on the tramp by 10.50am having split into 2 groups, heading up a road through farmland before entering the bush. Several less able trampers hitched a ride on a Ute to the start of the bush – a couple of kilometres.
Not long after entering the bush it was realized that the PLB’s had been left behind. But never mind there were 2 personal PLB’s amongst us.
The first nights stop was at the Ngahiramai hut a distance of approximately 15 km from the start. 4 hunters occupied the hut which left only another 4 bunks so most of the team camped for the night. Entertainment for the night was provided by the hunters while we stood around the campfire. The cold temperature had us all early to bed with barely anyone feeling overly warm during the night. Throughout the night we experienced the ‘roar’ of a number of stags something most had not heard before – it was quite spectacular.
In the morning we were off at approximately 8am for a long day as we had another approximately 15 km to go. What we did not know was how difficult it was going to be. The first obstacle of note was a slip with a loose narrow path to cross. Then there was a 3 wire bridge, a first for a number of trampers – this really slowed our progress.
Several times progress was hindered as the track was not obvious and of course we took the wrong course. Then there was those bluffs to navigate and a steep hill to climb. We came across a party of Maori with 4 horses loaded with venison heading back up river.
By 4pm it was obvious that we would not reach our destination as we had not even reached the Hanamahihi hut which we were bypassing. A decision was made with the lead party that we would camp by the river at the first suitable spot we could find. The lead party went ahead and crossed the river a little further on. By the time the second party saw the lead party across the river one of the second parties members fell and broke their fibula (as we found out later). Being close to dark a debate was held on when we should activate the PLB. So the PLB was activated and as darkness fell the Rescue helicopter arrived – in less than 45 minutes. The helicopter landed on the river bed with all lights blazing. With the help of the paramedic our injured tramper was loaded into the helicopter and off they went to the Rotorua Hospital.
Well, what a lot of excitement for the evening. The lead party on the other side of the river, and further down, had no idea what had happened but in their confusion had turned on their headlamps as the helicopter arrived which cause the pilot to be confused on what side of the river to land.
What a great device a PLB is and what a great service that Search and Rescue provide at no cost.
So we camped out for the night which was fortunately a lot warmer and no stag roar.
An early start for the morning as it was now obvious that we had no idea what the track was going to throw at us. First thing was to catch up with the lead party and discuss the excitement of the previous evening. A couple of hundred yards on lo and behold there was a great clearing with buildings where we could have camped had not disaster struck and the lead party would not have needed to cross the river. As we had not reached the Waikere Junction hut the previous evening it was necessary to reach the Ohura hut for the 3rd evening prior to walking out the next day. We had about 18km to go.
We were correct. The track to the Ohura hut via the Hanamahihi and Waikere Junction huts had its challenges. There had been a major slip at a bluff several years previous which was now over grown and no signs to indicate which direction to take. Eventually a path was found by climbing up high amongst the trees and then descending onto the track further along. What with this obstacle, fallen trees etc we eventually reached the Ohura hut at approximately 5pm to the relief of some of the team.
The hut provided suitable accommodation although it could do with maintenance and replacement of missing mattresses. 4 trampers opted to camp for the night. A decision was made to leave by 7.30am the following morning to walk out as we had 13km to tramp to the Ruatoki Roads end. A few mumblings but we were only ready to go by 7.30am the next morning.
A little rain had fallen overnight. This would have been of concern if there had been heavy rain as we first had a side river to cross as the swing bridge was closed off due to damage to the suspension ropes and secondly another river downstream. All was going well through the bush although it was slow so we dropped down to the river and crossed it quite a number of times following the path that utility vehicles were using.
This made progress good until it decided to rain with lightning and thunder with one crossing to go. And did it rain with spectacular lightning flashes and crashes of thunder. And along came our saviour to rescue those who had not crossed the river. Robert who was storing our bus arrived in his Ute and picked up the second party, drove across the river and back to his home approximately 1km away. There we changed into more suitable clothing, climbed into the bus and headed for home arriving early evening.
Here is the Team-of-Four hard at work in the north part of the track.
Note Bernhard’s cheerful smile as he slams his spade deep into yet another tall clump of tough, resilient cutty grass; please note the huge log Pierre has just chopped a wide track through, and again, please note Gary’s thorough removal of still yet another thicket of pesky track-loving shrubs, bushes and prickly stuff. You can see the clearing I have prepared in the distance.
You will see from the second photograph that we didn’t waste time and energy putting fly’s over our tents. All time and energy was devoted to track clearing. We worked, worked, worked , from dawn to dusk and beyond.
p.s. All preposterous rumours of whiskey drinking, parties in Pierre’s tent, light displays similar to a disco, are just that – ludicrous rumours.
Another absolutely stunning, very calm day dawned for our club planting trip over to Motuihe Island & really big group of keen NSTC'ers & the general public ready to plant or work in the nursery.
A quick trip over to Motuihe via Rangitoto to drop other passengers there and onto our destination. Upon reaching Motuihe a quick bio-security briefing and off to load up many hundreds of trees and equipment onto the tractor and head down the island towards Bald Knob again. But not as far along the track. This time planting a mixture of natives from potentially large or tall trees such as Puriri, Kanuka on the higher side of the road and smaller Flax on the lower side, so as not to obscure the views. With most of the trees providing valuable food sources at different times of the year to the islands' native winged inhabitants.
We seemed to blitz through planting the trees with such large numbers of people overall, despite the steep terrain. All good fun & very satisfying to be part of something so worthy and to see progress of our previous years of planting!! This island is looking amazing!
Trees in situ, we meandered back to the Woolshed to partake in the yummy bbq'd sausages and tea and coffee the island kindly provides the planters and nursery crew.
As we were doing so well for time, some of the groups opted to go for a walk, with the reward of seeing a good sized Tuatara and a lot of us opting to enjoy the very warm waters and the stunning Autumn day to spend a decent amount of time swimming! What a way to end another totally awesome day on the island & smooth trip back to the mainland.
If you've not done tree planting, whether it be on one of the Hauraki Gulf's treasure islands or the mainland, it's so rewarding and incredible atmosphere of people so excited to be part of something that is so important.
We'd been watching the forecast very closely all week, hoping that it would still be safe to go into the cave. Sunday morning dawned, and a bit of wet on the rain radar, but nothing that would inhibit the safety of entering the cave, so off our keen bunch of adventurers set in Big Yellow.
With little traffic, we have an easy drive down to Mercer and then off the motorway to head to Waikaretu's, Nikau Caves. With the rain starting to gentlly fall, the soft haze and mist rolling across the steep, striking hillside country is very atmospheric and quite reminiscent of the club's damp trip to Awhitu last year, bar the high winds. One valley in particular as you're getting closer to the Nikau Caves is visually stunning! Big pancake limestone rock faces protruding from the steep hillsides and ravines just begging to be explored by keen trampers!
As we arrive, the rain is still gentle, and Philip our host and guide assures the group it's still safe to go into the caves. So the team sign their indemnity forms, although we're not sure some can read,... hehe.... and gear up with helmets and torches ready to go! Setting off along the path into the cave.
Once in the cave, it's quite an experience and nothing like other major caving experiences nearby as our Philip leads us into the cave. For the first 20 metres you crawl mostly on hands and knees through the very shallow stream that runs through the cave, before the cave opens out to plenty of height. This is where the magic begins, there are stalagmite's and stalagtite's and glow worms, so close that you can touch, but due to the acid our skins omit, you're not allowed as the acid damages these ancient formations that have been forming for hundreds or more years.
Our previous club trip into the caves we saw a few Cave Weta's, but not today.
When you pop out the other end of the cave, it's an other-worldly lush, tropical rain forest of ferns and native trees and meandering steps back up to the track out.
Back at the very relaxing, rustic Nikau Caves Cafe for lunch, those of us with the usual tramping lunch, salivate over the delicious meals that some of the group ordered whilst a golden Grasshopper watches us.
All fueled up, we head along the road to the Waterfall entrance and the bridge over the stream. The track to the waterfall is more of the lush, rain forest variety with ferns and native trees so we feel right in our element and what we yearn for so much with so many Auckland tracks closed. And a fun end to the tramping day before heading back to the bus to head home.
We were pleasantly surprised even though it's the last day of the school holidays, we had a breeze of trip back, with a stop at the less ubiquitous, world famous in NZ, Pokeno ice cream! Excellent!
Mini me.... sometimes when our bus doesn't look big! Certainly not next to this big B-train (truck & trailer) at Pokeno on the way back from the tramp this afternoon.
More new ground for the club yesterday! One good thing with Kauri Dieback is it's forcing us to explore different ground to get some decent tramps in.
As the traffic was light on the motorway, our group hit the track at 9.30am at the park opposite the Huntly Power Station. So we headed around the loop to find a rather striking statue standing in a square pond, with the Waikato River and the park as a backdrop.
No hanging around as this trip was a cross over trip, two drivers, each group doing the opposite direction.
This track is part of the Te Araroa Walkway and is the flood stop bank for the Waikato River and sits about 2-3 metres above the cattle paddocks and golf course we worked our way along. It mostly runs about 50 metres from the river.
Not long after lunch we're almost back at the one way bridge at Rangiriri and spot Big Yellow parked waiting for us on the other side of the river as the most scenic part of this track. Gorgeous views of the river and hills to the south and river glistening to the north.
Back on the bus and we head south to go pick up the other group, almost surreal, as the road runs quite close to the track, so we can see all the turn styles, the track and where we had lunch. It's not often we can say that! We pass the others, and find somewhere safe to stop to wait for them, before moving the bus down to Huntly and Lake Puketirini, an artificial lake with quite a history. It was an open cast mine and then in 2017 it was closed and sealed and it has very quickly become a lake with many purposes. Among others, waterskiers and swimmers happily doing their thing. But more interestingly, the two barges in the centre of the lake are actually rigs for people to practice deep sea diving in this 64 metre deep lake!
They've taken a lot of effort to plant beside the track that runs around the pretty lake that we enjoyed very much.
Time to head back to Auckland with the prerequisite stop at Pokeno to wrap our chompers around the famed best Ice Cream around! Lots of smiley faces with scrumptious, generously sized ice creams!
Article about Lake Puketrini:
On Sunday 14 April thirty-one people turned up for the Sunday tramp and the bus was full. Perhaps this was because of the pleasant autumn weather, and also because – after many months – we were returning to the Waitakeres.
Most of us disembarked at the northern end of Bethells Beach. We divided into two groups, a moderate party and a slower party, whilst a few people remained in the bus and continued on to Goldie Bush. As warned, right at the beginning of the Te Henga walkway we had to wade across a stream, as the footbridge had been washed away. We then followed the trail northwards, high above O’Neill Bay and a very rocky coastline. We did not have the track to ourselves and encountered a group of what seemed like a hundred, mostly young people, proceeding in the opposite direction. Around midday we stopped for lunch just south of Muriwai, then turned inland for Constable Road. There was a shower of rain which stopped as soon as we had put on our raincoats.
We entered the Goldie Bush Reserve and turned left for the Mokoroa Stream branch. We crossed back and forth across the stream;
at first it was possible to clamber across the rocks but, in the end, there was nothing for it but to wade through knee-deep water and splash around in water-logged boots for the rest of the day.
The Mokoroa Falls were pretty, and we could only imagine what a spectacle they would be after heavy rainfall. From the falls there was the only really long, strenuous climb of the day, up to Horsman Road and Big Yellow. Distance covered was 17.5 km.
Whilst those in the rear of the bus relaxed after our exertions, it was just as well that our driver remained alert as we encountered a car coming the wrong way on the motorway. Fortunately it was able to carry out a U-turn before having a head-on collision.
What a wicked day out with the club today!
The Albany tramp was put in place the day before as the forecasted wind speed & weather was looking dodgy for docking at Motuihe Island today. It turned out to be a good call, as the ferry crossing was cancelled!
Despite the wet forecast, we had a good group roll up this morning ready to walk the distance!
As we hit the trails & bush tracks finding out this was new ground for a fair number of the group. We only had a brief tinkling from the rain clouds just after we dropped down from the trig, whilst admiring the all the significantly large old native Puriri.
Heading down hill, Lucas Creek waterfall was looking really pretty despite it being low tide, where the pool at the bottom is estuarine (fresh water and sea water mix).
Before long we're walking through Kell Park and along the grass beside Lucas Creek & stopping to investigate, errm nosh on the yummies hanging from the old fruit trees that are still there from when Albany still had lots of orchards.
Crossing the Albany Highway, we reach the land of the massive trees! Most of the Totara, kahikatea and assorted other trees in here are about 25-30 metres or more tall and cover the river edge either side of the river tracks we're traversing. It's such a relaxing environment with the water lazily moving it's way down stream, the shaded canopy letting through rays of sunshine sparkling on the water, that thankfully wasn't in flash flood this trip!
To add a bit of novelty to the trip, we head through another old orchard area in public parkland and noshing on heritage fruit as we go. Popping out of this area, having just said I've always thought there should be a track on the other side of the river just here, I spot a brand new track!
As we all love new tracks, especially when so many of our favourites are closed, we head in to go investigate. What a cool track and it's obvious the track cutters have a good sense of humour! Once you've visited you'll understand, there's even a para shooting alien in a tree! The track has extremely colourful track markers, one even had a bandanna and there is debris that had landed there after the tornado that caused so much havoc in 2011.
We head out a different way & head down stream to cover true left of the stream heading back to the cars via the lakes.
Some pretty decent distance covered again today, or still bone dry tracks, can't wait til the next club tramp.
An advertisement at the back of ‘Wilderness ‘ magazine quotes the Lonely Planet guide’s claim that the Cape Brett walk is “One of the Epic 50 Hikes of the World.” It is one of the club’s favourites, and we have been tramping there several times in recent years.
We left from Como Street on Friday evening. As we drove north through the night, news was coming through of mass murder at a Christchurch mosque. We arrived at Rawhiti in the eastern Bay of Islands around midnight. Next morning we found that we were on the edge of the marae, next to the sea. Our tramp began with a walk of about one kilometer along a road to Oke Bay, then there was a long, steady walk uphill to Pukehuia (345m). It was very hot and humid but, despite raging thirst, we had to be economical with our water as there had recently been a drop of 1080 poison and it was feared that local water might be contaminated.
We followed the Cape Brett Track along the ridge line, with extensive views of the eponymous bay and islands. We stopped for lunch at a hut above Te Wai Bay where two of our number, suffering from the high humidity, elected to stay. The rest of us dropped to a track junction; left for Deep Water Cove, the route we would take the next day, right for the cape. Another steep climb followed. Then, coming down the track, was a young lady in a bikini and not much else – no pack, not even a waterbottle. A couple of her friends followed close behind. They had landed from a boat and gone for a stroll ashore.
The Cape Brett lighthouse marked the end of the walk -17 km from Oke Bay.
The lighthouse keeper’s house, no longer required for its original purpose since the lighthouse is automated, was our accommodation, shared with a young, international group.
After the long, hot walk I particularly enjoyed a refreshing swim off the rocks. In the evening I read the hut book where the lighthouse keepers noted that sharks were often seen in the channel between the cape and the nearby island.
Several of us rose early to observe a colourful sunrise over the sea. We then retraced our steps up the long hill, returned to the track junction and walked down to Deep Water Cove, where our water taxi was already waiting for us. This saved us several hours of walking over the same route as yesterday. We disembarked at Oke Bay and returned to ‘Big Yellow’, so that we were able to start the long drive home around noon.
This walk was not “an epic’ in the sense that most of us would understand the term, but it was a beautiful walk through native forest with superb coastal scenery, and the accommodation at the end was distinctly superior to the standard DOC hut.