North Shore Tramping Club
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.
What better way to spend an Easter weekend than in a beautiful place, among friends, doing what you love. That is exactly what happened for me while tramping on Great Barrier Island. Great company and a magical place.
We all arrived early to our meeting spot at Westhaven Marina on Easter Friday morning. It was a bit rainy, but we didn’t mind. We hopped on our two charter boats, chucked our bags in a cavity at the front of the boat to balance the weight and made ourselves comfortable for the ride.
Our boat needed to get some gas so we left a bit earlier to stop at a marine petrol station. Well, that was a new experience. A petrol station for boats—awesome!
Once on the open water, the other boat came into view and started to look like it was entering a race. That might also be part of the reason why they got us to Great Barrier Island in such a speedy time, beating travelling by ferry by an hour.
Perhaps also due to the speed, the boat ride was so much fun, although a bit wet, especially for the people at the back, when crashing waves made their way into the inside of the boat.
Later, as the waves got bigger, we even got a downpour from the roof as parts of the waves came over the top of the boat and down onto our heads. Luckily we all had raincoats so the water didn’t get behind our necks and down our backs.
When we arrived in Tryphena, Great Barrier, the sun was shining and it was lovely and warm. We all had a bit of free time while we waited for our two hire vans to arrive.
What an experience the local transport was. The roof coverings inside the van were coming off and there was plenty of rust, but and all credit to the drivers. They both managed to get these vehicles up onto the winding narrow roads in manual, which I don’t think the vans even knew they had or knew how to behave when using them. Wow, what a ride!
Once we got to the start of our track, we all found a spot right there, by the main road, and decided that it was as good as any to have some lunch. Why, I don’t know. We could have crossed the road and found a spot on the track, but I think we were just happy to have the transport adventure behind us, and needed to refuel before walking to our first destination, the Green Campsite.
The track was really nice right from the start. Gorgeous views of Te Ahumata (398m) did not let us wait for very long. At that point we didn’t know that some of our group would decide to take a detour a bit later on and summit this beautiful peak with white cliffs.
Te Ahumata summit is not a traditional summit. The top is a large, pretty much flat, overgrown area, and there’s quite a distance from one side to the other for views.
At the top there’s also a building structure, which is full of radio equipment of some sort, and on the door there’s a dedication to Bruce Comfort in recognition and appreciation of his work in establishing the land mobile radio network.
On the way down it started to drizzle a bit, but it didn’t last very long and soon we were approaching the Green Campsite, which was the place for our first night.
We all started to set up our tents after a bit of indecision about choosing the right spot. It was low tide, and there were beautiful views into the harbour so I chose to pitch my tent right on the bank’s edge. Perfect spot, I thought, despite some people’s concerns about high-tide water levels. Then I went to join all the others in the sheltered area in the middle of the campsite to make some dinner and have a recap on the day.
There were a lot of ants that were taking possession of all the wooden tables, so everyone was using a stainless-steel bench fitted in the corner of the shelter instead.
At one point one member of the party obviously thought enough was enough, and got up and smashed his fist on the top of one of the wooden tables, clearing himself a square piece of the table.
Believe it or not, it worked. No more ants came onto that cleared square for a long time after the hammer-like attack!
After a bit of rain in the night, the next day was again beautiful. We set off nice an early towards the Tramline Track. Our first stop was the Kauri Falls, a two-minute detour and well worth it.
Then we had a stop by the river for morning tea. I was very taken by the stunning clear water in all the rivers we came across on the island. Further up the track there was another detour to Maungapico peak (280m). It was a nice track with a little rock climbing at the top, which was rewarded with stunning 360° views.
Then we came back down and carried on Forest Road. This is a wide road shared with mountain bikers, but we only met a few. Not very far at all from the end of Forest Road was our next night spot, the Kaiaraara hut. It was pretty full already when we arrived, so some people chose to pitch their tents instead.
It was still quite early in the day, so after some food a few of us decided to take a walk to Port FitzRoy. It ended up being a bit longer then estimated, but oh my!
There was a general store,which was open when we got there, and we all had a beer (or two) and chips! What a treat in the middle of a four-day out-party tramp, not to mention more stunning views and a local giving some of us a ride part of the way back to the hut.
The next day we had a big climb ahead and, as we found out, a lot of stairs! Wow, I mean a lot! Some people powered through full steam ahead, while some, like me, got slower and slower the higher we went.
On the way, we made a stop and went to see one of the old kauri dams. Well, what’s left of them. They were very impressive.
Great Barrier was, once upon a time, a source of kauri, and it is also known for its whaling industry, honey export, a short-lived gold rush, and copper mining. It’s a beautiful place, this Great Barrier, and full of surprises.
After a stop at the top of Hirakimata (Mt Hobson) summit (627m) there was only a short walk down the hill to our next stop for the night, Mt Heale hut. This hut has stunning views during the day and beautiful sunset views over Little Barrier at night.
We arrived at Mt Heale Hut early, just in time for lunch. After everyone got settled, it was time to play a game.
Some of us were intrigued by the sound of the Monopoly game that claimed, on the packaging, that it could be played in twenty minutes. So a few of us huddled around a table and started to learn the rules of the game. Some players showed that being a property mogul came naturally to them. Others adopted a more calculated approach and soon got ahead by figuring out all the different strategies—and also being lucky enough to get all the right cards!
On the last day, we had heaps of time and we made a few stops before getting picked up. The first stop was Kaitoke Hot Springs. It was very pleasant and relaxing to soak in hot water after days of tramping, and we followed this with morning tea.
Some of us then left a bit earlier to have enough time to go exploring in the nearby Oreville stamping battery. The whole town of Oreville once surrounded the huge stamper battery of the Barrier Reefs gold mine.
Then it was time for our trusty hired van to come and pick us up. We were keen to hear all about what the home party had been up to while we were walking the Aotea Track. We even had time to stop at the pub for refreshments and another catch-up, which was an icing on the cake—a wonderful end to an even more wonderful trip.
Thanks, Annika, for organising!
The club trip to Great Barrier Island at Easter was nothing short of visually spectacular, with incredible views, amazing tracks, opportunities to swim in rivers, and beautiful beaches!
It all started bright and early on a calm Good Friday morning, with twenty of us meeting at pier 21 to meet our two very fast vessels from the Hauraki Express that took us to the island.
The trip over was awesome fun as we zoomed through the waves with seabirds all around us. We passed the car ferry with ease, and arrived on Great Barrier in two hours.
We were welcomed by stingrays that glided gracefully through the water by the wharf while we waited for the “barrier beasts”. (Those rental vans are are whole other story.)
We split into two groups when the rental vans arrived. The out party camped, and the home party stayed at Medlands Beach Backpackers & Villas.
The home-party lodgings worked out really well, with shared facilities and lots of resident native birds—definitely a bonus. Banded rails (they look like small weka, but not as cheeky and inquisitive), wood pigeons and kaka were constantly noshing on the fig and guava trees, and generally hanging out around our courtyard and rooms. Highlights were the rowdy, low fly-overs by nine kaka on Saturday morning and six on Sunday morning.
On Saturday morning the home party loaded into one of the vans, stopping for photos and to watch a surfing competition at a beach on the way to the volcanic rhyolite rock of Windy Canyon, and the highest point on the island, Mt Hobson. Although not that high at only 627 metres, there were 1000 steep steps up Mt Hobson to give the muscles a solid workout. The views through Windy Canyon and along the ridgeline up to Mt Hobson were absolutely superlative. Wow, just wow— 360-degree views!
After Mt Hobson, we were rewarded by a stunning swim at gorgeous Harataonga Beach on the way back to base.
With a full moon at its brightest on Saturday, we all headed down to the beach after dark to see the moon glowing absolutely gloriously.
On Sunday, another adventure on the western side of the island, Whangaparapara and Green Campsite, and a steep track up to an old logging area, then back down and along the Tramline Track—similar to the Incline Track in the Waitakeres but prettier. Some had an invigorating swim in the Kauri Falls swimming hole—and a few stream crossings.
Our destination was the Kaitoke Hot Springs Track, and we had a very soothing half-hour soak in the natural hot pools, with more banded rails moseying around.
We tore ourselves away from the relaxing hot pools to finish the track, skirting the wetlands back to our van.
On Monday, with only half the day to enjoy the island some more, half our group went to a bird sanctuary at Port Fitzroy and walk under the canopy of kauri.
The other half of the group walked down to Medlands Beach for a restorative beach yoga session, with the soothing sound of the waves caressing the foreshore beside us, and then swimming and walking afterwards. It was time to head back to catch our rapid charter boats home.
Our time on beautiful Great Barrier Island passed too quickly; we all wished we could have stayed longer to explore more.
A huge thank-you to organiser, Annika; drivers, Pete and Chris; Medlands for the home-party accommodation; and Hauraki Express boats for the very efficient and friendly service they provided. It wasn’t much over 1.5 hours back to Westhaven on the suitable tides.
If you’ve been thinking about coming out on a Sunday trip with the club but are unsure whether it’s for you, don’t hesitate any longer. You’re only a couple of steps away from joining in on one of our awesome away-trip experiences.
There was a good turnout for our trip to the stunning Karangahake Gorge, which meant a reasonably full bus and three groups.
My group had a great day. We headed up through the historic windows walk, and having promised glow worms, I think we saw a whole five!!! Oops! Glow worms on strike?!
Along to the base of the Dubbo 96 Track, which is where the other two groups started the climb to the summit, which, incidentally, is fairly progressive once you hit the main drag up the mountain.
But the summit wasn’t my group’s mission, so we made a beeline for our lunch spot near the gushing tunnel, and had an invigorating swim beforehand. We timed it nicely, as the bulk of people then started to invade our peace.
Thoroughly enjoying the different light as the sun moved across the sky, we crossed to the other side of the river over one of the quintessential Kiwi swing bridges.
There was so much history to take in along the way: the signage, historic equipment, old mining tunnels—some more obvious than others, and some collapsed inwards. Similar to the old Pump House, which is now closed due to a slip.
Our last slice of the past was the walk through the 1.1-kilometre rail tunnel, built in 1905, that has small seeping streamlets between some of the bricks. We made the most of the cooler tunnel before emerging into daylight, with the lure of swim number two in the main river near the carpark.
Another amazing day out with the club.