North Shore Tramping Club
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.
It was a lovely fresh Saturday morning, having had weather warnings during the week for torrential rain, we were lucky enough to be hopping on our trusty bus in fine, clear weather with the rain already behind us.
With 16 of us on the trip to Waitomo, doing the maths to break us into two groups was an easy as Bernard putting names on two lists and bingo! You’re in the Appletree Road party and you’re on the Speedies Road party. Right you are then.
With Helen driving, we stopped for morning tea and a loo break at Pirongia. The pies and pastries looked very good and I make a mental note to self, to indulge next time… It was great to see some faces we hadn’t seen for a while, and to catch up on where they’d been and what they’d been up to over the last few weeks and months. Monika, busy as always is already working out how she can get to her special concert at 6.30 in town, on Sunday, after our walk out and trip home! We of course have many suggestions, most of which are not helpful (we’ll drop you off grubby gear and all being quite a popular choice), but the general consensus is that she will “give it a go”, in good old fashioned Kiwi style.
We had a steady drive down, and at Appletree Road, we said goodbye to half the party for their adventures, we would see them later in the day.
With Bernard now driving, he needed a co-pilot and I was lucky enough to sit up in the cab for the first time; wow, what a great view you get. Bernard takes the opportunity to suggest I might like to consider becoming a bus driver, but I quickly persuade him that is not in the best interests of the bus or the club! We stop just past the Waitomo Caves to look at the wonderful natural Mangapuhoue Natural Bridge, a leg stretch walk from the parking area, and you can do about a 1km loop. Definitely worth stopping and seeing; it’s truly lovely with old fossils of sealife in the rock formation. With shades of things to come there were blackberries on the bushes to be snacked on as we did the loop walk. As this coincided with almost lunch time, we decided to eat lunch there, making the most of an almost-dry picnic table, and then head on to our walking start point.
Once at Speedie’s Road we park the bus and head off through private farm land. It’s incredibly dry underfoot, what little grass there is like straw and we have two sheep escaped from their paddock busily trotting up the road ahead of us until they head off in another direction. We know it’s rained during the week, but you couldn’t tell so far. It’s a wonderfully sunny day, the path underfoot is good and there’s not much in the way of shade. The rock formations and geology are amazing, and we catch a glimpse of the inviting Taraweru river below us. Trekking over the pastureland we head down, up and across a very steep climb to a stile and fence. Over this and we start heading into the bushline for some well-earned shade. The terrain starts getting a little lumpier underfoot and there’s the odd fallen tree to climb over or under; going under more of a challenge with big packs having to crawl on hands and knees; the extra weight on your back when getting back to your feet is noticeable. Perhaps I packed too many goodies – nah. Many thanks to John for all his help hauling and pushing some of us shorter ones over and up the steep, slippery bits.
After only a couple of hours we come to a surprisingly large clearing which is flattish, and positively festooned with blackberry bushes. Jo and I wonder quietly to ourselves is this our camping area; but no, there’s nothing to say it is so, it can’t be…. can it? We keep on walking crossing a very nice little stream and after a couple of hundred or metres so find Mark and Chris coming back from being just a little ahead of us. Turns out the lovely little blackberry infested clearing IS our camping ground so we turn around and head back. We look at it through different eyes, scouting out for patches that are less blackberry laden than others and the edges of the clearing nearer the trees look to be the best option. Mary diligently tramps down an area for herself and John, it ain’t called blackberry flat for nothing. It’s also lumpier underfoot than you would think and you just know that lump/hole under your mattress is going to find you in the middle of the night. An hour later and we have our little grove of tents, beds are made, billies are boiled and snacks are eaten as we wait for the Appletree Road party to arrive. We’ve had a nice day, not too strenuous and are feeling pretty good and relaxed enjoying the great outdoors, fresh air and good company. The blackberries make a great snack and Jo and I pick a generous handful each to put in our muesli for tomorrow’s breakfast. A lone wood pigeon cruises back and forth overhead clear against the blue sky and backdrop of the gorge walls – beautiful.
Soon enough the first of the next party arrive. Phil, Peter, Roger, Helen and Paul trundle in and we help fill up their water containers from the nearby river while they make camp. Phil tucks himself under the trees and although he is only a few metres away, you wouldn’t even know his tent was there. The Appletree party have walked a bit further today than we have. It’s late afternoon and we’re wondering where the final 3, Mon, Karen B and Colin are. They come in just at the right time and set up camp while there’s still good light and conversation time to be had. Turns out they have had a right old adventure seeing all the waterfalls their walk had to offer; it’s good to see all our party back together again all safe and well. A quick head count of tents shows that the Hubbas just outnumber the Macpacs with a few assorted others filling the rest of the placings.
We tuck ourselves in early to bed, listening to the night sounds, there’s fewer moreporks calling than I thought there would be and either no possums or I am asleep and don’t hear them.
It rains gently during the night and early hours, but nothing too serious. I lie awake in my tent watching a VERY LARGE SPIDER on the outside. It’s close to 5cm across and surprisingly sturdy; Jo had one the day before near her tent, so I wonder if we have disturbed a family of them.
While we all eat breakfast, we confirm the plan for the day being that we will all head back to the bus the same way, first doing a walk further into the Gorge. As Peter and Phil heroically offer to look after the tents and bags for us (also known as having a second cuppa/lie in), we take up the offer of walking without the big bags and take off into the Gorge. The rain overnight has made it a little boggy underfoot in parts, but everything has been newly washed and smells fresh, green and alive. After about an hours walking we see a wonderful clearing on the other side of the river and unanimously agree this would be a wonderful camping spot for next time we head down this way. It’s flat and clear and close to a good fresh water source. Turning and heading back, right at the top of the cliff on our right you can see fencing right to the edge; to stop errant cattle or trampers I wonder. We get back to camp and pack tents away, and of course it starts raining just as we start but it doesn’t last long. It’s just enough to make sure though that tents will be put away wet and will all need drying out when we get home.
The sun comes out and we find a lunch stop on dry plateau on the tussocky farmland; it’s a good choice as from this point onwards it’s walking parallel on a very steep slope for a while. What a wonderful view and spot to stop. The geology and rock formations are amazing and we take a few minutes as we pass by to check them out. They are humbling in their size and stature; their presence on the land is that of sentinels, heralding back to our past but knowing they will still be there long into the future.
It’s getting quite warm as we walk the last km or so to the bus, stopping to say hello to the friendly miniature horse on the way.
A quick refresh and change of clothes then it’s on the bus back home.
We stop again at Mangapuhoue so the rest of the group can see the rock arch, and then take another quick stop to see the beautiful 35m Marokopa Falls which Chris mentioned as being on the trip home. They are only a short walk through tawa and nikau from the bus and certainly worth stopping for. Helen is driving again with a change of driver, refreshments and leg stretch. Sadly, the bakery is closed, so it’s a dash to the supermarket for cold drink and snacks. The canny ones find a proper coffee at the pub. An uneventful drive into Auckland sees us wondering how Monika is going to get on for time, but the usual traffic jam at Takanini slows things up, but all in all a good run home.
It’s been a fantastic, fun filled couple of days away. I love these short breaks away, they are so good for your soul. The friendship and great spirit you get from the rest of the group are amazing and added to the incredible scenery we are privileged enough to be able to enjoy, make these weekends truly memorable.
Special thanks to Bernard for organising the trip – it’s a beautiful spot – plus we have a great new option for next time, and to Helen and Bernard for safely driving us there and back. Thanks to everyone on the trip for your friendship and help over the sticky bits.
Those who know Monika will understand what I mean about her determination.
Club rules, however, determine that we do NOT tramp alone. So, when it became apparent that the map reading and navigation skills of the Appletree Road group had been found wanting and we had basically headed right instead of undertaking a left hand loop (!) encompassing the Tawarau Falls, what did Monika want to do? Back track! Rule follower ( and support person I am) was ably joined by Colin Symonds to accompany Monika in her quest to see the splendid wetness and beauty of the Falls. A very steady backwards deviation to the 10 minute return loop to the Falls; down, down, down with the assistance of a chain at the steepest point to the Falls below.
Twelve members of the club took part in a trip to Mt Hikurangi over the Anniversary Day weekend. This was apparently the club’s first visit in our fifty year history.
Hikurangi is situated in the Raukumara Range in East Cape, inland from Ruatoria and about 130 km north of Gisborne. At 1752 meters it is the North Island’s highest non-volcanic mountain. Thanks to the dateline it is also the first place in New Zealand and the world to greet the morning sun of a new day.
The drive was a long one – leaving from Auckland at 10 am, we arrived at the Te Araroa Motor Camp near 8 pm. The route was very scenic, especially along the coast east of Opotiki, but was a challenging one for the driver with all the hills and corners. Next morning we had a further 90 minutes along Highway 35 and then along Tapuaeroa Road to the Pakihiroa Station, where we parked the bus and began our walk.
For the first 10 km we headed southwards following a four-wheel drive track which climbed steadily upwards through farmland. The route was clearly marked by yellow posts. The weather was fine and warm but the upper part of the mountain was entirely covered by cloud. We passed several horses, cattle and noisy flocks of sheep. We encountered a young couple coming down who told us that, above the hut, the mist was so dense that they could not see from one post to the other.
After ten km there was a road junction; the posts followed the right track, but the left led to the Maui whakairo, a series of large Maori carvings. This mountain is a sacred site for the Ngati Porou iwi. These impressive carvings, representing tribal ancestors, were specially commissioned for a ceremony held here on New Year’s Day 2000 as the first place in the world to see in the new millennium.
From there it was only a few hundred meters on to the hut. The walk took five and a half hours, including about an hour for lunch and rests. The hut sleeps ten and was booked through an iwi office, Te Runanganui o Ngati Porou ($15 per head). With the special permission of this office, the other two members of the group slept in tents (camping on the mountain is usually not permitted). The main difficulty for these two was finding a flat area of sufficient size for a tent that was not covered in cowpats.
We had originally planned to walk up to the summit on the following morning but, by 3 pm, the weather had cleared and it seemed better to seize the opportunity while we could – who knew what the next morning would be like? The track above the hut led through a small area of forest, then across an area of scrub and long grass. The marker posts led us to the bottom of a very steep scree slope for the final 400 meters or so.
From the bottom, the right-hand side seemed to offer the best going but, as we later found, the left was slightly easier, though there was not much in it. For much of the way we were hauling ourselves upwards by clutching at clumps of grass. We finally reached the summit ridge where a sudden gust of wind seized Roger’s hat, last seen gliding towards Ruatoria. The summit trig beckoned from less than a hundred meters away.
However, there were murmurs that time was marching on and that we should not risk having to complete the return journey in the dark. Sensible prudence or excessive caution? At any rate, the majority verdict was respected and we turned back.
The walk from the hut to the summit was described on the noticeboard as taking about two hours, and another source gave an estimate of only 1½ hours. Our walk to the summit ridge took 2½ hours, with perhaps a further quarter-hour to the summit itself. Apparently many people carry out this climb in the dark, so that they can experience dawn on the summit. We were all of the opinion that this would be an extremely challenging walk, for very experienced trampers equipped with powerful and reliable head-torches.
Next morning the walk down to the bus took only about three hours and we had the rest of the day to explore this beautiful and interesting area. We visited St Mary’s church at Tikitiki, built shortly after the First World War to commemorate the Ngati Porou soldiers who died in that conflict (the roll of honour inside was dismayingly long). The carvings and tukutuku (woven panels) are very fine. We also admired the pohutukawa at Te Araroa – 600 years old and 22 meters high, it is believed to be the largest in the country. It must be a wonderful sight in December when the flowers are in bloom.
We had lunch at the Manuka Café at Te Araroa. The place was already busy when twelve hungry trampers arrived and the friendly lady behind the counter was struggling to cope. Keith and Kate then offered to help, having run a café themselves, and served up some excellent coffee.
From Te Araroa there was a 22 km road (unsealed) out to East Cape, then a short walk up some 700 steps to the lighthouse. Having (nearly) climbed Hikurangi we hardly noticed them. No one was much in the mood for camping food that night, and we dined at the Hicks Bay restaurant.
On the last day we had another ten hours’ drive back to Auckland. All told, we covered more than 1200 km on this trip and we are all grateful to our two drivers, Pierre and Keith.
Yesterday's Karangahake tramp, a real club favourite, was an extremely popular one! About 45 people. 30 of us in Big Yellow and the remainder from the Whitianga Tramping Club obviously keen to check out Karangahake and Waikino areas that are so steeped in gold mining history dating back to the late 1800's, where the old tracks and machinery and concrete structures are deteriorating with time.
Raring to go, we broke into a number of smaller groups. Smaller groups you move faster and can keep tabs on the whole group.
My group started our journey over the brand new suspension bridge crossing the Ohinemuri River right beside the carpark and head across our second suspension bridge in this incredibly scenic area, that gives you an air of stepping back in time, as we.climb a small flight of steps and we're standing on the historic railway tracks that they used to move gold and by product. There is a gold mining trolley gracefully rusting away.
Torches at the ready, we enter the first of the tunnels in the famous Windows Walk. Windows, due to the holes calved out of the rock face to create air vents for the tunnels that plunge deep into the mountain. As you look out of the Windows, the sheer rock faces of Mt Karangahake opposite you never fail to impress.
Every now and again switching off our headlights to spot the Glow Worms! Not so many glowing tails today, maybe a little dry?
We drop down opposite the old Crown Battery, another tunnel that goes into the heart of the mountain, but due to a slip was closed about 3 years. A great pity, as you used to be able to walk in about 50 metres and it opens out into a massive cave with the old machinery still there!
Despite Saturdays heavy rain, the Waitawheta River is only very gently burbling away beside, us we thoroughly enjoy the mostly flat track and beautiful native flora surroundings. As we reach a very popular swimming spot where the river briefly widens with a few waterfalls to provide enjoyment for all.
One more fun tunnel and yipee a few group of Glow Worms! Further up the river, suspension bridge number 3, and we hit the base of the Dubbo 96 Track, and a thorough boot clean session before entering the track to head up the mountain!
Today's planned trip was to start on new ground for the club in the Waiuku Forest...... upon reaching our turn off, Big Yellow ground to a halt! A big sign had gone up during the week to say that the forest was closed due to the high fire risk. Probably more for motor-cross bikes, quads and 4x4's, than trampers, but closed is closed.
So after quick team discussion, Karotahi Beach was the closest, only 15 minutes away & only a couple people had been there. Decision made.
Being the wild west coast, as we parked the bus, the sound of the waves crashing down on the foreshore greeted us.
The cliffs above us, the striking colour of the still lush flax against the vivid yellow and orange eroding stone, the group started our walk south along the beach with the lovely Castaways Restaurant above us and the Lifeguards busily preparing things as we strode past.
We pass a few upturned, rusting car bodies being weathered by the elements before we rest for lunch then continuing south to the mouth of the Waikato River.
Retracing our steps back to the bus, the light is still soft, the clouds wafting across the skyline, spume from the waves and sand drifting creating a gentle haze. Eyeing up the odd cooling fresh water waterfall as we pass.
Even though the beach is a shared use area, more motor-cross bikes, quad bikes, dune buggies and 4x4's, they're very respectful of us all, and give us plenty of space. And keep us entertained with wheelies and stunts as they pass.
Another stunning, very warm day out with the club, about 16kms covered and we get to do the intended tramp another time.