Weekend - Friday 18 November 2016 to Sunday 20 November 2016 (3 days)

19 people signed up for this variety packed weekend in King Country. Fossil hunting, limestone formations above and below ground, farmland, little known tracks through the bush and the anticipation of a sumptuous banquet Saturday evening.

Traffic was heavy heading south from Auckland and it was 11.30pm when we rolled up at Waitanguru community hall. Some stayed in the bus for the night whilst others bunked down on the hall floor.

Saturday morning - overcast and misty. Our local guide Terry turned up at 9am and we had a short drive down to Waitanguru Falls where we left the bus and headed into farm paddocks. We navigated electric fences and visited several outcrops containing fossilised sharks teeth. We climbed up through the paddocks with Terry telling us a bit of local history on the way. The mist turned to light rain and we could only imagine the views to be had from the high points across to the Herangi Range, up the coast to Kawhia and Mt Karioi, east to Puerora and the central plateau. We entered the bush and followed some old logging trails, peering down to Leitches Road, then dropped down to Mangaohae Stream. A short lunch was taken by the stream, the more experienced trampers finding shelter in the bush, others sitting in the drizzle on a felled log .

Then it was back into the bush following markers Terry had put down previously. A bit of time was spent locating wayward markers in the bush on the ridgeline, then we were back into open paddocks. The rain was still light, but the stiff breeze meant that dampness soon penetrated the layers of clothing. A quick visit to Waitanguru Falls, then back on the bus for the short ride back to the hall.

The evening’s pot luck dinner catered for everyone’s dietary requirements with plenty left over.

Sunday - the sun was shining with little wind. Terry arrived at 9am again and we set off from the hall across paddocks, rounding a couple of ponds then up amongst the limestone outcrops with the deposit layers clearly visible in the rocks.

Sharks teeth were scarce today, but we did drop down to a cluster of rocks which contained an abundance of fossilised sea shells.

From the higher points we crossed, we could see the previous day’s walk, with the Herangi Range peeping up in the distance. Back across paddocks to Maire Road, then more paddocks, ditches and electric fences, to the debouch of the first cave, surrounded by a grove of punga trees. The party split in 2, one group stopping for lunch whilst the other passed through the cave. We dropped into the stream, disturbing a medium sized eel which swam out between our legs. A few metres in, we stopped to look at a rock on a ledge, the shape and position of 2 holes indicating it was likely a reptile fossil. Rounding a bend we came across limestone formations on both sides of the cave with a short side trip leading us to floor to ceiling limestone pillars, passing glow worms and cave wetas on the way.

All too soon it was over and the first party returned to the edge of the bush to have lunch in the sun whilst the second party went through the cave. But wait there’s more! Across another paddock and leap across a stream, we entered the second cave.

We went through this one together. More formations, then a clamber over some boulders, a bit of bush travel then into the third (and longest cave). Not so many formations in this one and the exit required a scramble up a slippery clay slope to get out into the sunlight. We were now on another marked track through the bush heading north climbing up to emerge on top of a rocky outcrop

overlooking the Waitanguru Road. Views were to be had to the west and north west. We dropped down the side of the outcrop back into farmland, skirting the bush boundary, before heading south visiting the local high point Ratanui and back to Waitanguru Hall. A final tidy up and then we were off back to Auckland via Te Kuiti. Thanks to the Waitanguru community for allowing us to explore their backyard.

We were Karen T, Mary, John, Tony, Hazel, Karen M, Lee, Katherine, Keith. Jean, Sniega, Ian, Antal, Vicki, Larry, Margaret, Kathy, Di, Martin (leader and scribe).