North Shore Tramping Club
The van dropped us off on the Borland Road at about 10:45am; Anthony, Monika, me and Sybil Goose made up the mandatory four. Roger insisted we had to have a high route party. He extolled the spectacular views we would encounter and said that it should only take about 5 hours. So, although it was drizzling, I was talked into doing the alternate ridge route to Green Lake. I should have been suspicious when Roger himself did not volunteer to join us! He was taking the 3 hour track to the Green Lake Hut with the rest of the group!
Initially, we strode confidently through the tall tussock grasses and alpine flowers, following what seemed to be a track. It was lovely. I even spotted a speargrass weevil. But soon the route was not so apparent even though the drizzle had stopped and the mist had risen enough to give us a great view of some tarns below, humps and ridges all around and mountains in the distance. We needed to make a decision about which way to continue. Anthony and Monika’s phone topomaps did not make it clear at this point so we hauled out the map and changed direction to eventually crisscross a stream for a while picking our way up and up as the wind intensified more and more. Lunch was devoured hunched below a small bank, trying to keep out of the increasing gale. And then, we continued up … above the grasses onto unstable rock and slippery scree …. Up and up until finally we reached the ridge at about 1400 metres. The other side was a steep drop-off to a large tarn, more like a lake in a valley way below. My pack cover was loose (but tied on), forming an extremely effective paraglider’s sail, and causing me to stagger along like a wobbly drunk. So I did not dare to venture too close to the edge. I stumbled up the ridge gaining another 50 or so metres in height while trying to enjoy the spectacular surrounds, until Anthony and Monika disappeared over the edge and I found them huddled just below it enjoying the sight of a slope of scree then tussock falling away beneath them; decorated with icy snow patches, white and yellow alpine flowers leading down to a small windswept tarn just above a steep drop off to Green Lake way down below, its waters prettily patterned with swirling tornado rings, and beyond a backdrop of mountains topped with grey and black clouds. In this relative shelter I clumsily removed my packcover so I could continue in a more stable fashion.
From the small tarn we could see the hut below … well it can’t be far now can it?
And then, Anthony discovered a fallen sign … Green Lake with an arrow … when reattached to the pole it pointed directly down to the hut. Should we change plans and head that way?
But, Roger’s directions sent us to the end of the lake so we continued along the high ridge parallel with the Lake; up and down many humps between 1300 and 1388 metres …. with the wind continuing to try to topple us and successfully whipping away Anthony’s bright orange packcover. Up and down we strode, on and on, until it was time to descend. By now my ankles and knees were tired and they objected strongly to the uneven bog, clumps of grasses, slippery tussock, hidden rough rocks and my brain too was exhausted with the constant decision making of where to put the feet without landing in a hole or twisting a leg …. In the end I resorted to sitting down and sliding where it looked like it wasn’t too steep for a controlled stop (and where I could not see any of the lethally sharp leafed Spaniard grass to spear my backside … no wonder it is also called Speargrass).
Finally, we reached the track …. But were shattered to find a sign saying it was another hour back to the hut. And, in the state my legs were in by this stage, even the track did not seem easy. Too many roots, rocks, trees to climb over; steep banks to climb down; slippery streams to get through. I lagged behind the others and was treated to a surprise appearance of a morepork who flew across the track immediately infront of me, landing on a branch close by. We gazed wide-eyed and unblinking at each other. Many photos later and a thankyou given, I gingerly staggered on.
Finally, just after 7pm, we came out into a clearing to see the hut - and then Roger rushing out to greet us with a huge grin on his face … apparently more relieved to see us than we were to see him as we had taken 8 ½ hours rather than his anticipated 5. There had been bets on when we would arrive but none were later than 5:45pm after which time the fun of betting had changed to the serious matter of planning our rescue!
The billy was on for us and after a greatly appreciated cup of tea then a nice hot dinner, the bunk felt very comfortable. But my mind worried as I fell asleep …. would my legs let me hike out on the 5 hour track the next day? ….ZZZZZZ…….
27th Dec was the day when a large group of NSTC members descended on Queenstown Airport for the start of the clubs annual Christmas trip.
Forming into groups we headed off in various directions with 4 parties to begin tramping that day. The Mt Titiroa North and South parties plus the home party travelled to Manapouri Motels where the home party would be based. After offloading the bags that were to remain the 6 Titiroa Southbound party members, Bernard, Anthony, Monika, Jan, Karen and Garry hopped into a van for a quick trip to Pearl Harbour to meet the boat to ferry us across the river. This turned out to be a dinghy so two ferry trips were made.
3pm, we are all set and head to Hope Arm Hut about 3hrs away. A lovely track which dipped down to the lake a few times and provided some amusement when we had to cross a small river using fallen trees. We reached the hut around 6pm and were promptly greeted by lots of sandflys.
We woke to a cracker of a day and at 8am started out to Garnock Burn, thus begun the uphill climb which was to continue for most of the day. After heading over a “small” hump/hill we reached the river. Taking a short break, we crossed Garnock Burn filling our boots and headed up the Mountain. As there was no official track, we chose a likely spot and started climbing through the bush. Before long someone pointed out there was orange tape tied to trees, great news as we knew that someone else at least had been crazy enough to head in the same direction we were going.
A bit of a scramble and we reached the bush line around 2:30pm where we stopped and admired the amazing views. Then it was up through tussock onto the white sandy surface of the Mountain. More great views of the valleys and hills on the other side of the ridge with the most incredible bolder sculptures including several balanced on top of one another. A light but steady breeze was blowing as we climbed higher up the never ending ridge.
Eventually we reached the point where we could cut across to our campsite for the night, the Tarn at point 1412. Looked at the time and saw it was nearly 6pm no wonder we were all feeling tired. The wind had picked up which made for an interesting time putting up the tents. As a large gust ripped through the campsite, pegs were ripped from the ground and flew in all directions nearly impaling fellow trampers. One tent decided to take flight and soared up the ridge. We held our breath, and our tents, as it went higher and higher, expecting it to disappear never to be seen again. Thankfully the wind dropped and it was able to be retrieved. Bigger rocks were then found for the pegs. Tents up, cooking became the next challenge and there was lots of huddling between the rocks to keep the stoves from blowing out. It was getting quite cold as everyone crawled into their tents and as we lay there the wind really decided to pick up, blowing from every direction. Not a lot of sleep that night.
“Awoke” to a beautiful clear morning but windy and cold. We were all surprised the tents survived the night. Once again huddling in the rocks breakfast was sorted, then carefully taking the tents down we got ready for the next leg – The Summit!
9am, ready to start walking, the cloud dropped and we were unable to see much of anything. Luckily a few ideas were put forward earlier and we set off alongside a little stream coming down from above. Along the way fun was had playing in the snow and as the mist swirled around us with the unusual rock formations it all seemed quite surreal. Some careful negotiating around some boulders brought us to the summit at 10:30am, which was marked by some pipe in the ground. It was pointed out that there was another rock nearby which stood a bit higher than the official summit so this of course had to be scaled by a certain party member.
It was decided to continue along main ridge towards point 1581 where we were to drop down. Making good progress along the main ridge we spotted people below us in the distance. As we moved further along, we confirmed it was the North Bound party and called out to them. I think they were a bit surprised to see us above them. We then stopped for lunch before continuing on to point 1537 where it looked quite tricky and with the wind picking up could be dangerous trying to get over the rocky bluff. Because of this we dropped down off the main ridge to the west, towards a set of tarns we could see near the bush line.
After a careful descent we arrived at the Tarns about 3:30pm and looked for a spot to set the tents up. Because of the nearby ridge we hoped we would be out of the wind but no it swirled around and seemed as strong as it was on the previous night. Managing to get the tents up we were able to relax until dinner was started. The wind picked up about 6 and once again made cooking difficult and again very little sleep was had. There were two tent casualties that night.
Next day, 9am and a lovely bush bash to start the day. Which in Jan’s words made Bernard look like he had been fighting a Gorilla. After about an hour and a half of pushing through the Bog Pine, a deer trail was found, which thankfully led us down to the valley floor and the North Branch of the Borland Burn. It was a relief to be out of the wind walking alongside the river with the sun shining and not having to force our way through the bush, so everyone was in great spirits as we arrived at North Borland hut for a long lunch. After which there were a few naps.
Lunch / naps over we headed on to the Rock Biv. This turned out to be a massive overhang in a huge boulder with a sleeping platform built beneath. The sandflys soon put any ideas of sleeping on the platform to rest, with 4 of us electing to set up our tents. One person disappearing into theirs as soon as it was up, not to be seen again until the next morning. We were soon visited by a couple of inquisitive Robins who proceeded to poke their beaks into everything looking for insects and sandflys. During the night there was a commotion as one of the two sleeping on the platform broke and decided to put up their tent, the other had wisely rolled themselves into their tent inner. No Wind! So nice.
Using the dunny at the biv was an interesting exercise with a large hole in the floor and a log precariously placed for a user to stand on.
Our last day and we had a leisurely walk, stopping to admire the various fungi and plants along the way. The Mistletoe in the trees were putting on an incredible display with large sprays in full bloom with lovely red flowers, winding their way through the treetops. We arrived at Borland Lodge about 12:30 where the owners very kindly let us use their facilities, which allowed us to escape the sandflys, while waiting for our pickup. Many thanks to Roger for organising, to Gillian and Neil for transporting us around and to my party for such an enjoyable trip.
Q. When is a “walk in the Park” not a walk in the park? A. When you have to ascend 1716m and complete the Whisky Trail in Fiordland.
This was a “warm down” tramp after Mt Titiroa. Five of us caught Neil’s transport to the divide where we were left in cloud and light drizzle going in the opposite direction to the crowds on the Routeburn. But the crowds were left behind us as we turned off for Key Summit. I have been up here on a clear day and what spectacular views are to be had, but it was not so today. As we ascended into the wind and rain we got out our jackets, but not for long. There was a very brisk Northerly blowing that pushed us up the hill. Leaving the Key Summit boardwalks there is a distinct track, but no markers or any other indication of the route ahead through the tussock. From 913m at Key the ridge rises and at times falls to the South but has a way of hiding its path. You don’t know whether to head for the top of the next rise or to sidle around hoping not to lose too much of the height gained. It was definitely energy sapping but we were rewarded with increasing vistas as the cloud lifted and was then blown away. On our left, first Lake Howden and then Lake McKellar to be followed by the length of the Greenstone Valley. On our right Lake Gunn and Lake Fergus backed by innumerable Fiordland snow-capped peaks.
The high point on the day was Pt1543m. I said to the others that we would drop the packs on the col to the east of the summit and do the scramble up to the cairn from there. Now it was blowing big-time and weight becomes an advantage. Not often I can say that! Photos snapped we picked up the packs again and descended precipitously east to the watershed. I wouldn’t be too sure in a white-out but on this clear day we found our route easily off the tops, avoiding some bluffs that would trap some. Soon a track appeared, and we regained the bush of mountain beech. With a total descent time of an hour we made our way safely down to the palatial McKellar Hut. Total time was 7¾hr from the Divide.
The second day was a cruisy 3 hours back along the main highway of the Greenstone to Lake Howden hut and on to the Divide. For further reading and map we were using the Wilderness magazine “McKellar Hut via Key Summit” rated as moderate with 23.4km. I reckon moderate is an average of strenuous (day 1) and easy (day 2). Why “Whisky Trail”? That’s what the DOC ranger at McKellar said to call it and he also said it was a lot easier in reverse direction. Needless to say, we didn’t try that on day 2.
Thanks to the other 4 members of the group for variously providing laughs, company and being led astray.
The seven adventurers were: Leader, Beth. Navigators, David and Roger. Expert bush bashers, John and Lynda. Conversationalist and chocolate provider, Campbell. Camp mum who had anything anyone needed and who it was just good to see out tramping again, Kären.
The party set off on at an easy pace along the river flats from Borland Lodge in fine weather but with dire weather predictions from Norway in our ears. Changing the original plans because of the wind and rain predicted later in the trip the party carried on past the planned campsite to a rock bivvy. Quite palatial really, with a fine head of beech trees growing from the rock roof, but everyone chose to camp in the trees just below. It was a fine night and miracle of miracles no one had a wet tent in the morning.
The aim next day was to camp above the bush line on the slopes of Mt.Titiroa. Lunch stop was in the shade of trees, by the river, opposite North Borland Hut. Little did the 7 know what lay ahead as they took their ease by the babbling brook. Deciding to follow the route outlined in Moir’s guide the group headed off to the true right of the stream flowing into the North Branch Borland River. The steep ascent through thick bush with no signs of previous trampers going that way left the whole group happy to reach the bush line and open country. Bits of skin were left on various branches but no major damage to any of the adventurers. A camp site with a water source, level, dry ground (there were some tarns around) and shelter from the strengthening wind proved hard to find but a small area providing enough space for the six tents was found. It was a wild night resulting in tales of pegs coming out, being slapped in the face by the tent and other stories to share around the breakfast site.
Now, what time is start time, is it 8 or is it 7 minutes past 8? This is a good question that the seven adventurers could never all quite get right every day. Heading up through tussock and then scree-like shale a pass between two high points, 1581m and 1521m was the next objective. Keeping to the original planned route wasn’t an option because of diverting to the tarns to camp. A section of loose, crumbly stone didn’t carry on for long and the party made its way along the flanks of the mountain amazed at the incredible rock formations that kept appearing. Was that a whale, a reclining lady or a seal in front of us? Running out of energy and looking for a sheltered spot for lunch – yes, the wind was still blowing strongly, the party had just made themselves comfortable when we heard human voices calling. Could it be, yes, it was the party of six going the other way. But wait, they were on the top of the ridge well above us. Having discarded that route as too gnarly it created some worry about how they would get on so their arrival back in Manapouri was eagerly awaited.
Carrying on amongst the amazing rock formations, it was scenery that none of the adventurers had seen anywhere before, a decision had to be made – summit Mt. Titiroa or carry on down out of the wind to find a sheltered camp site. One true adventurer was keen to make the ascent but there being no other takers the party stayed together and set about looking for a route off the tops. A campsite with shelter from the wind and water was needed and after much consideration point 915 was chosen, mentioned in Moir’s guide as a possible camp site. Again the party traversed across grass before heading down a ridge into the beech trees. Relief all round because these were well spaced trees and finding a route down to 915 didn’t require skin loss or bush bashing just careful navigation to stay on the ridge line. A reasonably protected camp site with a water source about 200 m away and enough flat ground for the 6 tents was found. This was the earliest night yet for hitting the sleeping bags, rain stopped conversation! Rain wasn’t an issue all night but once again the wind howled around causing some anxious moments for some campers.
Making our way down to the Garnock Burn through the beech trees was relatively straight forward before crossing the Burn, turning right and finding the start of the Snow White Clearing track leading to Hope Arm hut on Lake Manapouri. This was like a rest day for the seven because the hut was reached in time for lunch, leaving time for swimming, washing or whatever people wanted to do. Surprisingly, the hut was empty apart from our party and only Roger elected to camp that night. Plenty of time to amble along the track and meet our ferry man on the Waiau River the next morning. We stopped off for coffee, ice cream, a pie or whatever walking through Manapouri to the campground. An excellent adventure in quite amazing scenery. The weather was excellent, despite the Norwegian forecast, with only the wind being an issue. Can’t be bad when you tramp for five days in Fiordland and never put on your waterproof and never wake up to a wet tent. A big thank you to all the party who made it a special trip but especially to Roger who organised the whole Christmas trip.
As usual Roger’s organization went like clockwork . Hannibal organizing his elephants to cross the Alps could have done with a Roger in his party!And our camp parents Neil and Gillian were superbly organized and caring and did a lot of the driving for the other parties- as well as keeping the peace on the home party front!
We stayed at the Manapouri Motels and Holiday park run by an elderly and charming lady. She was a bit stressed out by the floods of tourists – far too many in her opinion, stressing the infrastructure and spoiling her special place. It was a friendly place and views to die for. In the evenings we were captivated by the sunsets. We had a large cottage and a few cabins – the large place being the meeting place of the various parties on their returns. The views were fantastic over Lake Manapouri to the mountains – with a pub next door and a redundant church now a café bar just up the road. So we had all one could want for a happy nine days...
Day one dawned fine so we crossed by boat to Brod Bay on the Kepler track and our home group with the exception of Pete and Robin all got to the top and Neil had a pretty good wander round too. Although it’s a busy track up to Luxmore hut it really is exceptional – views through the flowering rata to Mt Titiroa and the magnificent view from Luxmore hut over the lake. I blew a kiss to the takahe in the Murchisons – the original family home of the ones I work round on Motutapu island.
All praise to Lindsay who each trip goes from strength to strength after her horrendous accident – a real pleasure to get you to Luxmore, Lindsay.
Day two looked good so we headed off to the Divide and Key Summit via the Mirror lakes. The Routeburn has its own climate and today, though fine in Te Anau, it was rain and low cloud up there. I pointed out where the views would have been if there were any and we used our imagination. The plan was to lunch at Howden hut – unfortunately a large group from Ultimate Hikes filled the deck so we just ate our soggy sandwiches and headed back. The trees were magnificent – lots of tree fuchsia with their peely bark and dripping lichen over the track.
For the rest of our time in Manapouri we did some local walks, one the other end of the Kepler to Moturau Hut through beautiful dappled beech forest. Walks included up to the Control gates and on to Rainbow reach and some did a circular track on Hope arm. The special treat day for some of us was a trip to Doubtful sound with Go Orange – amazing scenery and great commentary- a full day out. Our last big day out was to Lake Marian on the Hollyford road – reasonably challenging and not embarked on by all of us. The waterfalls in the lower part were thunderously magnificent and the rooty climb to the lake a good work out- lunch at the Lake then back. This was a special place for me to visit as I last did it 51 years ago on arrival in New Zealand when I was working in Invercargill. On that occasion the students from James Hargest swam in the lake as avalanches drifted down. A hardy bunch – this time there was much less snow and no swimmers from our party.
I have to admit to being a bit slower, but didn’t really find it any harder! Gary tried to earn a beer by suggesting I must have been two and a half years old when I first did it. Sadly his ploy didn’t work .– Gary, with advancing years comes wisdom and canniness – he didn’t get his beer.
Our party consisted of Neil and Gillian, Phil and the legendary Lindsay (the cottage group) And Vivian, Fisher, Pat , Robin and Pete. Thanks guys for the company and all the laughs. Special thanks to Gill and Neil who did so much driving to pick up the other parties, and of course to Roger, who must also be of the legendary variety!
What an amazing five day tramping opportunity encompassing parts of the Te Araroa trail and offering diverse landscapes with physically and emotionally stretching terrain. The fearless four – well mostly fearless headed off seeking fun and adventure.
Day one Queenstown to Princhester Hut
Our pick up from Queenstown was a highly interesting one with driver Martin holding nothing back. He was very generous with the use of his horn particularly when he wanted rental car drivers to pull over and give way. Oh and there was the time he decided to wake the sleeping policeman manning the speed camera. Martin mentioned that on his days off he would help stack rocks in the fields and pointed out to us some stacks of rocks. Yeah right!
Martin and his family had spent many hours on local roads and together had accumulated many stories of misfortune leading to death. Martin recalled one day when watching sky divers descend. They seemed to be blown off course missing their landing point. Unfortunately the sky divers landed in the lake and were never seen again.
We said goodbye to Martin and his stories at the start of Princhester road and headed for the hut. What a gentle start- only a couple of hours of easy walking and mostly by road. We met two young men; one from Canada and one from Japan enjoying the Te Araroa trail, and later a young German man.
The Princhester hut was vacant with bunks for all of us and located near a fresh water stream for drinking and washing. Perfect!
Day two Princhester Hut to Apirama Hut
What a beautiful day- with warm weather and no rain in sight. We had amicably agreed that we would set off at 8am, but with four early risers we were all ready to leave just after 7.30am. “Don’t forget to flip up your mattresses before you leave the hut” Some hut etiquette ....we were learning all the time.
We couldn’t have asked for more amazing contrasts as we tramped for some eight hours across undulating sheltered beech forests and barren granite hills. We also bounced off mossy carpets, and navigated tussock grassed areas full of obstacles such as ditches, holes, and boggy bits. Cramp momentarily claimed our gallant team leader, but with some rapid first aid including magnesium he was back on his feet leading us on.
Arriving at Apirama Hut we were welcomed by a couple of bellowing bulls and persistent mosquitoes in large numbers requiring some very heavy duty deet.
Day three Apirama Hut to Lower Wairaki Hut
Another stunning day weatherwise which we spent mostly in the shade of the beech forest. That presented its own challenges as we climbed up and over and around fallen trees and sometimes hugged a tree to help manoeuvre ourselves and keep on track. This resulted in all sorts of skin scrapes, grazes and splinters. Three needles were produced from a sewing kit as necessary surgical instruments to remove large splinters in our fingers. Nasty!
Our hut for the night had the basic amenities including a selection of mousetraps and deer hunters’ momentos. It didn’t look like it had been used for some time with no box to collect hut tickets. The hut book told a few tales and advised us not to believe the walking times recorded on the sign posts. Interestingly, we had found some of the signs confusing.
This hut had a river close by providing a chance to wash yes, its nice to wash and very refreshing. For those on the top bunks, they had a physical agility test in the absence of a ladder.
Day four Lower Wairaki Hut to Telford Burn Campsite
We headed off early considering the potential challenges of the day but encouraged that it was likely to take us just six hours. The steep climb to amazing vistas and rocky ledges was breathtaking. Did I mention the sign recommending that experienced trampers only use this track and proceed with care? We came across a young French couple also on the track and wished them well.
The further we climbed the more the landscape changed to reflect the higher altitude. We saw amazing alpine plants and even alpine daisies blooming. Then there was the loose rocky shingle towards the top of the ridge and over the other side demanding a rocky scramble. A slip, a fall, and blown over by the wind- there was blood from a few skin abrasions but no broken bones. Those strong winds were so keen to pick you up and send you tumbling.
We checked our position referring to our maps keen to locate our campsite. Our eagle eyes spotted a lonely green DOC toilet sitting in the middle of a field. This must be it.
It was the first opportunity to use our tents on this trip and this provided a surprise for one of us. A newly purchased tent base was the wrong size. The team rallied around and he soon had protective secure cover for the night.
We were joined by a young Canadian struggling with allergies due to grasses and pollens. He pitched his tent nearby.
Bugs, bugs and more bugs! Sandflies were beyond your imagination- and covering whatever they could. Retreating to our tents the heat of the sun created sauna like conditions. So we escaped to the riverside with more deet till sundown.
At 2am it rained.
Day five Telford Burn Campsite to Forest Road
Wearing our raincoats we packed up our tents amidst light drizzle. We were so looking forward to what had been promised -– a gentle meander downwards along the riverside to the forest and cattle yards to await pick up. But that wasn’t to be. A menacing sign threatened prosecution and exorbitant fines if we continued on our way along the riverside. So up the hill it was and a big loop round avoiding parts of Mt Linton Station private property until descending to cross a river and onwards to Forest Road. It would seem that recently rules had changed for Te Araroa Trail trampers.
We made it to the pick up point and my goodness it was good to see Neil with the van.
Our Tramping Trip mates were very generous with their Macgyver tips and tricks:
What would you consider a great outcome for such a tramping trip like Takitimu Mountains? It was suggested that it could be measured: all fingers and toes accounted for and still talking. We had a great outcome! 100% achieved!
Ralph, Kas, Chris & Roz
A few Sunday's ago the club trip was to Dunn's Bush in Puhoi, part of the Te Araroa Walkway. A big turnout of keen trampers, so we broke into a few group distances as usual on a stunning last of Autumn tramp.Parking Big Yellow (our bus), near the suspension bridge in Ahuroa Road, we strode along Remiger Road in our groups to head up the hill and past the interesting rocky outcrop lookout.Reaching the entry to Dunn's Bush, looking back across the valley to the lovely sea views in the distance as we scrubbed out boots.Heading into the bush here, it's lucky, back in the day, this area of forest was only lightly logged, maybe due to the inaccessibility at the bottom of a deep gully. It's definitely a fun, rough "tramping track" with the towering canopy above us, and the sunlight gently filtering through creating that relaxing peace we relish whilst tramping.Reaching the loop track the other party turn up, so it was a massive, social lunch lounging on the soft grass, the glowing sun above.Nosh bags removed, we head into the loop and cross a dinky bridge. Half way we find 2 absolutely massive Kahikatea's [Dacrycarpus dacrydioides - white pine], with an informative sign about the history of the trees, estimating them to be about 900 years old. Looking up, trunk is all you see!!!! Very impressive and a great excuse for lots of photos before moving on!!
Leaving Dunn's Bush, we scampered up the rocky outcrop soaking up the views to the sea from the top.Dropping back down the hill, back along to the bus, for a mandatory stop at Puhoi Valley Cheese Cafe, mandatory because trampers..... ice cream or sorbet, ya know!
Magic tramp, but a little sad to see the beginning of Kauri Dieback on a few of the large Kauri here, so if you're visiting, PLEASE ensure your boots & gear are all scrupulously clean before entering & thoroughly cleaned afterwards.
No rain, just tuatara. Magic!
It was a perfect day for tree planting with the club on stunning Motuihe Island. We had a smooth-as-silk ferry crossing, calm weather, and a slight overcast to keep the heat down.
Our group planted a mostly smaller PB3 and PB5 mixture of pohutukawa, kanuka, hebes and flax on a steep part of the island in a slip area below what’s called Bald Nob, at the southern end of this spectacular little island.
While our group was busy planting, some elected to work in the nursery planting seedlings, while others worked to create a new track. Pretty cool!
Once all the hard work was done, we all headed back to base at the “wool shed” and scoffed down barbecued sausages.
After lunch, a lot of us took the opportunity to go for another walk up to what we’re now calling “the Tuatara Track” after we spotted not one, but two tuatara, to everyone’s absolute delight—even with our big group!!!!
As much as we would have loved to stay, it was a nice stroll back to the ferry, and then the 15-minute express trip back to Devonport.
It was an excellent day. We hope an even bigger group can join us on our next planting day.
THE ROUTE: Te Paki Coastal Track (48km; 4 days)
Kapowairua (Spirits Bay) Campsite – Pandora Bay Campsite – Tapotupotu Bay Campsite – Cape Reinga – Cape Maria van Dieman – Twilight Campsite – Ninety Mile Beach – Te Paki Stream
Imagine four sunny days. Warm, not too hot. Cliffs and sandy beaches. Sand dunes and bridges across wetlands. Ocean and moon-like landscapes. Bush and open ridge lines. Climbing and descending. Stunning views everywhere you look and funny encounters along the way. That was the Anzac far-north trip in a nutshell, but wait, there’s more. I asked members of our out party to contribute their most memorable funny stories of this trip. They are all very well written and funny! Read on to get transported to New Zealand’s far north and experience snippets of our trip for yourselves.—Monika Coles
Highlights from the Far North
I’m not very knowledgeable when it comes to New Zealand flora and fauna, but I would like to comment on fauna that I encountered.
First, there were the seabirds around Pandora Bay and the birds along the coast south of Cape Reinga.
Second were the curious mushroom-stalk-like creatures with their flat-topped sandy “hair” that emerged from the sand on the beach just below the tideline.
Twilight Beach campsite was well populated with possums (imported fauna), so it was quite a shock to be woken up at about 10.30 pm to see a possum with its face pressed up against my tent inner—fully zipped up, I might add!. Needless to say, the possum beat a hasty retreat in response to my vocal and physical reaction.
There was one other encounter with the native fauna that I found puzzling and intriguing, and I managed to get a photo of it to share.
How Not to Choose a Camping Spot
Day two was a short hike from Pandora Campsite at the end of Spirits Bay to Tapotupotu Beach Campsite … fantastic views from high along the rocky coast and finally down to the Tapotupotu estuary and beach, with the bright yellow bus parked proudly in the middle.
There was plenty of space on the grass along the estuary to erect our tents. Most chose spots near the bus, but, wanting privacy and quiet, I chose a great spot under a pohutukawa tree some distance away, with not a soul nearby.
Although the sun was shining, there was a fierce wind blowing up the estuary and I decided that my spot was too sandy. Moving the erect tent by myself was challenging. I didn’t want to take it down, so I very nearly lost it completely as it flew, ducking, diving and dancing like a kite behind me as I gingerly backed up to my alternative spot. The tent was flapping so vigorously I was frightened it would tear itself apart. Either that or my pegs (held in one hand ready to pin it down in the new position) would accidentally pierce the fly.
But finally I secured it in the new position, with four enormous rocks ensuring that it would not take off by itself again.
After a great swim, and trying to body surf in the lovely rolling waves, I returned to find my tent now hemmed in on three sides by two vans and a car. So much for my secluded spot.
And later that night, instead of being peacefully serenaded by the gently pounding surf I was “entertained” by bass-ridden music, followed by the clanging of fishing gear, pots and pans, and a disstressed child’s howls.
Finally, in desperation, I clambered out of my sleeping bag to confront my inconsiderate neighbours. My headtorch shone on a rather tall fisherman sharpening his extremely long knife. Discretion is the better part of valour, I thought, as I silently retreated back into my tent and tried to stick my earplugs even further inside my ears. No wonder I was ready to get out of there next morning thirty minutes before departure time.
(However, I did have the dream spot at Twilight Camp on the following night.)
Possum Encounter at Twilight Campsite
We were well warned about the possums—there was a hut book in the shelter, and other trampers had mentioned them—so several of us suspended our food bags from the rafters a metre or so above the ground and hoped for the best.
My tent was only a few metres from the shelter, and on several occasions I was woken up by furious snarling and scuffling just outside. When I went out just after dawn, I was not surprised to find that the plastic bags that had been hanging up had been torn to shreds and the contents strewn over the ground.
Luckily, my coffee, milk powder and drinking chocolate were all in tough plastic containers and were still intact. I’d put other food inside a small billy with its lid tied on and that had defeated them.
It was the last night of the trip, I didn’t have much food left, and in the end the possums did not get much from me for all their trouble. Only a packet of instant noodles (they didn’t bother with the sachets of spices and sauces). They must have had a furious fight over that, too, because there was a lot of fur on the ground. Enough, as one of our party observed, to make a pair of nipple warmers!
We arrived at Tapotupotu campsite by mid-day on Anzac Sunday. What do you do first when you get to camp? Put up your tent, of course. I placed my tent on a likely spot and set off to explore the campground. Within minutes a “dear” member of our party had his tent up, intruding on my space.
What can you do? You accept the situation with good grace and ignore his orange crocks.
And what do you do after the tent is up? Make a hot drink, of course. I set out my gear near the bus. By now my dear friend had decided to move his tent closer to the bus.
“Your gear is blocking my tent site,” he said.
What was his problem? Not being a psychologist, I couldn’t answer that question. But low and behold, there was my original site, waiting for my tent. So when it comes to tenting etiquette, patience can have its own rewards.
My Happy Places
We all join the away trips for different reasons. The Anzac away trip was part of my preparations for a trip to Morocco in August. So I was testing my gear and soaking up advice from my seasoned tramping mentors. John’s ultralight tent; and Roger’s recipes for dehydrated food, plus equipment for speedy boiling were impressive.
I struggled to use a lighter with my arthritic fingers to get that necessary flame, but with words of encouragement from those around me, finally a flame was achieved. More testing and learning!
My happy places are bush, beach and mountains, and the Anzac tramp certainly took me there. Wandering up the estuary amid massive sand dunes, I engaged in lighthearted banter. But, sorry, it didn’t sound like a marriage proposal to me.
Being risk adverse, my gear was zipped away safely in my tent each night, so I was somewhat amused by the possum attack at twilight. They certainly made their presence known.
A parting tip: it’s always nice to take a little extra something to share.
I think everyone will agree if I say that we all had a fantastic time up north. Last year bad weather forced cancellation of this trip, but the good weather definitely made up for it this year. There were many more stories we could have told, and there was one other thing that made this trip special: we had the pleasure of meeting the bus party halfway through the tramp. It was great to join with them for a night with their vino, suitcases of food, and games of cards. Heaps of fun! Thanks, Helen, for organising such an amazing trip.—Monika Coles
The day had finally arrived! Viv and I hopped on the cool yellow bus and joined the club for this exciting trip. This was our first multi-day trip with the club, and we were looking forward to seeing the familiar faces with their signature outfits; their much-loved tops and shorts, clean boots, and backpacks. We knew some would probably have hiking poles on hand as well.
I was surprised to find many colourful “pea pods” snuggling comfortably on the bus, which had been converted to a giant sleeping platform. I couldn’t stop myself from giggling. I felt like we were on our way to a kids’ camp. It was quite an experience, lying flat on a moving bus and looking at views of a star-speckled night sky. I closed my eyes and wondered—with eager anticipation—what tomorrow would bring.
Day 1: Spirits Bay to Pandora Bay
Some early birds were up before dawn, going about their routines, whatever they were. It took me a while to wake up fully and at first I wondered where we were. As planned, we left the Rawana Beach DOC campsite and travelled to Kapowairua, where the out party set off on their coastal tramp.
With the sun shining, we, the home party, followed a sandy track that was elevated above the seabed and overlooked the waves that tirelessly combed the shore. With a gentle sea breeze whispering in my ears as we wandered along the endless Spirits Bay, I felt blessed.
The track led us to a boardwalk across the Waitahora Lagoon, which separated us from the shore. The colours of the vegetation in the lagoon were vibrant against the reflections of light on the still water. We spotted a few ducks, dotterels and oystercatchers in the area. Just stunning.
It was an easy track to Pandora Bay. We popped into the Pandora campsite before we settled down for lunch. The out party had arrived and were busy setting up their tents. We returned to Pandora Bay for a swim before lunch. “Life is good,” I murmured to myself while we were having fun in the crashing waves.
On our way back to the Spirits Bay campground, the wine list and dinner menu were discussed once again. Both Viv and I were excited about camp meals, as the whole idea was completely new to us. I had several attempts at getting my camping cooker going. Finally, with help, we finally got our first camp meal prepared. Meanwhile, wine was poured, and crackers with smoked salmon and tomato slices were among the party. It was very enjoyable, and our plates were spotless afterwards.
Day 2: Tapotupotu Bay to Cape Reinga via Sandy Bay
Rain was expected in the morning, but we were lucky. We had a huge downpour in the middle of the night and it stayed dry all day.
Helen drove us to Tapotupotu Bay, where the out party was expected to camp alongside the club bus in the evening. We ascended to the cliff top after an easy stroll along the beach. The view of the bay was stunning. Needless to say, many photos were taken.
We followed the marked track up through the bushes; the lighthouse was visible on the tip of Aupouri Peninsula. What a spectacular view from there. And it was the perfect place for a tea break. I reckon the snacks tasted better there, too. We followed many (too many!) sets of big steps halfway down—the same steps that later caused me a lot of grief on the way back. An overgrown path led us to gorgeous Sandy Bay.
We continued our way along the coastal track. Oh no, I shouldn’t have looked up. The endless steep hill ahead crushed my spirit. I stopped a few times on the way, but eventually I joined the team at the lookout. It felt strange to see so many tourists in their jandals, walking leisurely on the concrete path while I was still huffing and puffing from the climb. It was interesting. Half an hour before, I had firmly believed I was lost in the wildness, but here we were, at the iconic Cape Brett lighthouse with people from all around the world, watching the churning currents where the two oceans merged.
Day 3: Te Werahi Loop Track, Twilight Beach and Cape Maria Van Diemen
Helen took us to Te Werahi Gate, where the loop track begins. We walked across paddocks with cows gazing at us, through manuka scrub and over the sand dunes to Twilight Beach. We found freshwater wetlands along Te Werahi Stream, and also interesting patterns we believed to be fossils.
Further down the track, we headed to Cape Maria Van Diemen, which was in our ten-o’clock direction. It was a spectacular landscape, with Motuopau Island taking the brunt of the endless roaring sea. At the foot of the Cape, we enjoyed our lunch and the majority went up to the top of the Cape afterwards. I enjoyed the walk along the shore, and soaked my weary toes in the crystal-clear water.
The weather was perfect. It was sunny, and the temperature was just right. Most importantly, we had no wind at all. I could well imagine what it would be like to have sand blasting in my face as I tramped through the dunes for hours …
On our return, we were excited to find a group of ladies from the out party, and later we spotted a few figures on a distant hill. I can only imagine how hard it must be to trek through this terrain with heavy packs on. They should feel proud of themselves.
As soon as Te Werahi Beach came in sight, we negotiated our steps over gigantic rock formations and descended to sea level. We came across a young fellow from Prague, who was asking for directions. It was nice that he later caught up with the out party, and rode in the bus with us for a few hours the next day.
It was time to cross the stream. Without hesitation, Helen and John made their move and I followed. When I reached the other side, Viv called out, “Did you get wet?” “No,” I said, knowing that Viv felt apprehensive about crossing with her boots on. “You just have to move fast.” Then I felt realised my socks felt a bit wet. “Oops, sorry Viv,” I mumbled, “I should’ve checked.”
After a small lagoon, the marked track took us to a sheer cliff with a loose, sandy surface. It was on a 60–70-degree angle, with visible loose footprints and slips. Apparently it was more than 40 metres high, but it looked more like 80 metres to me.
Later we went through some lovely shady bush. It took us a while to go through and we stopped for a drink at the end of a boardwalk over a dark clayish swamp. “You wouldn’t want to fall in there,” Karen said. She was right. That could be the start of a horror movie.
Before long, we came through the woods and found the bus on top of the hill, waiting patiently for our arrival. All we needed to do was cross a big stretch of uphill farmland. It was such an amazing track, with a range of landscapes and terrain. We walked seven hours that day. We were pretty tired, but we were still keen to go swimming when we got back.
Day 4: Tapotupotu Bay, boardwalk, bridge and beyond
We explored the area around the bay. The boardwalk was nicely done at the end of the campsite road. Across the bridge, the path led us up the hill to another stunning view of the bay. The majority of the party continued to explore the area.
This trip was such an amazing experience for me—to explore the spectacular landscape, and experience various types of terrain with a bunch of nice people, sharing some fun and laughs together. It was very special.
Thanks to our wonderful Helen for making this a great success. And thanks to our drivers, Bernhard and Campbell. Oops, nearly forgot to mention that I was also pleased to find a competitive bunch in the group when it comes to card games, and I was glad to see the righteous souls come to the rescue of settling the insignificant minority.
Good fun and great joy was shared by all.