Weekend - Friday 7 September 2018 to Sunday 9 September 2018 (3 days)

Group 2 tramping up the Taita Bridle Trail to the Waima Main Range, eastwards to the Waoku Coach Road southern section.

After a long Friday night drive to the DOC sign at the southern end of the Waoku Coach Rd, near Donnellys Crossing, the bus parked up for a quiet night plus all the usual sounds of a group of people sleeping together in the bus. A medium sized group, so plenty of room for everyone.

Saturday dawned fine, and so Robin’s party was duly shunted off on their trek north up the Waoku Coach Road at 7.30, leaving our party to watch while Athol (the driver) turned the bus on a sixpence so that we could start on the 50km drive to the other end of the planned trip at the start of the Taita Bridle Track at Oraora. A quick comfort stop beside the super boot cleaning station near Tane Mahuta saw Erica sprinting off to renew her acquaintance with the forest giant.

We set off walking at 9.30 on a track that became progressively more muddy and root bound as it ascended steadily to the junction with the Waima Main Range Track. Our speedy front runners (Rob and Michelle) were then tasked with finding us a suitably warm and sunny lunch spot, which they duly did at the sunny site of a major 3 bivvy tent camp for pest control operations.

A relaxed lunch, with Athol and Erica trying to find where their lunch bread was packed ... in the end concluding it was not on the trail with us. But fortunately, they had plenty of other provisions, so starvation was kept at bay for the weekend.

And so on we progressed .... slowly .... along a track in the Waima Main Range forest - at times muddy, root covered, and requiring scrambling over, under and around large awkward treefalls and mud patches. Lovely untidy forest with the occasional view across to the Waipoua Forest hills to entertain us through most of the afternoon until ... with great relief we reached the junction with the Waoku Coach ... Highway track. North from here we knew it was closed for logging purposes. Some little streams and a wide track provided a convenient place to stop for the day, erect tents and prepare for a well earned long night’s sleep.

Knowing that the next day we had an easy trail to follow all the way back to the southern end of the road, so so so different (as in chalk and cheese) from our first day’s trek.

During the night a cool wind blew up and kept us on our toes and moving through Sunday. After half an hour the next morning we met Robin’s group heading in the opposite direction, and exchanged notes about what lay in store for each of us for the rest of the day. And abused them for slacking off by midday the day before in a sunny, windless Honeymoon Clearing ....

Which we duly reached for a morning tea stop, although we had to hunt around for a sunny spot out of the wind first.

We checked out one of the ramshackle houses in the clearing - it has a distinctive varnished centre post consisting of an old tree trunk encircled by a thick rata vine.

At this point we tried to lose Michelle, but she was too smart for us, and we all were together again an hour or so later as we trundled along a very easy old Coach Road.

Erica had spent the two days spotting empty large snail shells beside the track, suspecting the possums were doing the damage, despite a lot of traps along the way. Including a stack of 4 traps all together - making a possum condo perhaps.

The Coach Road was built by Scottish stonemasons in the late 1800’s / early 1900’s and there was still plenty of evidence of some skilled culvert work and patches of obvious paving on the road. It must have been a real mission - farming in the area was challenged by frequent rainfall (the forest wouldn’t burn), and the local farmers told us that usually each winter they get a few snowfalls.

The trail progressively became a more and more solid, metalled surface, and then came out into farmland for what then became a few kms of road bash before we reached the point where the bus had parked on Friday night. Time for a brew up and change of clothes while we waited for the bus to arrive about 1.5 hours later.

In Dargaville we said goodbye to Michelle, as she collected her car and headed home to Whangarei, and most of the group then enjoyed a sumptuous Thai banquet before the drive back to Auckland.

We were - Athol Berry (expert driver), Erica Gilchrist, Michelle Martin, Rob Worley, Willy Williams, and Tony Walton (nominal leader). Thanks also to Larry Beard for his share of the expert driving, and to Margaret Law for figuring out how to entertain us for a day once she found that the northern section of the Coach Road was closed.

Photos - Michelle and Tony, and the last 3 from Uta Machold (on Robin's trip)