Extended Trip - Monday 7 November 2016 to Sunday 13 November 2016 (7 days)

This is a challenging trip to write about, because everything went very much as planned - no delays, injuries, mechanical or emotional breakdowns. The only factor we couldn’t plan was the weather, which according to the forecast was going to give us just one fine day out of the whole week - but turned out the opposite, with only one day affected by showers.

Day 1 13 of the group of 25 travelled down on New Blue via Karangahake Gorge, where some did the tunnel walk then continued in the bus to rendezvous at the Waikino Cafe for lunch with the other party who had walked through the gorge. This was our only moment of mild drama, when Trevor left his I-pad on a post at the first bridge. 30 minutes later slaps forehead, hurries back with Linda, retrieves device, just misses our bus, but resourcefully the pair hitchhike to Waikino with superb timing. On the walk through we had our raincoats off and on again at least 5 times for showers, only the last one heavy.

Around 3pm we reached our home for the week, the very pleasant Omokoroa Kiwi Holiday Park, caught up with our 12 companions who had driven down independently, and settled into our cabins and motel units.

Day 2 was hot and sunny but very strong winds blew relentlessly all day long. We did 2 trips; a 2-hour level stroll around the mostly boardwalked Waikareao estuary, then to Mauao-Mt Maunganui. As we pulled in to the carpark by the estuary we were met by "our man in Tauranga", ATC life member Graham MacGregor, waving an enthusiastic welcome. He promptly took charge of us bewildered JAFAs and shepherded us through the day, answering questions and providing commentary from his vast fund of local knowledge.

At the Mount some did the circuit round the base while others steamed up to the top. Sun, blue sea, postcard views. One sub-group chose a descent route which meant the others had time to consume more icecreams than they otherwise might have. We all slept particularly well that night, tired out from the incessant wind.

Day 3 was almost as windy, though still fine. Fearing the weather might deteriorate later in the week, we brought forward our longest day, the tramp up to Te Rereatukahia hut. Some went part way up and returned in leisurely fashion, admiring the fine groves of healthy kauri. Others reached the hut which was occupied by a possum trapper and a member of the Kaimai Ramblers. We admired the improvements to the hut under the Kaimai Ridgeway Project - the smart new woodburner stove, well-stocked woodshed and new verandah roof with eye-catching bright yellow guttering and posts. We name-dropped "our president Tony Walton" shamelessly, to such effect that we had an email from him the next day to tell us his spies had reported our visit.

Day 4 was another 2-parter: a loop track to Aongatete Lodge through lovely bush on good tracks, then a ramble around Te Puna Quarry Gardens, a rehabilitated quarry project which had us free-ranging all over the steep site following our own interests. At the Lodge we spoke with staff who explained the activities they do with school groups; at the track end we met Brian Petheridge who leads an extensive and successful volunteer pest control operation. Again we managed to name-drop Tony to good effect.

Day 5 was Lindemanns Loop, which is 2 separate and rather different tracks - the fairly direct Ridge track with a steepish section, and the longer but much gentler gradient Pack track. We divided into 2 groups, each taking one track. The Pack track party divided again after a while with a subgroup returning to the start point, while the rest continued almost to the upper junction of the 2 tracks before stopping for lunch in the sun with a distant view of the Ananui waterfall. The Ridge track party charged up the ridge, distracted from its steepness by Phil’s cunning tactic of provoking spirited discussion. Before we knew it we were at the track junction, then on to the Wairoa Shelter for a snack stop. Then it was back to the junction and down the Pack track where the others had just finished lunch and we encountered Sarah beside the track - hard to say who got the bigger surprise. We ate our lunch then pursued the others down the Pack track, not catching them until the very end.

Day 6 began with an unscripted addition to the programme - Lynette kindly invited us to visit her 35-acre bush property at Waitao, near Welcome Bay, where her son David runs Ridge Country Retreat. The guests from a 21-day retreat had just departed so we were free to roam. Nobody managed to do all the tracks although a Keith-led group made a determined effort. The rest of us reached several points of interest under Lynette’s guidance, before returning to the lodge for a welcome cup of tea. All were impressed at what Lynette has achieved with the gardens and bush restoration. Some couldn’t restrain themselves from a little impromptu weeding.

Then it was back in the bus for a short drive to Kaiate Falls and a fairly brisk circuit to the base of the falls and back, on a wet track which fortunately was less slippery than it looked.

Finally part 3 of the day, a longer drive to Otanewainuku, where there were several track options of varying lengths, through an area of splendid virgin bush. Most of us were wilting slightly by now, and although we agreed the longer loop would be ideal, all chose to do the shorter loop, which did contain some magnificent old tawa and several of the biggest rimu most of us had ever seen. As at Aongatete, extensive pest control was apparent and paying off in the abundant birdlife.

Day 7 we packed up and checked out early, to do a couple of hours of the "bird walk" around the Omokoroa peninsula. The sea views were great, some birds were seen, but people seemed most impressed by the outstanding gardens of private homes along the route. Lunch was at the Copper Kettle in Ngatea and we were back at 3pm.

The trip was a pleasure to coordinate. I worried about following the standard set by Cherie and Pauline in recent years, but people were so generous with their advice and assistance that it became easy. Tony Walton and Margaret Law suggested possible tramps - in fact I had to ask Margaret to stop emailing ideas as we had more than we could possibly do in a week. Keith produced a programme from a massive pile of possibilities, and enabled the trip to proceed by being the sole driver. Linda, Liz and Ray led sub-groups to ensure every level of ability was catered for. And we were lucky to have members with strong local connections: Graham, Lynette and Norah and Robert Peachman.

As always, the daily "happy hour" was a feature, as was the excellent dinner out at the Omokoroa Golf Club.

The group: Keith Ayton, Jean Barton, Dave Best, Brian Bowden, Cherie Cook, Lynette Hindmarsh, Jeanette Howie, Howard Johnston, Anne Sanders, Pat and Joe Scott-Woods, Trevor Sharp, Brenda Simpson, Ann and John Simpson, Anne Stone, Ray and Lindsay Vickers, Liz and Phil Ware, Sarah Wayman, Sue Webb, Linda Webber, Ruth and Keith Williamson,