Weekend - Friday 8 May 2015 to Sunday 10 May 2015 (3 days)

This weekend trip was two day trips with each one being in different landscapes. Day 1 in Tawarau Forest was a stroll through kaarst country - amazing limestone formations and waterfalls. Day 2 a stroll through New Zealand’s pioneering past when man tried to conquer the elements and cultivate the bush - and eventually lost. The common thread between the days was driver Keith having "fun" manoeuvring the bus out of the car parks at the end of each day.

Friday night drive went well until close to the end when mist obscured the road signs and a fallen tree blocking Appletree Road needed dealing to allow us to get to our destination that night at that road end.

 

Saturday morning, sunrise, fine drizzle and a rainbow to the west. The slightest of climbs was followed by a descent to the Tawarau River with a few stops to admire the numerous blue toadtools on the way. A graceful timber arch bridged the river and bode well for a dry foot day. We were now in the Tawarua Gorge - only 10 - 15 metres deep but steep limestone walls flanked both sides of the river. A few hundred yards on the "fast five" missed the 30cm orange arrow pointing back across the river and were soon scrambling on their hands and knees up a steep bank. The team reassembled, we dropped into the river for the first of many crossings as the path wandered from side to side - so much for dry feet.

A good hour later, the flow of the river gathered pace and a window in the bush shrouded in mist heralded our arrival at Tawarau Falls. Not much can be seen from the top of the falls. The river runs into a slit before plunging over a lip to create the main falls. A few yards to the right, a track lead to the base of the falls - assisted by several metres of heavy duty chain.

The recent rain made the falls impressive and if we needed reminding, a strategically placed DOC sign announced we were at a waterfall.

Back onto the main track, we skirted a pine plantation before our second detour to Double Falls - so called because - yes there are two waterfalls. We had hoped for a lunch stop at the bottom of the second fall, but lack of light meant the floor of the

gorge was covered in soggy vegetation. So it was a climb back out and lunch in the sun on a conveniently placed set of logs in the pine plantation. At this point the easy party including driver Keith departed to return to the bus whilst the rest of us continued on, descending to a swingbridge over the river and onto an old six foot track. We proceeded in bush up the west side of the Mangaohae stream ( a feeder to the

Tawarau River) with views across to impressive limestone cliffs in the farmland on the east side.

We arrived at the track on at Were Road, expecting the bus to turn up any minute. 90 minutes later, with the sun having disappeared and a chilly evening approaching, the bus arrived. The recent rain had made the Appletree Road slippery and the bus had got stuck at the bottom of a dip with not enough traction to drive forward or reverse out of it. By laying a blanket of mainly gorse on the track and trying different gear combinations, Keith had managed to get out of the dip after a good hour.

For our evening accommodation, the Waitanguru community had kindly allowed us to use the village hall. A full kitchen was available instead of the usual camping stoves and surprisingly most of the party decided that sleeping on the floor in a bit more warmth was preferable to sleeping in the back of the bus.

 

Sunday morning, overcast, we headed off toward Leitch Road, Whareoino, stopping off at Waitanguru Falls on the way. This time we were on an old three foot track, with a steady climb to a saddle then drop down to Leitch’s Clearing. Several large windfalls were across the track. In some instances DOC had cut through the trees, in others, sufficient notches had been cut to the underside to allow a dignified scramble under. After a couple of hours we were out of the bush and out into the pastures which had been hacked out the bush 100 years ago and deserted 50 years later. We arrived at Leitch’s Hut in time for a late morning tea / early lunch. The hut is an old Lockwood House that had been used by a tenant on another DOC property in Tawarau Forest and after he had left, DOC airlifted it to Leitch’s Clearing. The river crossing below the hut was easier than expected and we were soon onto the track following the Awakino River out to Gribbon Road. In days gone by, this too would have been a reasonable three foot benched track, but being close to the river and clinging to steep banks, it had become washed out in places and a bit of agility was required to keep on track. We passed through more pioneers’ clearings including one where a number of large kahikatea had been left, surrounded by grass, whereas most of the rest were now covered in blackberry. Wild life was restricted to a couple of large rancid billy goats.

A couple of light showers passed and around three o’clock we left the forest for good and were out into farmland, following a permissive track to the road end. Keith turned up with the bus just as we finished. His troubles had not been as bad as Saturday - today, more vehicles had arrived at the car park so instead of being able to turn around, a fair bit of reversing and manoeuvring had been required to get the bus back out onto the road.

We were Antal, Catherine, David, Ian, Lawrence, Margaret, Sharon, Sue, Tony and Martin (leader and scribe).