Labour Weekend Trip - October 2008

Labour Weekend was looking decidedly soggy. The forecasters were prophesying weather bombs and the holiday makers were staying away in droves but it wasn’t enough to deter ATC! With a full bus of keen trampers we were going to Warawara for a great tramping experience in one of Northland’s wilderness areas.

Geoff and Claudia ford Moetangi Stream

Warawara Forest is an extremely spiritual place to the Maori and surrounds the tiny community of Pawarenga. It also has the second most diverse range of fauna and flora in Northland. Kiwi, kaka and long-tailed bats live there, as does Northland’s only rifleman population. The 22-km tramping track from Mitimiti to Pawarenga is a great tramping experience.

The influence of the Catholic missionaries in the area is very evident, particularly in the outstanding and dramatic siting and design of St.Gabriel’s Church at Pawarenga. It was built in 1899 and the locals raised the money by gum digging.

It was a mission to get there - 7½ hrs in all!

At Mangamuka Bridge we left SH1 and then, rather than take the West Coast Rd to Kohukohu and Panguru to Mitimiti, Brian looked at the map and took what seemed to be the more direct route. Never mind that it was unsealed and over a mountain. It took forever, driving up and up into the mist, and at times being unable to see the road ahead. Finally, we arrived at Mitimiti Beach House at 2.30am to be greeted by our genial host, John. We had the choice of the bus, putting up tents, or sleeping in a bach. Also, there was motel-type accommodation for anyone ‘special’. Well, snorers are special aren’t they?

Next morning we sorted ourselves into our respective parties and tramped up into the forest. In the fit group we had Claudia, Geoff, Linda (an import from North Shore Tramping Club), Matt (a young American), and me (Kay). A dangerously fit combo!

Matt, Geoff, Claudia and Linda at the hut

Finding the start of the track and the initial bush bashing were fun, especially in the persistent drizzle. I don’t think I’ve ever encountered such ‘cutty’ cutty grass. This was made up for, however, by the stunning kauri trees and also the gorgeous totara-slab bushman’s hut where we had morning tea. The other highlight was seeing my first live kauri snail. Its iridescent blue body was a marvel. All afternoon we followed forestry tracks and eventually descended into Pawerenga where the marae was the centre of activity. We were told by the locals where we could camp, in a cow paddock, but decided that a vacant private home and lawn looked better. We had just got the tents up when we saw visitors heading across the mudflats in their car. Apparently ‘Aunty’, to whom the property belonged, wouldn’t be happy for us to camp on her back lawn. Fair enough, you could see her point. We gathered up our gear, climbed the fence again, and erected the tents in our original location and had a peaceful night except for Matt’s tent pole breaking in the middle of it.

Walking down into Pawarenga

Next morning we headed off round the Whangape Harbour towards the entrance before making our way back down the beach to Mitimiti to complete the round trip. All was well until we tried to locate the Golden Stairs Walkway to take us up and over the headland. After a couple of unsuccessful forays up steep cliffs we met the medium group and, between us, managed to find the extremely overgrown and scratchy track. The views up there were stunning and, aside from gusty squalls, the weather was now perfect. At the coast we met up with the Easy and Wet groups. After saying hello we moved on and spent the afternoon following the beach back to the bus. After all, as the Fit group, you are expected to do longer days! Back at Mitimiti we spent a comfortable evening, and the next morning walked back up to meet the other parties. We were able to start home before lunch and took the West Coast Rd back to Auckland around the Hokianga, through all the small Maori communities enjoying Labour Day in the sun. We were back in 7 hrs. What a treat to have a glimpse of a different side of New Zealand.

Thank you once again, ATC.

Also thanks to our drivers, Athol and Brian, and to the others for the fun.

Scribe: Kay Willcocks

With: Claudia Edwards, Geoff Fischer, Linda, Matt