North Shore Tramping Club
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.
Starting at Little Shoal Bay, we walked on the freshly salt-burned grass from the recent high tides, over the bridge into Le Roys Bush, and up along the tracks, admiring the 20-metre-high waterfall as we passed and onto the new board-walked area to Hinemoa Street.
At the council stream-fish research area we spotted one of the native fish! At the lookout, we admired the stunning views across the treetops where we’d just walked.
We were tempted to stop at the cafe but, being good trampers, we kept walking towards the Chelsea Sugar Refinery’s new walking bridge and past their grounds to head back into the bush towards Kendall Bay and Kauri Point.
We were feeling the heat and humidity, so the cloud cover was welcome. We stopped to admire the view back across the Harbour Bridge, and passed a family that had been for a swim at gorgeous Kendall Bay. Although tempted to do the same, we took photos instead. We still had the steps to take on up to Onetaunga Road, with early lunch in the shade.
We headed back into the bush along the surreal little pathways and bridges by the gently trickling stream to Mappin Place, stopping to admire the two large kauri before reaching the Birkenhead War Memorial Park. Then into Kauri Glen and along the oak-tree lined path back to Le Roys Bush and the cars.
We had the company of gently trickling streams alongside us most of the day, but the ground was surprisingly dry in all bar a few places, including one small slip.
It was a pleasure to find an urban walk that had lovely secluded areas of bush and forest, where we could almost forget we were in suburbia.
Well, what can I say about the Mahurangi Open Day for newbies except that it was hugely successful! We had a good turnout of club members and big turnout of newbies, both novice and experienced trampers joining in for the experience.
Breaking into a few groups, we warmed up the muscles with a gentle hill climb, enjoying the stunning view from the top of the first hill and dropping down the other side to a low-tide knee-deep stream crossing. A new experience for some, they opted to take off their shoes, while the non-leathershoe people left theirs on.
With wet feet, my group explored the new area above Te Muri Beach, recently gifted to Auckland Council with some fun new tracks to explore, including a new bush track. We dropped back down through the long grass to the beach and headed around the foreshore to Pudding Island, and enjoyed a fantastic cooling shower on the way.
Pudding Island can only be accessed at low tide, and it’s still a wade through knee-deep water to the island—good fun!
By now everyone was ready to put their nose bags on to scoff down some lunch, so we headed back to Big Yellow (the bus) parked at Sullivan’s Bay.
After lunch, we headed off to catch the last of the low tide and walked around to the very pretty Mita Bay, then tackled the short but steep (80 metres) climb up to Tungutu Point. The killer views kept everyone’s cameras lit up.
By now, we were all feeling overly toasty in the very warm weather, so we went straight back down via the bush track to Sullivan’s Bay for a very refreshing swim. The perfect way to finish a summer tramp!
For those who missed out, or who haven’t been to this park before, it’s stunning and very much worth the visit for the variety of tracks and safe swimming, plus campgrounds.
This was a really cool tramp from Long Bay Regional Park to Okura return. Timing things right, our mixed group of keen newbies and members had time to scoot around the foreshore, making the most of the very low king tides, at two bays, on a slightly overcast morning. Perfect for a coastal tramp.
We went back along the cliffs, meeting other club members on the way. We were surprised to see that the storm hadn’t caused that much damage.
We spotted a variety of bird life, a monarch butterfly a long way from any swan plants, and lots of pretty coastal copper butterflies, too.
Needless to say, there were lots of photos taken along the way.
Photos from the Wangapeka/Leslie Karamea Trip
What makes for a great Christmas tramp? Good company, settled weather, a new route, some navigational challenges, extensive mountain views, beautiful campsites, and a loud dawn chorus. Our party of five—Beth, David, Helen, Karen M and Roger—had them all.
It was four hours to Fenella Hut on the first day, then our fun really began. We climbed 500 metres up through the bush, and onto the open tops near Waingaro and Kakapo Peaks. Not a cloud in the sky and massive views of mountain range upon mountain range; we were conscious of our tiny insignificance in a gigantic landscape.
After lunch we dropped steadily from 1800 metres down a narrow, rocky ridge to the bush line.
By mid-afternoon we emerged from the bush to one of the most delightful huts in the country. Lonely Lake hut had been splendidly refurbished with yellow-ochre walls and a deep blue roof, and insulation in the walls and plywood panelling inside. And joy and bliss, we had the hut all to ourselves. That afternoon we sat in the sun with our hot drinks and views down a very steep valley to the West.
In the morning we climbed up to Drunken Sailor’s peak, with views to Dragon’s Teeth and Adelaide Tarn. We could see the ridge ahead of us leading down to the Anatoki River, but couldn’t see any obvious way to get to it.
After some consultation, we took the wise step of keeping to the open tops and climbing up to a narrow ridge where there was a trail that made for easy going.
The 800-metre drop down through the beech trees took some time and various members of the party took a tumble.
After lunch we followed the Anatoki River down the valley. There was no track and it was slow going. We were sometimes in the river and sometimes bush-bashing to avoid rocks and windfalls.
It was a relief to meet the Anatoki Valley Track, which took us up to the saddle and down to the Stanley River. It was a 10-hour day, with great variety, some challenges and a great campsite at the end. Not another soul did we meet all day.
As the dawn broke, we had the longest and loudest dawn chorus I have ever heard. What a way to start the day. Our last day was up an old pack track through beech forest.
John Hoy, Trish and Gillian came in to meet us and transport us back to our accommodation at the Collingwood Motor Camp.
This trip was South Island tramping at its finest.
The Secret Seven, a group of trampers named Campbell, Jan, Karen, Bernard, Paul, Monika and Vivienne, are always ready for an adventure, big or small! Something very strange is happening in the Cobb Valley, and the Secret Seven are desperate to find out what. It looks like the Seven have another mystery to solve …
Up at five am to catch flights to Nelson, then a shuttle bus to the top of Graham Valley Rd for lunch at the Flora carpark. The thirty or so cars had us thinking we would be tenting that night, but most were day trippers climbing Mt Arthur.
About one and a half hours of easy climbing through sub-alpine scrub with lots of big neinei (Dracophyllum) brought us to the cosy 8-bunk hut just below the bushline. A family of weka entertained us scavenging for anything they could carry that might be food, and we got in some practice for guarding our belongings—we met families of weka at every stop along the trail during the next four days.
A short stroll beyond the hut gave us magnificent views across to Nelson.
At 7.45 am we set off on the easy-grade track to the summit. About an hour and a half up, we hid our packs at the Gordon’s Pyramid turnoff and continued climbing for another hour and a half to the summit. Lovely weather, beautiful alpine flowers and magnificent views.
Gordon’s Pyramid looked easy—just a few ups and downs along a ridge—but how wrong we were. Packs back on after lunch at the junction and the first steep descent then steep climb warmed us up.
The rest of the day was very hot, lack of fitness took its toll and I had a cold. For various reasons, especially the hot weather, we always took longer than the official track times, but it wasn’t a problem as we had plenty of time. The summit of Gordon’s Pyramid rewarded us with more wonderful view, with Salisbury Lodge visible in the distance.
A very steep descent through bush and interesting limestone formations, then a long but gentle climb to Salisbury Lodge.
The glorious evening enticed six of us to erect tents while the one member with earplugs slept inside the full hut with a noisy three year old. A nice hut with twelve bunks, but the narrow seat attached to a table was a trap and we nearly had a casualty with concussion.
Weka here were very busy so tents were kept zipped, but in the morning someone forgot about the weka, which was last seen running off to the bush carrying “someone’s” bag of rubbish! It would have been chased if “someone else” was not rolling on the ground laughing.
On the third day, the white stuff on the tents was frost, ironical since that day became came one of the hottest of our trip.
The four ladies enjoyed the loop walk to the Potholes and Sphinx Stream. We didn’t solve the mystery of where the cave was, but we loved exploring the sinkholes in the limestone with the gentians and bulbinella flowers.
We returned to drop tents and head across the tablelands: Salisbury Lodge to Balloon Hut, then Lake Peel for lunch and out over Cobb Ridge to Trilobite hut (see photo above) at the head of the Cobb hydro lake. This took most of the day as it was very hot, and overheating and blisters slowed us down. From Cobb Ridge, we had a great view of the lake with its very low water level.
Nice camping conditions, so some of us tented beside Trilobite hut. As we were heading to bed, the extended family, which included two young children, arrived from Salisbury Lodge. They came via a different route, and the children did well (they were carried through the spiny speargrass, which was face height for them).
On day four we went up the Cobb Valley past rustic Chaffey hut, recently restored, then to the NZ Forest Service tent camp for lunch. Also nicely restored, it’s a classic design dating from the pre-1950s deerculling days before huts were built for the cullers.
Due to blisters, three people chose to stop at Cobb hut for the night while the rest of us continued for another thirty minutes to Fenella hut. Cobb hut is a classic old 4-bunk hut while Fenella is a luxurious 30-year-old hut, famous for its loo with stained glass window and door, and a handbasin with continuous piped water.
Fenella has marae-style bunks and mezzanine, and we enjoyed the afternoon sun and views of the mountains.
A 10-minute walk up through the subalpine scrub was well worth it for the glorious swim in the lake and much needed wash.
Jan and I photographed bog plants and dragonflies nearby. If we’d had the energy we could have climbed nearby Kakapo Peak, but after the swim it was nice to snooze on a bunk in the sun.
We met an older gentleman who was climbing the nearby mountains with his daughter. He told us about Friends of Flora and Friends of the Cobb, two groups of volunteers responsible for the abundance of weka and robins in the area, thanks to their dedication in setting hundreds of stoat traps along the tracks and elsewhere.
Sadly, we didn’t hear or see kea anywhere, except near Flora carpark. We hope that efforts to control stoat will bring them back to our mountains.
On the last day we went back down the valley to Trilobite. Three of us detoured to Lake Cobb, enjoying the dracophyllum forest and several very friendly robins.
The mystery solved? Remove the predators and the birds will return to our forests. It was such a joy to be greated by a robin nearly every time we stopped. The Whangapeka-Leslie trio joined us near Trilobite hut.
Big thanks to Neil and Gillian for the long drive from Collingwood to collect us and take us back there for showers, clean clothes and New Year’s Eve dinner with members of all the other parties. Thank you, team for your wonderful company.
Two years ago I suggested to Roger that we do one of my bucket-list trips to Brewster Hut at Christmas. That came up tops so then I suggested we do another from my BL—to the remote Kahurangi Keepers House (DOC hut).
By the time we had all done our 5-day Kahurangi high-country tramp and overnighted in Collingwood, the numbers for the coastal walk had dropped from twelve to just six. No problem.
We set off on what turned out to be a scenic 2-hour drive to the West Coast. The first hour had us beside the forested Whanganui Inlet, with southern rata in full bloom. Then we passed through karst landscapes, with amazing groves of nikau. Finally we arrived at the Anatori River, which was as far as our vehicle could go.
From here onwards it was 4-wheel-drive country. Just as this trip was on my bucket list, so it was for the 4-wheel drivers and quad bikers. Not such a remote destination after all.
For our lunchtime entertainment, we waited for the tidal river to drop low enough for the vehicles on the far side to cross over. Once they had done so safely, we crossed in the same spot.
We climbed up the road and took off cross-country, passing through farmland and descending to beach level. We forded a further two streams before coming to a stop at Big River.
The DOC notes strongly advise that this river can only be crossed at dead low tide. Again, we watched the 4-wheel drives cross and then linked up in two groups of three. We made our way across safely, with our shorts getting wet in each of the three troughs we encountered.
From Big River to the lighthouse is an easy walk along the white sandy beach, which has subtropical forest right at the water edge and groves of nikau. It should be called the “Nikau Coast”.
We marched up to Keepers House and were glared at by the 4-wheel drivers who Keepers House and the Kahurangi Lighthouse had taken up residency in the house or camped around the grounds. One of them suggested we might want to camp in a nikau grove down by the beach. We were pleased to do that because it gave us our own space, and we only ventured up to the house to fetch drinking water.
The next morning after breakfast we bush/long-grass crashed up the ridge and along to the Kahurangi Lighthouse. We had to do this because vehicle drivers use the low tide to go around the point and then walk straight up. It was high tide so we needed to use the ridge.
Back to camp for a leisurely lunch, in mid afternoon we headed back down the beach to Big River, where I had a swim. We waited for the tide to recede before we again followed the vehicles across.
We went back much the same way and as it took us until eight pm to arrive back at the Anatori, we enjoyed the late-afternoon sun highlighting the Kahurangi hills and forests to our east. And it got even better as we drove in the Twilight back out to Collingwood.
Shots were being taken of the incredible orange and pink in the sky and on the waters of the Whanganui Inlet. The supermoon was up in the east as we drove back into Collingwood at ten pm. That made up for missing dinner!
If we’d gone at any other time of the year we might have shared this lovely bit of NZ with only a handful of others. I was pleased to have done this walk. The river crossings made it an adventure and the subtropical forest backdropwasis stunning.
Thanks, Roger, for driving us in and out safely, and for providing a tramping week where we went from a 1500-metre sub-alpine height to a subtropical beach paradise.
The Keepers party: Roger, David, Paul, Helen, with co-leaders Beth and Karen M.