Weekend Trip - Friday 10 August 2018 to Sunday 12 August 2018 (3 days)

by Robin Houston

Friday night was spent in the bus at the Karangahake Hall carpark.

Saturday morning, it was up at 6.30am, with a quick breakfast, a bid farewell to Murray’s Medium Group, and a drive around to Woodland Road end to the start of the Wairoa Stream Track for our group and Ian’s Easy/Medium group.

We got away first at 8.15am and it didn’t take long to reach our first river crossing where the first trickles of water dampened our socks and then by the third crossing I might as well have been wearing sandals.

The track follows the river for 5 km, gradually climbing, before a steep 200m climb through Kauri trees to Lindemanns track intersection where we stopped for morning tea.

Mature Kauri are truly magnificent trees that must be saved for future generations. We urgently need a well thought-out plan to save these trees and allow people to walk our forest parks and enjoy their splendour.

Three likely lads at the Wairoa Shelter

We reached Wairoa Shelter at 12 noon (10.7 km in 3hr 15min); a nice sunny spot for lunch and a bit of chat about the world’s problems before being interrupted by Ian’s group.

It seemed our lunch was over, so we continued east climbing gently until we met the Upper Waitawheta Track (North South track) and the start of Cashmore Clearing track.

The Cashmore Clearing Track, once part of the old North South Track, is now sign-posted as a rugged, overgrown and ecologically-sensitive route, with a strong recommendation to use the Wharawhara Valley track instead.

It was all of that and I expect, with regular traffic, it would deteriorate further, but for us we had a campsite to reach on the other side so onward we tramped.

Our final section of track for the day runs from the Cashmore Clearing track to Te Aroha along the western ridge line of the Kaimai Ranges, with our camp site being about half way along.

The track has recently been removed from Topo Map series and, if it weren’t for the grand effort put in by a dedicated group of mainly ATC volunteers, may have become overgrown and lost. It’s a wonderful track offering some of the best views in the Kaimais, both east towards Katikati, Matakana Island, and Mayor Island, and west over the Waikato plains.

We arrived at our campsite at around 5pm, a large slip site that led to a small stream at its base. ATC have been using this campsite while working on clearing this section of track.

We just had time to collect water and get our tents up before dark. We were quite spread out in order to find level tent sites, Dennis and I at the top, Simon half way down & Andrew right down in the bushes at the bottom.

The night was still with a star-covered sky leading to a rather chilly but clear morning. We rose at 7am to a glorious sunrise but unfortunately little bird sound. After a quick breakfast, we were away by 8.15am.

The view south along the range from near Pylon Peak

The morning was cool and clear, ideal tramping conditions and the track north along the ridge line spoiled us with views in all directions, up and down the ranges, out to sea, and as far south as Mt Ruapehu and Ngauruhoe.

We reached Waipapa track at 10.15am and had little problem finding the start of the old track that once led to the now removed Te Aroha hut.

Morning tea was taken in the sun at the intersection of what we thought was the old track down to Waitawheta Campsite. This track, not shown on current maps, was freshly marked so I led on with confidence even though my GPS was trying to tell me different.

Andrew, who had plotted the course on his phone the night before, quickly spotted we were heading in the wrong direction and called a halt. Back to the intersection, we regained our bearings and headed off along a somewhat less well-marked track.

At a small clearing, possibly the site of the old hut, the track started downhill and it wasn’t long before we spotted an old track marker. The track became a ditch and, and as the scrub and cutty-grass thickened our progress slowed.

In places the ditch would become a creek and drop suddenly with the overgrowth towering overhead. You just had to put your head down and push your way through. At times, we were tempted to leave the ditch for clearer ground, but as we continued to find track markers we decided to keep to the ditch.

Eventually we reached forest cover and the track improved as we left the ditch behind. Our problem now was windfall, and finding the track again on the other side often took time.

At 2.30pm we finally reached Waitawheta Campsite and the Tramline track, fairly bloody and cut up but very pleased to have completed this old track which forever shall remain abandoned but not forgotten.

The hike down the old tramline track beside the Waitawheta river was pleasant enough if not a little hard on the feet due to the rocks and old sleepers. Along the way there were noticeboards telling of the Kauri felling days, the tram track and the people like Ruth, the saw-miller’s daughter who grew up in the bush. We arrived at Franklin Road at 4.30pm to find the bus waiting. (8hrs 15min, a good days walk.)

Team: Robin Houston (leader & photos), Dennis Brown, Simon Rainger, Andrew Murdoch