In 1902, the steamship Ventnor was carrying the bones of 499 Chinese gold miners from New Zealand to southern China when it sank off the coast of Northland. For more than a century, no one knew where the ship lay. Its discovery seven years ago kindled questions and disputes that blazed into controversy earlier this year. Who decides what happens to a wreck on the bottom of the sea? And what’s the rightful resting place of men who never made it home?
This month we revisit Te Hikoi o Te Kiri—previously covered here—as Te Araroa Trust (TAT) has recently opened a new section of track that allows walkers to proceed all the way down the western ridge of Mt Tamahunga to Matakana Valley Rd, completing the route planned many years ago.
Only an hour from Auckland, this walk can be rocky and muddy underfoot in parts and offers a reasonably intrepid adventure and nice “next step” for people more used to urban walking.
From the end of Rodney Rd, the first kilometre is across farmland with great views north to Mangawhai and south across the Mahurangi area. Crossing a gully—watch the footing—the track heads into the treeline where the ambience instantly changes as the beauty of regenerating native bush takes over.
Near the summit, a climb up a large rock can be testing but the reward is the view north from on top. A helicopter pad and trig mark the summit of Mt Tamahunga (437m) and from there on the underfoot conditions get quite rocky as the track leads directly under a weather radar station before improving as the gentle descent begins.
A ‘grassy knoll’ offers more views south across Omaha and Tawharanui towards Kawau Island, but for the most part it’s the splendour of the trees that will treat you on the way down. Towards the bottom two stiles are crossed before a narrow and slippery final section (across private land which TAT is very grateful to have access through) provides a tricky finish to the walk. A final 200m ascent delivers you to a stile onto Matakana Valley Rd. It’s south from there to Govan Wilson Rd where the Te Araroa route continues towards the Dome Valley, and Matakana village is 6km south, where cafes, bars and ice-cream await weary walkers.
If day-walking, it will take some organisation to leave a car at one end and drive around to the start. Note that room to park is very limited at the Matakana Valley Rd end—there is a small lay-by opposite the Govan Wilson Rd intersection and another slightly further south. Please do not park in any driveways or on the roadside as the road can be busy with quarry traffic—do take care.
The Motatapu Alpine track is one of the real jewels in the Te Araroa crown.
Opened in 2008, the track received initial fame for being negotiated by the Overseas Investment Office as a condition of purchase for Robert and Eileen Lange, better known as music producer Mutt Lange and country music singer Shania Twain.
If heading south, the track commences 2.5km up the Motatapu Rd from Glendhu Bay, following easy benched track the first 7km to Fern Burn Hut.
Continuing up the Fern Burn and over Jack Hall’s Saddle, a few hours of sidling and ridge walking (with some spectacular views as your reward) brings you into a spectacular high country basin and the Highland Creek Hut, one of the newest huts on the Te Araroa route, albeit with an occasionally rowdy gang of local possums.
From the Highland Creek Hut a challenging stretch awaits with a couple of steep climbs on the 11km stretch to Roses Hut, again though with wonderful views making it worthwhile and in the heat of summer a welcome dip in the river before arriving at the hut.
The final leg from Roses Hut starts with a climb up to the 1270m high point before descending to the Arrow River, which becomes the guide to Macetown. When the water is down the riverbed provides a quicker route, though if the water is high or discoloured the high water route sidles above the river before joining an old water race into Macetown.
For those wanting to add a day to this adventure, the Big Hill Track (12.5km, 4–5 hours) completes the journey into Arrowtown.
This is true alpine country—hence the name—and walkers should be well-prepared and aware of weather conditions. During summer expect scorching hot daytime temperatures, while in autumn and spring the night chill can come quickly. When there is poor weather, a number of river hazards may be best waited out, so take extra supplies in case that becomes a necessity.
“Havent heard of that track before?”And well you might ask, as the Deception-Mingha forms the mountain run component of the celebrated Coast-to-Coast race. Top athletes complete it in around three hours.
This route is a good step up for walkers wanting a “wilderness” experience. Though be warned, like any alpine route in New Zealand, it requires respect, preparation and awareness of local conditions. On the Deception side the track is rough and not regularly marked. However, in good conditions it is a reasonable route which most trampers take two days to complete.
Enter the track by crossing the Otira River on the Morrison footbridge then follow the Deception River up the true right side across river flats. Cross to the true left and follow rock cairns through the lower gorge, re-crossing the river where necessary. The route involves many river crossings—up to ten significant crossings in the lower Deception alone—so is vulnerable to bad weather. Don’t attempt it in heavy rain or when heavy rain is forecast. Come prepared to wait out flood conditions.
Continue to pick your way upwards, mostly in the riverbed though there are some small tracked portions under bush cover. There is a final steep climb over rough terrain to get up to the Goat Pass Hut (20 bunks), located a short distance below the pass itself. This is a good spot to overnight.
From the hut the track improves significantly but still has many river crossings. The track crosses Goat Pass on boardwalk sections then descends towards the bushline into the Mingha Valley. The track departs the river course towards Dudley’s Knob to avoid a difficult gorge and continues down to the Lower Mingha flats. Look for a safe crossing of the Bealey River near its confluence with the Mingha River and continue down towards Greyney Shelter Campsite on SH 73. The track line rises to the road along the way.
The area is also home to rare and protected blue duck/whio. DOC asks for sightings to be reported to staff at the Visitor Centre in Arthur’s Pass.
The Puhoi Track isn’t particularly intrepid but is a wonderful experience of New Zealand native bush and birdlife, less than 45 minutes north of Auckland an ideal ‘first time out’ on Te Araroa for those living in the big smoke.
Enter the track opposite Remiger Road and after crossing the swingbridge the route begins with a steady uphill trek then steps up onto the ridge, where you’ll encounter the first sighting of the splendid kauri tree. More than likely, a couple of friendly fantails/piwakawaka will also say hello as the track continues to climb to its highest point.
From there, meander downhill through clear native bush with mature puriri and totara commanding the forest. Reaching a small footbridge if you’ve approached quietly look up to see if you get a glimpse of the resident morepork/ruru that keeps watch.
The track continues through pine forest with occasional glimpses out into the valley. You reach another climb up steps, but hang in there, this will be your last climb for the day. At the top you again head through native bush and soon reach another close encounter with a number of kauri trees as well as stunning young forest.
Exiting the forest the track crosses farmland, with Puhoi in all its Bohemian glory standing out below. Another short bush section leads the track to join the Puhoi Lookout Loop Walk where there is a choice head left/ east for a gentler descent through the trees, or right/southwest to come down past the Arthur Dunn Memorial Lookout (though this is fairly steep and can be slippery at times).
The historic Puhoi Pub is a great spot to ‘debrief’ your walk, otherwise the Puhoi General Store, Puhoi Cottage Tearooms and Puhoi Valley Cheese Factory Café all have coffee and treats for all tastes.
A reasonable fitness is required to tackle the two uphills, and although the track is well formed underfoot, do wear good shoes and take care as it’s a little slippery when wet.
You’ll find plenty of parking in the Puhoi Domain turn right opposite the Puhoi Pub. A bit of organising may be needed to get to the far end of the track in time it is hoped a local shuttle service will grow.
This route is one of the real highlights of Te Araroa —particularly so when the weather conditions are favourable and allow unbridled views across the Mackenzie. Coupled with the yesteryear charm of the musterer huts en route, this is a magnificent New Zealand experience.
From the carpark, markers will guide the way to Bush Stream. From there it is a case of following the stream, either up or adjacent to it, crossing where needed. This is an unmarked route. Take particular care getting around (or over) Sawtooth Bluff and especially after rainfall or during the snow melt and when the river is high.
The track passes Crooked Spur Hut then ascends behind Crooked Spur before coming down across Packhorse and Sweeps Streams and to Stone Hut. Continuing alongside Bush Stream, the track proceeds to Royal Hut named after a fleeting 1970 helicopter visit by Prince Charles and Princess Anne.
After Royal Hut a five-kilometre climb, steep in places, takes walkers to Stag Saddle—at 1925 metres the highest point on the entire Te Araroa route. At Stag Saddle the option exists in good weather to climb to the west onto the ridge and descend down that, taking in the stunning panoramic views. Towards the end of the ridge, a 4WD track crosses the ridge and heads down to Camp Stream; follow that to Camp Stream Hut.
The ridge route should not be attempted in poor weather as the route is unmarked and prone to cloud/fog in bad weather. If the weather is poor, or for unconfident navigators, stick to the poled route down the valley.
From Camp Stream Hut there is a short, steep crossing of Coal River. There’s an earlier exit option down the Roundhill Skifield road, otherwise the route will follow the base of the Two Thumb Range before being guided by Boundary Stream out to Lilybank Road.
When planning to walk this route, the strong recommendation is to do it north to south—and if possible plan do it in good weather—so as to take advantage of the scenic descent overlooking Lake Tekapo. A comfortable three-day journey would be to plan stays at Stone Hut and Camp Stream Hut, though faster walkers could look to make it a two-day walk staying at Royal Hut.
The Te Araroa website has details of transport operators who can assist in taking walkers to/from the trailheads.
Te Araroa isn't all about back-country and wilderness – it encounters a number of New Zealand’s largest cities, including the “super”city, Auckland.
For Te Araroa through-walkers, reaching Auckland is either 20% into your journey south, or 80% through your journey north. Those heading south speak of the thrill of being back in “the big smoke” after spending 4–5 weeks en route from Cape Reinga, whilst those headed north need the fortitude to leave behind city comforts, set back out again and complete their trek. Either is made more enjoyable by the visual splendour of this route as it follows hidden walkways, suburban streets and golden beaches along the Hauraki Gulf.
Setting out from Long Bay, the Oneroa Track leads into the streets of Torbay, then the Lotus Walk into Browns Bay, which has a number of options for a refreshment stop. More of the same follows as reserve tracks and cliff-top streets take you through Rothesay Bay and onto Murrays Bay, where at the south end a low-tide option exists to walk the covered sewer pipe around the waterfront to Mairangi Bay—a hugely popular walk for local residents, so be prepared for people on sunny days. Mairangi Bay is again full of refreshment choices for those inclined.
The route again resumes via walkway and lane through Campbells Bay and Castor Bay to Milford. At Milford the route follows the beach and rocks to Takapuna, with the goodwill of private residents who have allowed public access—often right past the window.
The final leg from Takapuna to Devonport has one small stretch where the route uses the footpath along the major road, so keep an eye if little ones are with you. Those with energy still in the legs can take the option at the end of Cheltenham Beach to head up and over North Head, still bearing many WW2 fortifications.
At Devonport, many eateries and watering holes are around to celebrate reaching Auckland—and whether that has been done from Cape Reinga or Long Bay, it’s worthy of recognition. The ferry runs over to Auckland’s CBD to take weary walkers home for the night.
This coastal track connects Colac Bay with Riverton and is mostly near the coast. For Te Araroa through walkers heading south, the excitement builds as the finish line comes into sight—while for those heading north, as they leave the southern coast the realisation sets in that it really is quite a long way to Cape Reinga!
This route has been recently refurbished (November 2013) and is walkable for most levels of fitness and ability.
The track formally begins at the Colac Bay Rd/Colac Bay Foreshore Rd junction. If you choose to walk this northbound, then further up Colac Bay Rd, the Colac Bay Tavern is a great place to reflect on your day, share stories and sample local delights.
To do this track justice, time your walk around low tide so you can head east along the beach following the eastern shore of Colac Bay until the end of the sandy beach. From there, the marked track will take you in and out of the gulches and gluts of the Southland coast with views to Stewart Island. Waves and weather roll in off the Southern Ocean—keep an eye on the Longwoods (north of Colac Bay) as local legend has it that if you see them take on a blue-ish hue, rain is imminent.
From the final deer fence the track leaves the coast and heads up towards, then through, Mores Reserve to emerge at a car park at the end of Richard St. There are public toilets here. Walk down Richard St towards Riverton. At the bottom of Richard St turn left onto Bay Rd and walk around to the Palmerston Rd Bridge. The Tihaka Beach Track ends at the far end of the bridge.
Be aware that this section is closed during September and October for lambing. It is foot access only and dogs are prohibited.
This walk is relatively easy and can be done year-round—though take care when the river is high and use the alternatives if you need to. Leaving a car at the Mercer Service Centre is the better option, particularly as there is some major road construction work taking place at Rangiriri at the moment. Two pubs and various food options can make a nice end to the day.
From the service centre, go over the SH1 overbridge to Skeet Rd (first on the right) and up the hill—where the orange Te Araroa markers start guiding the way.
The initial stages have a few ups and downs, though pass through native bush and marshland areas where you’ll see plenty of birdlife and may even have a fantail keep you company.
There is a choice of walking past the Whangamarino Redoubt—a historically significant site from the Maori Wars—or walking down through a pocket of DOC reserve, both arriving at the Whangamarino flood protection gates, before the track takes you under the rail and expressway bridges to reach the Waikato River. Down the side of SH1 to the former Meremere Power Station, then the track follows the stopbank cross-country to the rear of the Meremere Dragway complex.
The first 9.5 kilometres from Dragway Rd to the Te Kauwhata Pumphouse is the most scenic part of the track. It follows farm tracks and the stopbank, and kahikatea, cabbage trees and puketea alongside the trail give a hint of the original riverside vegetation.
Two kilometres south of the pumphouse, watch Ararimufor Tarahanga, an island that was used in former times as a Maori sentry post to detect invaders on the river. High priests here once uttered powerful incantations and sounded alarms through a rock structure known as Te Pahuu o Ngati Pou, warning of any impending danger.
The track continues along the stopbank parallel to Churchill East Road for most of the remaining 8.5 kilometres to Rangiriri, diverting onto the road for a period, then returning to the stopbank again for the final two kilometres—though continuing on the road may be a preference for some. Take care near the end as some road construction is taking place.
This versatile track can be used as a short half-day loop, as part of a two-day hike, or as part of the continuous Te Araroa walk.
Starting from the Northern side, begin by following the Te Araroa markers from the intersection of Cove Road and Bream Tail Road. The track begins by crossing over the contours of farmland, winding its way back towards Mangawhai Heads. Once reaching the coastline, you will be afforded views to surrounding islands and landmarks—the Hen and Chicken Islands, the imposing Sail Rock, Little Barrier Island’s distinctive spine and, further afield, Great Barrier Island.
The coastline leg of the track is framed with flax bushes and nikau palms, and frequent bird life. The walkway winds up with a descent down to Mangawhai Beach. After a jaunt along the beach, the walk concludes a Mangawhai Heads.
This track can be turned into a pleasant half-day loop by starting at the Mangawahi Heads Surf Club, crossing the beach, and looping around the coastal leg of the walk. The two-day hike can begin with this track in full, then continue through Mangawhai Heads Bream Bay and down to Te Arau beach. You can rest overnight at the Pakiri Beach campground, before heading up Te Hikoi O Te Kiri to the summit of Mt Tamahunga (with the new route down the western ridge opening later in 2013), and completing your journey with refreshments in Ruakaka R Matakana Village.
It’s best to check the status of the track on sby the Te Araroa website before heading out, as it closes annually for lambing season.
As well as being the first leg of Te Araroa’s South Island route, the Queen Charlotte Track is one of New Zealand’s most popular standalone hikes. You’ll walk alongside, or often high above, the pretty fingers and bays of the Marlborough Sounds. Geologically this is a drowned landscape, that’s sinking, millimetre by millimetre, each year, about as fast as the land east of Wellington is rising.
A water taxi takes you from Picton to the track start at Ship Cove, and the Captain Cook Monument there. Ship Cove became a favoured anchorage for Cook. who first visited here in 1770 and returned another four times during his three Pacific voyages. It has historical cred—Cook first saw Cook Strait from Arapawa Island near here. Its latitude is slightly north of Te Araroa’s North Island terminus at Island Bay, Wellington, an overlap that preserves the trail’s north-south continuity.
The track offers a range of accommodation and services that’s unusual for New Zealand’s Department of Conservation tracks. A tramper can choose the comfort of sheets at privately owned lodges, but they also usually offer back-packer accommodation. And there are also DOC campgrounds. Whatever you choose, there’s the option to have your pack ferried forward each day by launch.
The first day is a steepish climb, with lots of bird-song, then a descent to Furneaux Lodge. A flat walk follows around to Camp Bay, with the choice of a restaurant meal at Punga Cove. The track then climbs to a high central ridge and stays there for 22 kilometres. At Torea Saddle trampers usually take the one-kilometre side road to the Portage Resort Hotel, which has backpacker as well as more refined accommodation. The track then climbs steeply to its highest point (407metres) then undulates away to its ending at Anakiwa.
Some of Te Araroa’s routes are less thanideal. The footpath between Paekakariki andPukerua Bay just north of Wellington, for example, runs alongside the busy Centennial Highway, and few but the dedicated through
tramper would walk it.
Te Araroa Trust is gradually eliminating such sections, and work is underway here on a new 7-km route with some of the most amazing coastal views in the country—the Paekakariki Escarpment Track.
The track is unfinished, but Wellington Te Araroa Trust recently decided that the first two kilometres should be opened as a daywalk to allow walkers a sample of its considerable charms. It’s not properly signposted yet, but here’s how to do it.
Get to Paekakariki by train or car. Walk past the local cafes and turn down Ames Street. Halfway along, the present Te Araroa through route leaves Ames Street for the Domain, but ignore that, and continue along Ames Street to its junction with State Highway One. Turn left and follow the footpath north across the highway over-bridge, then descend stairs to go under the highway.
The track that begins here is high standard. Water crossings are bridged, and sports shoes are sufficient footwear, but take a jacket for it can get windy. It ascends with seats at various viewpoints to a height of 80 metres, with sweeping views along the western coast, and out to Kapiti Island.
About two kilometers along the escarpment you’ll strike a barrier across the track. Turn there and make your way back. The contractor is working beyond the barrier, taking the track up to a 200-metre lookout point. From there it’ll taper down to finish at the old Muri Railway Station. When the blue line is complete, the whole track will become part of Te Araroa’s through route.
For 10 years, from 1975 to 1985, sport and politics collided in New Zealand, and as with this year’s Beijing Olympics, political agendas, national pride and people’s lives were on the line. In 1976, the eyes of the world were on the 21st Olympic Games: an opening ceremony in Montreal’s Olympic Stadium was marred by the withdrawal of 24 African nations, a figure that grew to 28 during the games, in protest against the All Blacks tour of apartheid South Africa. Five years later the Springboks were to tour New Zealand, an event that led to social division and civil disobedience on a scale never seen before or since in this country.