North Shore Tramping Club
After a warm dry June and a mostly mild dry July we were introduced to the beginning of August with cold, squally, windy, showery weather. Lots of snow was falling further south – some of it down to sea level on the West Coast of the South Island. Oh! No! Do I really want to venture out this weekend. However it is in my nature that once committed I go on to see it through so….. Careful, thoughtful packing and then off to be joined by 12 others to travel to Te Aroha Holiday Park on Friday night. Were the weather gods going to smile on our party of 13. It was a sometimes wet and windy Friday night on the bus but in the early light of Saturday we woke to a relatively clear day and Mt Te Aroha shrouded in misty cloud. Our group hit the Tui Mine trail entrance just after 9.00 am (after a brief tour of the Te Aroha Golf Course). It was onwards and upwards to conquer the “Mountain of Love” and at some point meet the other group who started from the Domain.
The weather seemed to hold on the way up – we were well sheltered in the bush – and only saw one other person, a mountain biker. Now and again we caught glimpses of the Hauraki plains farmland where the sun was making a valiant effort to stay out from behind the clouds.
Nearing the top of Te Aroha the mist came in very thick and once on the top the wind roared through the tower structure. A quick look around – no views – then off to a sheltered grassy spot for lunch. Still no sign of the other group.
Going down to the Domain seemed to take forever – it was steep, sometimes slippery and the wind was very chilling. At last we reached the Domain and the Bus and still no sign of the other group. Did they go at all? Had they sat in the cosy inviting looking Hotel across the road from the Bus? But no – they had missed the entrance to the Tui Mine downhill track from the top but managed to get back on track further down the tower access road. (so they say!) We enjoyed hot drinks and cakes at the quirky restaurant Ironique.
Back at the Holiday Park several of us were looking forward to a soak in Hot Pools but we were unaware that in winter, management had to be advised ahead of time if we wanted to use the pools. Never mind. The showers were hot and refreshing. A short rest then we went out for dinner at Ironique and more delicious food. A great way to end the day.
Showers and wind assaulted the bus on Saturday night and there was almost a mutiny on Sunday morning when a group of us were not looking forward to hitting the trail in cold rain and wind. However tramping enthusiasts won and by the time we got to the Waiorongomai track entrance the weather had cleared – temporarily! About an hour later the heavens opened and not even the bush saved us from a dowsing. In spite of the rain, it was very interesting seeing the remains of the train tracks (extremely steep in places and machinery used for the mining operations in earlier times.
Back at the bus the rain had almost cleared and we were soon on our way warm and dry back to Te Aroha for a quick lunch stop before returning North very satisfied we were indeed the lucky thirteen – on the whole!
The weather wasn't meant to be good, but intrepid trampers as we are, such dismal predictions don't waylay us. And so we arrived at the car park where Big Yellow would remain for the night. Nine of us set off at 10am-ish, heading down the Tahuanui Track, along pastures and green fields to the junction where the short and long groups bid farewell for a few hours.
The four of us, Monika, Kas John and Mary split off onto the Bell Track - first time Bell Trackers all of us. The day was surprisingly warm and to our delight sunny! The sun dappled path wound through the trees at first quite leisurely before starting to climb gently.
We didn't miss the opportunity of visiting New Zealand's tallest Kahikatea tree. Such a sight to behold. There she was, so majestic in all her beautiful glory, a true matriarch of Pirongia Forest. Back on the track after our 20 minute side trip, we soon started climbing again until we found a lunch spot with a view out to the south. After a delicious meal of tuna croissant, nuts and water we were refreshed and we were off again. Before long the dry mud track was replaced by the saddle mud pits! How many ways can one get through a challenging 5 metre long 3 metre wide mosh pit? Welll, as many ways as you can think of and all of them involve mud of course. Mud pit after mud pit reduced us to crawling pace at times. Finally we pushed up the last major uphill and reached the Cone. What a view 360 degrees all round. We could see the cloud gathering on the summit to the east and just to the right we could see the hut tantilisingly close with just a wee shallow valley in between us.
Down we went and steadily back uphill until we reached the exceedingly welcomed boardwalked track for the final push to Pahautea Hut. 18 kms and 9 hours later we had arrived!
No one said it would be easy and in fact the promotional blurb suggested it equated to Abel Tasman on steriods so where do I start....A 10 seater Stewart Island Airlines plane was waiting for us (Ralph, Chris, Kas, Karen, Roz, Kate and Keith) at Invercargill airport. Our Team Leader Ralph taking his role very seriously took his place in the pilot’s seat. Hold on Ralph– not sure that was the plan. Fortunately our pilot asked Ralph to move over so he could fly the plane. Off we go.
Once on Stewart Island, we launched right into it, adjusting packs, filling water and collecting gas. Karen and Kas were brilliant organisers and ensured we were all good to go. A shuttle took us to Lee Bay to start tramping. What a confident seven to share this adventure with, and those early kilometres we really enjoyed. But the day was a tough one. Starting our tramping later in the day and heavy packs made climbs and slippery declines a challenge. After that first day Kate and Keith decided to modify their itinerary to better suit themselves, leaving the surviving five to continue.
The North West Circuit offers such spectacular and unique scenery and with three avid photographers on our team so much was captured to share. It is surely a place of contrasts. On one part of the island the sea was a misty blue and round the next bay the sea was an rich emerald green. Sand was the colour of brown sugar at one beach yet light and creamy at another. There were incredible seaweed-clad rocks like we had never seen before perhaps Neptune’s dreadlocks.
The wildlife was something special too with kiwi in the wild seen in the day time and night. Deer, possums and unfortunately ferral cats were also sighted. This massive sealion was sunning himself on the sandy beach as we walked quietly by. The native birds like Kaka flew high in the trees singing out.
Annoying were the persistent sandflies and mosquitoes at lower altitudes drawing blood and leaving huge angry welts. Desperate times call for desperate measures. Ralph our bush basher and track clearer dropped his shorts to protect his thigh to knee portions. We were rather concerned about his other regions being exposed. Ralph assured us that he had them covered. Chris suggested sandflies should be marketed as an international commercial venture to reduce the numbers.
The sign of hunters was unpleasant with a dead deer hanging to mature in a fenced off area. On the seashore disappointingly we observed the pollution; multi coloured plastic fragments, fishing parahernalia- nets, rope, nylon, and rubbish.
Tramping terrain varied with undulating climbs, steep climbs, tricky muddy declines, boulders at Boulder bay, multiple river and stream crossings, sand at Lucky beach and Smokey beach and soft sand dunes. It was challenging tramping and taking regular breaks for hydration and nutrition made it manageable.
Towards the end of each day we became more tired and needed more encouragement or persuasion to keep up the pace. Right foot, left foot, breathe. Thank you Ralph. Not long to go now........ the hut is imminent- we are going to see it any minute. One of the most challenging days was when we were literally racing the tide. If we didn’t reach a certain point on the second beach at a certain time we would have to wait out six hours or attempt the high tide route which involved a scary sandstone cliff climb. We made it!
The estimated tramping times seldom equated to our actual tramping times (captured in the graph). Perhaps it was our pace or breaks. Days were long, nine and a half hours our longest.
We had packed our tents and were prepared to use them if necessary but we also had our five dollar unserviced hut tickets. Huts were not bookable and filled on a first in first served basis. Some nights the hut was really packed and on one night there were even two guests sleeping on the floor. Temperatures in the huts varied particularly when the wood burner was used. On a couple of nights temperatures on the top bunks became excessive with some exiting sleeping bags and shedding clothing. One hut had run out of water so we resorted to filling our water bottles and a big bucket from a nearby stream.
There was a real sense of community in the huts. We got to meet many international guests and of course others from New Zealand with a passion for the outdoors. Some travelled alone, some with family and some with friends. There were trampers and also hunters. A Japanese couple on honeymoon impressed us attempting to complete the circuit at pace. They left very early in the morning and on occasions skipped a hut.
In one of the huts a bright spark had attached a power switch with a sign suggesting suitable for a young lady’s hairdryer. I expect she was disappointed when nothing happened despite plugging it in. Kas had a light bulb moment finding a light bulb positioned near a signpost.
It was interesting to meet Father and son from Invercargill. Big Al ( the young son) carried most of the gear including Dad’s full bottle of Jamieson’s whiskey.
We are pleased to say there were no broken bones on this trip but just a few blisters, cuts, scratches, bruises and grazes. Karen had a NEAR MISS down a log. We learnt more about each other and a lot about ourselves, and had simply a wonderful experience.
The weather forecast for the Waikato better than Auckland for this tramp, we set off in Big Yellow. Coming into Huntly there is an abundance of low cloud and mist hanging around the big hills.
Before entering the track at the northern end of Hakarimata we utilised the big boot station to ensure our gear was squeaky clean ready for the track. We were quite surprised, so early in the day, as a few trail runners blasted ahead of us up the masses of steps. This end the steps are a bit more gently graded and easier on the quads. We elected not do the Kauri Loop and get into it.
At the first proper lookout we took the opportunity to take some photos and probably just as well we did, as the fog moved almost straight away creating an atmospheric mist around the undulating ridge line, with the highest point at the southern end of the range of 374 metres.
Certain areas of this track obviously weren't logged in the distant past, due to exceptionally steep drop offs, as some of the trees are significantly large. Some extremely impressive Rimu that must be many hundreds of years old with ruler straight stems making it obvious why they logged them.
We were impressed with the diverse array of fungi and ganoderma everywhere. We spotted some about 15 metres up a stem that must have steering wheel sized!
As we neared the high point, big wooden look out, the sky dropped all the rain that it had been holding, as there was no view due to the heavy fog still hanging around and the rather heavy liquid sunshine we elected to keep shifting and made a beeline for the 1300 odd steps back down to Ngaruawahia. A lot of these steps and handrails are additional to what was put in place about 3 years ago to protect the massive numbers of very large Kauri and Ricker Kauri (baby). Although we were very mystified by the lack of a boot station at the Southern end given the huge numbers of Kauri here.
The skies still heavily persisting we chatted to lots of people as they were going up, most not actually didn't go right up, due to the weather.
Nearing the bottom, you pass the original Ngaruawahia Reservoir, that has been long de-commissioned and our favourite waterfall for cooling summer dips! This bit of the track is quite magical with the purple'ish tinged ferns lining the very steep ravine, with the stream starting to gush after the heavy rain.
We were all very pleased to get back to the bus after a good 6 hour tramp, ready to go pick up the other cross-over group and head back.
Despite the pretty dire weather forecast today and the cricket being on, a hardy number of trampers turned up for the tree planting at Shakespear Regional Park at Whangaparaoa.
As we got off the bus in Army Bay, we were blasted with a reasonable breeze and a big flock of seagulls hanging around on the updraft over the beach. Quite a sight with the sun glinting between the clouds.
After a quick chat with one of the park rangers who just happened to be putting up the tree planting sign, we ascertained that we were to head to the far end of the park in a gully up near Pink Bay.
We headed up the very pretty Waterfall Gully Track, with a quick stop at the waterfall, that despite all the rain lately, was a mere trickle!
Through our second boot cleaning station of the morning, we popped up onto the ridge line near the lookout, to receive more windy gusts. The Lookout still boasts amazing 360 degree views, even on an inclement day!
Arriving at the planting site, walking through the sterigene hygiene pad to disinfect our footwear.
We were a few gully's over this year, and with the weather being a bit rough already, the numbers of general public was well down on the usual, hundreds of people.
After a quick planting lesson, we headed right down into the gully to plant lots of trees. Mostly Flax, Caposma, Cabbage Trees, Manuka and Kanuka and there were a few canopy trees. The ground was fairly easy to dig, made for quick planting and reasonably dry and most out of the worst of the wind.
For the first hour it was just windy, then the forecasted weather rolled in, and it was pretty wet. All very thankful of our raincoats we carried on and managed to plant quite a lot of trees, regardless of the yuk weather. Feeling quite rewarded for having done something good, for the future and the native birds and creatures in the area, and the environment we stopped to warm up and get into some of the yummy bbq & much needed hot drinks that are supplied to volunteers. Awesome!
Sloshy mud around the organisational tents and the rain still falling we opted to head back to the comfort of Big Yellow to head home.
Most planting days, we've been very lucky to enjoy lovely weather, so hopefully, the next will be in line with the usual!
Another chilly but perfect start to the day, 8am departure, not a puff of breeze, stunning sunrise over Rangitoto Island, one of the benefits of early starts! Big Yellow heads south to The Pinnacles in Coromandel.
Once off the motorway and State Highway 25, we drive up the Kauaeranga Valley, the views throughout the valley are incredibly scenic, beautiful mountain reflections on the Kauaeranga River. Along the drive we see why the area has been closed so much in recent years, with significant road re-builds to combat the slips and subsidence.
It's only 3 degrees as we set off up the 100 year old main track up to The Pinnacles, ideal temperature for climbing! It's always such an awesome track, so much to look at as you're moving. Incredible mountain vistas, water trickling everywhere around you, seeping moss faces, glistening waterfalls and the old hand carved stone track, worn and beveled out by the water taking path of least resistance during heavy rains that occur frequently through this area. With plenty of evidence, of the incredible amount of wash many large trees tightly logged metres up other trees on the river elbows.
Before long we reach one humongous slip that DOC have managed to do a temporary path through, although the slip is still on the move. Much to our utter astonishment, with warning signs at either side of the slip not to stop, a group had stopped on a large rock, in the middle of the slip area, for morning tea! Naturally we encouraged them to keep moving for their own safety.
Further up the track, there is a large exposed whitish, moonscape rock face, dotted with the most tiny, dainty Greenhood native orchids, under 2cms in height! This track, especially in early spring is an Orchid hunters delight. There are native tree orchids and Greenhood orchids everywhere, with a heavenly scent to match!
Time flies, as we arrive at the 80 bunk hut for a quick stop at approximately 620 metres. If you've not stayed here before, it's a very well set up hut, with gas kitchen, gas bbq's and bunk rooms and impressive views of The Pinnacles and the track up to the tippy top at 773 metres!
As we head back down the track to the bus, chatting to people heading up for the night, some heading up quite late, at nearly 4pm equipped with torches. It's usually a pretty social track and fairly busy, especially on long weekends and holidays.
We were lucky today, we didn't have to wait for other groups on the suspension bridges, especially the first 50 metre long, 1 person at a time bridge!
The distance party arrive back, having covered about 19kms, up to the summit/Pinnacles and back down the rough Billy Goat Track, tackling another significant slip.
Fun drive back in the bus, with the back cabin lights on, the residual pink skies from the sunset, everyone chatting away, time passes quickly and we arrive back in Takapuna, and the forecasted rain preceding the next weather front hadn't arrived! Yay!
Totally awesome day out, with liked minded people, all having an amazing time.
For more new ground for the club, we headed down to the Waikato yesterday to do another section of the Te Araroa Trail along the mighty Waikato River.
Jumping out of the bus at Ngaruawahia right by the river, we bee-lined to the start of the trail, which happens to be a very wide, dry foot, shared use trail the whole way. A good sized group motoring along at a fairly hot pace, with many calls out "bikes", move over, along the way. This section of the trail is very scenic with gentle autumnal light reflecting across the river, and wind gusts dancing across the surface of the river right beside us the whole way, bar one very short piece.
Being the Waikato, it was a bit cooler down there when we arrived, but most of us heating up quickly requiring a quick stop to shed layers as the sun peeped out from the odd cloud.
Hamilton living up to it's name of the city of many bridges. One bright green bridge in particular was quite striking and a similar construction to a white bridge over the new bit of "motorway tunnel" in Auckland and another bridge with amazing Maori motifs up the supports not too far from where we stopped for lunch.
Why "walking under rainbows"?! We counted 6 rainbows! That must be a record for a day trip! Most of the rainbows were quite vivid and the last rainbow, seemed to last for an hour!
We were only 15 minutes from the end of the 18-19km walk and our driver extraodinaire, text to find out how far we were from the finish, with the tailing comment, "don't get wet". Must have jinxed it! As it hadn't rained all day, just a few light patches of drizzle and the sky promptly deluged on us! All scurrying for tree cover to don a coat!
We spotted some awesome fungi (ganoderma) on a couple of trees along the last bit of the walk, that is predominantly board walked through old native forest and the prolific numbers of Beech trees.
Another thoroughly enjoyable day out, with an awesome bunch of people.
A chilly, perfect weather morning for our trip to Wenderholm, that happens to have been the first Regional Park in Auckland. Funnily enough most of the group hadn't been to Wenderholm or not been for a long time.
We jumped out of the bus and before starting our walk, we head over to the end of the carpark to look at an extremely large, very rare in NZ, Cork Oak tree. Prompting lots of questions about how commercial harvesters harvest the cork to turn into wine bottle stoppers etc without damaging the tree.
With the sunlight gently beaming it's way through the towering tree canopy around the historic Couldrey House, we checked out the opening times to come and re-visit later in the day.
Setting off up the hill to do the Perimeter Track and once we've cleaned our boots at the boot station, you're immediately immersed in a tropical paradise of large Nikau Palms, Pohutukawa's, Puriri and many other native trees that cover the steep hillside. Some of these may have been planted over the years, as there have been approximately 100,000 trees planted at Wenderholm. On the first flight of steps up the hill, there are encouraging words about reaching for the top engraved on the front of each step of the flight before you reach the very old reservoir that used to supply the house. There are also interesting signs dotted along the track with information about the flora and fauna surrounding us.
It doesn't take us long and we pop out at the first lookout, with majestic views up the Puhio River with the tide gently ebbing out and the lush farmland inland and views out across the water to fisherman patiently waiting for their catch at Brazier Rock and views of the neighbouring Mahurangi West Regional Park.
From the next track junction, it becomes more a "tramping track", a bit rougher, slippery and muddy as we drop down to the Waiwera Estuary to go investigate around the end of the peninsula at Mahurangi Island. As we round the corner we're greeted by a substantially large slip that will probably take out the track one day.
A bit of back tracking to the Waiwera Bridge as the tide isn't quite low enough yet to wade over to Waiwera yet. Before continuing south on the low tide to Orewa. We got quite a way around before being pummeled by higher wind speed than we'd had earlier on protected by the tree cover. We decided at that juncture it was wise not to continue along the rocks and headed back to find a nice sheltered spot for lunch by the relics of the original Waiwera hot pools dating back about 100 years.
Back into the bush we head left and up the steep incline up the Puhoi Track, reaching the open grassed area views worthy of a far higher than the 156 metre climb we'd just done.
Back into the bush, and as he headed back down the hillside track, we notice that this area is obviously destined for more of the "dry foot" treatment, with marker posts between each board walked area before reaching Couldrey House once again, for a look around this historic and fascinating old house. So much history, by NZ standards!
A bit more walking to enjoy the Pohutukawa clad sand spit and wander back along the beach before heading back to Takapuna. We're starting to wonder if a certain driver likes Ice cream, as there is often said stop on the way back. Haha!
Interesting link to the history of the area:
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.