Monday 10th to Sunday 16th November 2008
We set off in Big Blue, full of expectations for a good week away, stopped at Matamata for lunch and refreshments, and then on to the Te Waihou Walkway near Putaruru.
We met up with the car travellers and went along the 5.2 km-Walkway. This river water seeps from the Mamaku Ranges through underground aquifers and can take 100 years to reach the area. This is an easy, flat walk and we took in the sights of the gloriously-coloured blue-green, crystal-clear waters. We saw a number of rainbow trout. It was a good start to our week and we continued on to our Cosy Cottage accommodation in Rotorua.
We began our first full day of walking and at 8.31am Big Blue departed with 31 people on board and John and Susan following in their car.
The party was split into three groups. The first group, led by Howard, left the bus and started to walk downstream along the Waikato River Track with the river on their left and the sun on their backs. The majestic river came in and out of view, but was never far from the track. The track itself at this end was carpeted with needles from the canopy overhead and echoed with the call of the bellbird.
After approximately 1½ hours this first group met the second group led by Brian B, who had started their walk some 16 km downstream and were now walking the track in the reverse direction. The second half of the walk took us through some open country which we crossed in the sunshine before heading back into the bush. We finished in a clearing by the river where the third party had started their walk downstream along the river to the Whakamaru Lake. The third party’s track followed the river for a while before continuing alongside the lake and meandering in and out of bush. Upon reaching the main road they returned to the bus, picked up the first group and then drove to collect the second group. We then headed to the Whakamaru Dam and looked at the hydro station before returning to Rotorua.
A fine, sunny day with hardly a cloud in the sky. An hour’s drive took 33 trampers to Otanewainuku, a virgin forest with prolific bird life. We tackled the summit track first. The loop track takes approx 1½ hours at a gentle pace giving time to enjoy the tawa forest. A viewing platform on the summit (690m) gave us great views to Mt Edgecumbe, Tarawera and the Mamaku Plateau. After lunch, we covered part of the Rimu Loop Track through a magnificent rimu forest and then branched off to the Whataroa Waterfall Track, a there-and-back hike of 2 hours. A smaller group took the track north, but after 15 minutes were stopped by waist-high blackberry on the forest boundary with farmland. Total return trip after completing the Rimu Loop was 2½ hours.
Another fine day as we set off for the Lake Okataina Scenic Reserve where Brian divided the group into two.
The first party, led by Howard was dropped off at Ngapuka Bay on Lake Rotoiti, to follow the West Okataina Walkway as far as the Whakapoungakau Trig, and then return to the Okataina Outdoor Education Centre. The track rises steeply for 15 minutes, then continues to the east along a short length of logging road and re-enters the bush beside a walkway marker post which has fallen over. This is a pleasant bush walk along an undulating ridge before it drops down a gully to the level grassy and scrubby floor of the unusual Patotara Crater (the ‘Bull Ring’). This dry crater lines up with the other explosion craters which include Lake Rotokawau to the west, and the ‘Twin Lakes’ on the Ngahopua Track. Our route zig-zagged up to Lake Okataina Rd, then shortly turned along the Rongomai Track to the Outdoor Education Centre with its immaculately mown lawns, and our lunch stop.
We then followed the West Okataina Walkway, turning into the bush and climbing steeply to the Whakapoungakau Track with glimpses of Lake Okataina below. A 20-minute branch led to the trig. The views were extensive but the sky had become leaden - not so good for photos.
We returned down the same way to the Outdoor Education Centre to meet the other party.
The second party. After dropping off Howard’s party, the bus took the rest of us on to the Outdoor Education Centre, where we were all to meet later in the day. Our first short walk (about an hour) was down the Okataina Track through native bush to the lake - the bird song was quite special, and the first view of Lake Okataina was stunning - early morning mirror calm, reflecting the mountains and bush. We then walked up the road to find the Ngahopua (Twin Lakes) Track, and had some trouble working out where this left from. Our little guide book seemed to have confused the Anaha with the Kepa Track. However Maureen headed off, and we followed up the hill to look down from a high cliff on to the two little crater lakes, Rotongata and Rotoatua.
After lunch, we walked back to the Outdoor Education Centre, and explored the area, most of us going up to see the Cascades and the glow-worm cliffs (the Te Auheke Track). After this, we returned to await the first party. One more excellent day.
On a sunny morning, 20 of us set out for the Mangorewa Ecological Reserve north of Ngongotaha. It was a bit of a scramble, fairly steeply uphill for most of the way, through dense, beautiful forest with tawari, kahikatea, matai, miro and tanekaha. Susan came a cropper crossing a tiny rivulet, but at Pauline’s suggestion plunged the ankle into the icy water - it was soon usable again. Up another hill, then lunch at the campsite.
Ten of us went on from there for the half-hour tramp to the end of the track at Mangorewa River. En route, through the lovely bush, we heard a kaka calling. The bush is very varied with many species of ferns, trees and spider orchids. The route was undulating with many roots to negotiate, culminating in a final drop to the river.
You can return to the start of the track via the extremely slippery but flat river bed. We did not! The water level was low, enabling us to cross carefully to lunch and a laze on the other side. In the river we found the most interesting Gordian worms. We then retraced our steps through the bush to the ever-patient group waiting at the bus. A hot and excellent day, finished off by our usual successful Carvery dinner at the local RSA, organised by Brian Lynch.
Another mild, sunny day - Rotorua has laid on its best spring weather for us, and the bush lining the roadside as Doug drives us along past Lake Rotoiti is glistening in the sunshine.
We’re on our way to Kawerau and then to the Tarawera River outlet. A brief pause to collect the required permit, a short tiki-tour of Kawerau’s residential streets until we pick up our bearings, and then we head up the dusty forestry road to the carpark at Lake Tarawera.
Howard marshalls us for the leisurely ramble down the river with its clear water fringed by mixed bush. Some surprisingly large trees, considering that the bush is almost all regeneration over a little more than 100 years following the devastating eruption of 1886.
Kamahi in flower (these were amongst the first trees to poke their heads through the volcanic ash), pohutukawa (are these indigenous to this area or were they introduced after the eruption?), tawa, kanuka, plenty of tree-ferns - a wide variety of regenerating plants and trees. Pauline dances a little jig when she spots drimoranthus sp, orchids clinging to tree-trunks bordering the track.
The falls on the river are in four steps as we go down the track, saving the most spectacular for the bottom. At the bottom falls, water cascades from 70 metres with further torrents gushing from the fractured rocks after following subterranean channels from the falls higher up, where the river had disappeared underground.
Those who had chosen today as their rest day missed a spectacular ramble, but had the compensation of being able to walk through and around Ohinemutu and the lake-front and the gardens which are a feature of this attractive town.
Thanks to our club organisers for a great day - indeed a great week - and thanks to Rotorua.
The bus trip home, for the select few who chose that method of travel, was a leisurely journey. We left Rotorua soon after 8.30am. On the way we had a stop at Matamata for morning tea and a change of driver, took a slight detour to locate a Mobil garage, and arrived back at Sandringham Rd somewhere around 1.15pm.
Many thanks to Brian Bowden for his excellent organisation, choice of accommodation and choice of walks, and to John, Dougal and Doug for their ever-skilful driving.
Brian Bowden, Bryan Lynch, Bruce, Roy, Graeme McGowan, Grahame Parr, Betty, Les, Maureen, Jeanette, Audrey, Pauline, Sarah, Dougal, Anne Stone, Anne Sanders, Ann Simpson, John Simpson, Doug, Ruth Astley, Keith, Ruth Williamson, Howard, John Minson, Susan, Lindsey, Ray, April, Justine, Barbara, Cherie, Linda, Jenefer, John Norris.