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(New Edition) Geoff Norman, Te Papa, $59.99
The Pirongia Traverse crosses the old volcanic cone of Mt Pirongia (959 metres) and is part of the Te Araroa route connecting Hamilton and Waitomo. South-west of Pahautea Hut it includes almost a kilometre Pirongia of mountain-top boardwalk. Te Araroa’s construction manager, Noel Sandford, organised the boardwalk construction in 2006 to take trampers across deep mud, and to protect Dactylanthus, the rare ‘wood rose’. Under his instruction, year 12 students at six Waikato secondary schools prefabricated dozens of 10-metre sections, which were then airlifted into place by an RNZAF No. 3 Squadron Iroquois. The boardwalk was completed in time for a December 2009 opening by Prime Minister John Key. From the Kaniwhaniwha carpark on Limeworks Loop Road, the track leads away three kilometres through new plantings to a stopover campground with toilets and water. From there take the Tahuanui Track, a steady and sometimes muddy eight-kilometre climb to the summit, where there’s a lookout with commanding views across the Waikato plains. Onwards from there another kilometre, you can overnight at Pahautea Hut, but it requires a DOC hut pass. Alternatively you can pitch a tent nearby on well-drained dry bark sites. On a clear evening here, the views from the helipad stretch south as far as the Central Plateau and Mt Taranaki. The new boardwalk then leads away from the hut to the Hihikiwi Summit, with another good lookout en route over the west coast’s Kawhia and Aotea harbours. From there, follow the Hihikiwi Track down the southwest flank of the mountain to Pirongia West Road.
The track goes over Mt Tamahunga (437 metres) the highest accessible summit between Auckland and Whangarei. It’s named for Te Kiri, a Ngati Wai chief who in 1864 rescued 180 Waikato prisoners from Governor George Grey’s nearby Kawau Island estate and brought them here, beyond reach of the British military. The Government demanded that the escaped warriors, many captured at the battle of Rangiriri, give themselves up. Government negotiators were met with the reply: “How many birds, having escaped from the snare, return to it?” From the Bathgate Road-end head up steep farm pasture 2.5 kilometres to the ridge, and the Rodney Road-end there. If you want to avoid this quite rough and tiring start, then you can start the track at the Rodney Road-end instead. The track then crosses farmland, then bush, before a final climb up to the summit. The final climb encounters a ‘Hillary Step’ with a foothold hacked out of stone. Immediately above the step is a lookout with views north back to Bream Head. An old helicopter platform at the summit makes a good lunch platform, but you’re enclosed by bush here, and there’s no further view north. You do get views south from lookout spots once you start descending the mountain. The track is often steep on this last section, exiting finally across a private farm, onto Omaha Valley Road. Keep an eye on the Te Araroa website, as negotiations are underway to obtain a route down the south-western ridge, going past the weather radar station that sits like a huge golfball just below the summit, to exit on Matakana Valley Road. This new route, once in place, will eliminate the 14 kilometre road detour that south-bound Te Araroa long walkers presently have to endure before they link to the next off-road section at Dome Forest.
This four-day tramp crosses the Southern Alps at Harper Pass (962m). Low passes through the Alps are rare, so it’s been well used in the past—by Maori as a green-stone route, and by miners coming over from Canterbury during the West Coast gold rush in the 1860s. In 1867, a more direct road route to the Coast opened through Arthurs Pass, and the Harper Pass bridle track lapsed. Yet it has its intrinsic delights—a hot pool, a crossing of the Alps—and in the 1930s the Physical Welfare Division of the Department of Internal Affairs built four substantial huts along the route, and opened it. The Department hoped to emulate the success of the Milford Track, but the Harper Pass Track never got those kind of legs. It remains lightly used, but is relatively easy and interesting. Easy that is, except for its length, and for un-bridged crossings of the Taramakau and Otehake rivers at the southern end, and also—unless you use the Morrison flood bridge—the Otira River. Trampers with river-crossing experience will ford these rivers safely in normal to low flows, but when river levels are high, they’re impassable. When tramping from north to south, the historic Locke Stream Hut near the headwaters of the Taramakau has a radio link to DOC’s Arthurs Pass National Park Visitor Centre on which you can request weather forecasts, and estimate if the Taramakau, Otehake and Otira rivers are going to be a problem. Carry extra food in order to backtrack to huts, or camp, while waiting for river levels to subside. The track follows the Hope Fault throughout, a splinter fault that angles east away from the Alpine Fault and eases the strain of New Zealand’s contending plates by sideways slippage. Te Araroa through-trampers will access it via the Tui Track that comes down from Boyle Village at the end of the St James walkway, but those using it as a standalone tramp will come in from Windy Point.
After three decades abroad, an anthropologist’s daughter returns to the remote atoll of her childhood, and is welcomed home.
May is probably the last practical month to undertake this three- or four-day tramp before winter and spring turn the approaches to Mt Martha Saddle into an avalanche path. Even so, any recent dump of snow will make conditions difficult. Birchwood Rd carpark to Top Timaru Hut – 23 km. Follow the marked route to Avon Burn, ford the burn and head up the farm track to Mt Martha Saddle (1680m). An unmarked bulldozer track then takes you down to Top Timaru Hut, just refurbished by DOC. Top Timaru Hut to Stodys Hut – 14.5 km. Progress is slow on a marked track that sidles along the true left of a steep valley, through to a grassy spot 2.5 km downstream. The 7 km stretch ahead has a dozen river crossings, straightforward in normal flows, and emerges at the Breast Hill Track/Timaru River Track junction. The track then climbs steeply to Stodys Hut. Stodys Hut via Pakituhi Hut to Gladstone Reserve – 16.5 km. The ridge route follows an old farm track with Mt Aspiring standing out to the west. A foul weather route departs to the left before the track reaches the Breast Hill summit (1578 m) but press on to the summit and you look down on Lake Hawea township 1200 m below, and the Wanaka Basin beyond. This is Te Araroa’s memorable entry into Otago. The track hugs a fenceline down to the new 8-bunk Pakituhi Hut (1300 m). The track then descends along the ridgeline to a small saddle, before zigzaging down a steep face to the road and the nearby reserve.
Te Araroa trust has just opened the Kerikeri track as a significant extension to the existing 3.5-km DOC Kerikeri River Track. Trampers who use the track simply as a day-walk from Kerikeri can now double that distance, 7 km through to SH10. More ambitious day-walkers can venture another 5 km on to Maungaparerua (241 m) and a wide outlook over the Bay of Islands. The new track is part of the 200-km ‘Ocean to Ocean’ Te Araroa section, Ahipara to Kerikeri. Te Araroa through-walkers will come onto the track from the north-western end at Puketi Forest HQ, then follow Waiare Road for 1.5 km, before crossing onto Landcorp’s Puketotara Farm. Expect some attention from the farm’s curious heifers. The track then breaks out onto Mangakaretu Road before re-entering the Landcorp farm, sidling around Maungaparerua and dropping steeply down to Maungaparerua Stream. The track crosses private farmland as it follows the stream to the Kerikeri River. It then follows the river downstream on the true right, crossing on a new swingbridge, then ducking under the SH10 highway bridge to continue following the river on the true left through totara groves to a DOC viewing platform at Rainbow Falls. The preexisting DOC track then leads through bush and past an old hydro-electric plant, 3.5 km to Kerikeri Basin Recreation Reserve, Kemp House and the Old Stone Store.
The first in a series of guides to the recently opened Te Araroa trail, selected by its founder Geoff Chapple.
According to one Maori legend there were five brothers, Manaia, Maungaraho, Tokatoka, Motowhitiki and Taungatara, who were disillusioned with their lives in Hawaiki. Under cover of darkness they decided to follow the path of the great explorer Kupe and travel to Aotearoa. At dawn the mighty Atua took away their powers of motion, stranding them in their present resting places. Manaia, Maungaraho, Tokatoka and Motowhitiki all lie in a straight line to Ripiro Beach, where Taungatara, the smallest peak, stands. The songs and legends of Ngapuhi and Ngati Whatua remember this story. Another Maori legend accounts for the five peaks on the summit ridge relating to Manaia and his family. The largest peak represents Manaia himself, the smaller pinnacles are his children, while the last figure is his unfaithful wife, turning her head away in shame. Mt Manaia is the eroded skeleton of an andesite cone, erupted 22–16 million years ago. The layers of andesitic breccia are visible on the summit ridge and rocks in the matrix are visibly exposed on the sides of the pinnacles. Rare plant communities adorn the slopes, with parapara, large leaf milk tree and native angelica being some of the more notable species. The exposed rocky ridge has examples of mountain daisy, native forget-me-not and sprawling pomaderis. Much of the plant and birdlife is shared with the Three Kings, Hen and Chickens and Poor Knights Island groups. TRACK NOTES The track is marked with orange triangles and is uneven and steep. It takes approximately 45 minutes to the signposted Bluff Lookout. This two-minute detour takes you to an opening in the forest at the top of an exposed rock face. Take extreme care while admiring the view as the wind can be gusty. The final ascent to the summit takes approximately 15 minutes. A wooden staircase leads to a flat rock area below the main pinnacles. There is no access to the trig at the summit. An alternative route is signposted from the top and drops very steeply, sometimes aided with a steel cable to steady the descent. This takes 45 minutes and arrives at the start of the track.
There is not much native forest of any kind left in South Canterbury, but most of it is in Peel Forest. Some massive totara live on the fertile flat below Little Mount Peel, and this walk climbs up through the bush to a high alpine peak, with an eye-opening view of the patchwork plains. From the Blandswood carpark take the Deer Spur track, which passes the junction with the Fern Walk and climbs steadily up through a mixed forest of fuchsia, broadleaf, lemonwood (tarata) and mahoe, with a glossy carpet of ferns. There are occasional views of the plains as the track passes the junction with Allan’s Track, and some southern rata trees (look out for the crimson flowers at Christmas time). The track then enters the upper alpine shrub belt, which consists of turpentine, flax and dracophyllums. The tarn, which is at an altitude of 900 m, might be something of a disappointment if it has not rained for a while, leaving little more than a sodden bogland. However, there are some splendid specimens of spaniard with razor-sharp flowering stalks, often reaching over a metre in height. The track winds up the spur onto the tussock, with extensive boardwalks higher up. The last 150 m is a steeper, muddier climb to the small, sharp top of Little Mount Peel. There is a beacon on top and a small shelter 20 m below (enclosed, with seats and water).
Northland seems to have a baffling surplus of coastal scenery, and each twist and turn of the road to Tawharanui reveals another magical indentation. Matronly peninsulas shepherd close-knit groups of islands, and each bay is a slice of summer all year round. Anchor Bay is an open, sandy beach broken with tidal platforms, offshore reefs and headlands with sea caves. Large pohutukawa trees perch on the beach edge. It is hard to walk away from all this, but if you choose to do so, there is a fine walking circuit around the peninsula. From Anchor Bay follow the farm road up onto the broad tops of the peninsula, crossing an ecology trail. There are good views along the farmland past grazing Hereford cattle and Romney sheep. After about two kilometres you reach a track junction that is about 90 m above sea level, where you have the option of following the peninsula out to Takatu Point. You can see cloud-capped Little Barrier Island in the distance, and Kawau Island nearby to the south. Follow the track along the south coast and turn onto the side-track that drops through a shady stream with stands of manuka and puriri, then follows alongside a dam, meeting the ecology trail again on the way. Shortly you exit out to Anchor Bay again and that immaculate stretch of sand.
The Maniototo was first explored in 1857 by pioneer surveyor John Turnbull Thompson, who gave the area its distinctive English/Scottish border dialect farm-animal place names. Like many isolated rural areas, the Maniototo has suffered from a continued population decline. However the advent of the Otago Central Rail Trail and the popularity of places like Naseby, driven by increasingly unaffordable property prices in Queenstown and Wanaka, have revitalised the region. Track Notes From the Old Dunstan Rd, the walk follows the legal road line south along the crest of Rough Ridge for about six kilometres to a private hut beside the road. The road enters the signposted Serpentine Scenic Reserve three kilometres past the hut. It is worth making a short detour to Trig H, the high point of Rough Ridge (1174 m above sea level). There is a great viewpoint here over the surrounding vast tussock uplands, with both the Poolburn and Upper Manorburn reservoirs visible. One kilometre past the trig is the turnoff down to the Long Gully Mine and battery. Follow a 4WD track west for about 200 m to a group of stone hut remains beside a large rock with a butcher’s hook drilled into it. Directly down-slope of these huts is the mine site, which is marked by a mullock heap and a tipping bench at the mouth of a tunnel, which is knee-deep in water. From the tunnel an old, level, sledge track leads north for several hundred metres to the top of an inclined rail track. Follow this incline directly down to the battery site beside Long Valley Creek. Retrace your steps back up to the 4WD track on the crest of Rough Ridge. The Old Serpentine Church is a further two kilometres along the main 4WD track of Long Valley Ridge Rd. Points of Interest The Old Serpentine Church is a symbol of Otago’s goldfields heritage. There are few more evocative memorials to the hardiness and enterprise of the pioneer miners than this lonely stone building in its desolate surroundings. There are scattered alluvial workings, including water races and holding dams, all over the reserve. Small-scale alluvial mining commenced in 1863 and was largely abandoned by the late 1880s. The quartz–bearing reefs were discovered in the 1870s. The Long Valley stamper was erected on the top of the ridge in 1882 and moved to its current site in 1890, but was abandoned in 1891. Its current good state of preservation owes much to its isolation.
The Mackenzie Country is a unique New Zealand landscape: raw, open, full of light. This tussock wilderness is a world away from the organised patchwork quilt of Canterbury, yet is separated from it by only one low pass. Burkes Pass was one of the routes that Maori took for seasonal food gathering, and it later became the ‘dray highway’ in the 1850s as the first pioneer settlers moved into this harsh landscape. Many of these settlers were of Scottish origin, and it is said that in 1858 there were more Gaelic speakers in the Mackenzie Country than English. James McKenzie was one of these, and his attempt to steal sheep and take them over a secret pass into the Mackenzie Basin in 1855 made him more notorious than he could ever have imagined. After two (or three) escapes from Lyttelton gaol, he was pardoned on the grounds that the trial was conducted in English and that McKenzie might not have understood it. At Mount Cook village there are many great short walks, but it pays to pick your weather. The nor’wester that howls across the Mackenzie Country is famous for spoiling a few mountaineers’ dreams. Track Notes The Hooker Valley is a fine walk into the heart of Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park, with gorges, glaciers, lakes and (in season) the Mount Cook lily to see. The track starts from the White Horse camping area and passes the original site of the Hermitage and an alpine memorial. The track zig-zags down to the first swingbridge across the milky-blue Hooker River. Good views continue up-valley past the Mueller Glacier terminal lake, and the track cuts along a gorge with another spectacular swing-bridge. After the bridge, the track runs around to the Stocking Stream shelter and toilet. After a flat section with some boardwalks, the track goes over a slight rise and you reach the ‘ice lake’ or terminal lake of the Hooker Glacier. Points of Interest The Mount Cook lily (Ranunculus lyalli) is really the world’s largest buttercup. Other interesting plants to see include the spiky matagouri shrub, the sharp spaniard and the tiny New Zealand edelweiss. Hooker was named by Julius von Haast after William Hooker, an English botanist and father of Joseph Hooker. Mt Cook was named of course after the explorer Captain James Cook, and the five highest peaks in New Zealand are called ‘The Navigators’ because each is named after a famous captain: Cook, Tasman, La Perouse, Dampier and Elie de Beaumont.
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