Tutaekuri Gorge and Donald River Feb. 2nd, 2020

Beat the Heat: Do the Donald River Drift!

On what was to be the hottest day ever recorded in Napier, a group of six took off at 7 am in two cars from the HTC departure lounge in Te Aute Road. Peter and Colin were the doing the “B” plan down the Tutaekuri Gorge. Anne, Glenda, Daniel and Janice opted for the “A” plan which was a loop from the Lawrence Road End, over the swing bridge, up the trail towards Mackintosh Hut, before cutting down the Donald River, and back to the bridge on the Tutaekuri.

The wind was raging on the ridges as we started but it always seemed to be above us especially when we were walking along the river. Glenda was right, it was a great day to be criss-crossing the Donald. Spotting the first of many inviting deep pools, it was in ‘boots and all’ drifting down the current” back to the start and drifting down again. What a refreshing way to beat the heat! It was hard to keep Glenda out of any of the pools after that and you had to admit it was a great way to cool down especially before the long drag back up to the cars at the Lawrence Road end. The crystal clear, fast-flowing water did the trick for any ailments.

Coming across a small eddy, we saw a tadpole convention in the shallow water. Amongst the teeming tadpoles were a few small green frogs on the fringe and cameras were whipped out to record the moment.

The sides of the canyons were covered in plants as they soared straight up to the tree-line. At the Donald/Tutaekuri river junction, we travelled up river to see if we could spot Colin and Peter trying to prove they were just as quick as last time they did this trip 30 years ago. The only people we saw in our 5 ½ hour sojourn were a father and son carrying fishing poles. They had spent the night being blown out by the wicked winds near the ridges and had dropped down to escape.

We turned around towards the swing bridge and the parked cars up the hill. It was a fair climb back up the road. Janice found another gear and motored up the road with Daniel. Good weather, amazing scenery, great photos by Anne, strenuous at times/cruisy at others, brilliant company: just another day at the HTC office!

DH: Party: Daniel H, Janice L, Anne D, Glenda H

Gorge Party:

Colin and I set of at 8.30 and it was straight into the water, with plenty of slots and pools to cool us down. Fortunately we had picked the right day for it so we were merely cold, rather than the standard for the trip which is, bloody freezing. It is a very beautiful stretch of river, a true gorge trip and you do spend a lot of time in the water.

Eventually we got down to the two waterfalls, the first was exciting, but no real problem, but the second was just plain scary, in the finish we just jumped off on the true right hand side (never jump or swim into the white water at the base of a waterfall as the bubbles make the water less dense and you sink), Colin suggested that it was a pity that he hadn’t had his camera ready, but I was not about to climb up for a second go. After one more rapid we then came to the hot spring, which was a good temperature and flow, but is just as insalubrious as ever. We continued on down the river which was very greasy and my pack became heavier and heavier as it picked up more water, the last stretch was easier except that the others had decided to leave the car at the top , which we finally reached at 4pm.

PB: Party: Colin J and Peter B

Ahuriri Estuary Walkway 19 Jan

With the weather forecast predicting heavy rain for Lake Tutira it was decided to have a walk from Park Island, Taradale, to the Ahuriri Estuary. The group, Glenda, Susan and I left from by the dog agility area where we followed the gravel path beside the Park Island cemetery, crossing Prebensen Drive to join the Water Ride Trail. The initial northward journey is alongside a stream where we saw hawk in flight, a pied shag, a spoonbill and mallard ducks. The ducks blended well with the ground cover and a large group, adult and young, slipped quietly into the stream where they kept closely to the true left.

When the pathway reaches the Main Outfall Channel the path veers eastward and continues below the stop bank. At this point there is a hide in which to view the plentiful wildlife including; Canadian geese, spoonbill, gull, pied stilts. The info board states there are 70 species of resident and migratory waterbirds. As we continued our journey a rather picturesque vista appeared on the stop bank; in a line were the heads and necks of thirteen Canadian geese.

Our journey continued, stopping at the hide at the end of the Water Ride Trail, following the pathway under the motorway, under and up on to the old road bridge. Strategically placed at the top of the path was a seat which we took advantage of and had a snack. Our rest was ended by the rain that had been threatening. We put rain jackets on and continued across the bridge to duck back down under it and walk back in a westward direction to the ponds to the south of the airport. We then retraced our steps to the sign post at the junction of the Water Ride Trail and Main North Road to Prebensen Drive; to complete a circuit we continued alongside the Main North Road. This trail is separated from the road by a waterway, along Prebensen Drive and back around the Park Island track to the car. The walk had taken us 3 hours.

Anne D, Susan L, Glenda H

Trip Reports

 Photos & brief accounts of recent trips is given below. 

 Use the links below for full reports and to access more photos

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For more recent trips see our Facebook page for brief reports and photos of the tramps


15-16 Feb – Kaimanawas Via Clement Mill Road A group spent last weekend in the Kaimanawa Forest around the Clements Mill Road end. Cascade Hut was visited by some (6 -7 hour walk from road end) while the others did a series of short walks (including checking out the Kaimanawa “Wall”) on the Saturday then camped at Clements Clearing camp. On the Sunday they walked part way to Cascade Hut. A good variety of birds were seen, including numerous Kaka in full voice and very friendly robins.

2 Feb – Tutaekuri Gorge and Donald River For a very hot Sunday we had chosen a watery trip in the Tutaekuri River above the Lawrence swing-bridge. In the cooler morning 1 group crossed the swing-bridge and walked towards Lotkow to access the Donald River from the track to Mackintosh about 60 minutes later. We walked down the Donald with numerous swims and had our lunch beside a particularly nice pool before heading up the Tutaekuri for a little way. We had hoped to meet our other party who were coming down the Tutaekuri River from the Mackintosh bridge but they took longer than expected so we returned without them. Unfortunately we had left our cars at the top of the hill so it was a hot 15 minutes climb up from Lawrence shelter to reach them around 2.45 PM. The second party arrived back about 90 minutes later after a great wet clamber down the Tutaekuri and cursed us for leaving their car at the top of the hill too.


19 Jan – Ahuriri Estuary With a drizzly morning and only 3 trampers we decided rather than driving to Lake Tutira to get wet we would meet in Napier and walk around the Ahuriri Section of the Water Ride and get wet. We started at Park Island and followed the limestone pathway that travels below the Poraite Hills to reach the estuary. The pathway then heads downstream to the Embankment bridge which we crossed and walked along the SW edge of the Westshore Pond. We then turned back and took a shorter route back to Park Island along-side Prebensen Drive. A good morning’s workout (13 km) with a number of interesting birds to view from the two hides on the pathway and yes we did get a little damp at times.

11-12 Jan – On and by the Northern Tararua Range This last weekend was spent on both sides of the northern Tararua range. On Saturday we travelled to Naenae Road, east of Pahiatua, and followed a recently formed track up onto the top of the range. From there two walked along to the turn-off to Aruwaru Trig before returning while the rest were content to make the high point Pukenaenae their turn-around point. Sunday, we travelled to Palmerston North, and starting part way along Turitea walkway, we made our way to Linton using the recently completed walkway that follows the Manawatu River (with a detour to walk over the He Ara Kotahi bridge) After lunch we walked along the Tawa walk in the Manawatu gorge, some did the loop while others went as far as the White Horse rapids lookout and returned.


8 Dec – Awatere, Happy Daze and Makaretu Huts. We were scheduled for a day tramp to Top Gorge Hut, Ruahines but high winds and rain changed plans to Awatere, Makaretu and Happy Daze Huts. We contended with high winds and rain along the tops ( the wind gusts were recorded at 119kph ) then the remainder of the day was calm and warm along the Makaretu river.The river level was low which made for slippery conditions and river rock hopping.We checked out the derelict Black Stag Hut which still stands close to the river . The old bedding contents still remain


24 Nov – Okoeke Stream.  The Okoeke Stream on the Taupo Road was a great place to be this Sunday as the many river crossings kept us nice and cool. The 34 metre waterfall is one of the best in Hawkes Bay and we walked up the stream from the Taupo Road to reach it. The bush is lush and, while the noise of the river was such that we did not hear many birds, we were lucky enough to spy a blue duck on the way up and a black shag was enjoying the pool under the waterfall.

9 Nov – The Cairn Trip.  Unfortunately the weather put paid to our plans to remake the Cairn this weekend. When the building party got to the tops it was cold and wet with gale force winds and Sunday’s weather was forecast to be worse. So they held the Cairn Service on Saturday and high-tailed it back down to Makahu Saddle.. Fortunately a phone call to Pam at her Puketitiri Palace meant she had time to dip the strawberries in chocolate for the post- Cairn trip feast.


Labour Weekend – Waikato Reserves

The Saturday and Sunday was spent in the Pirongia Forest with trips to the Kaniwhania Caves and to the Tirohanga high point. On the last day we went to another Waikato cone, Karepuku, and walked the track to the summit before returning home.

13 Oct – Makairo Track. 

A combined walking and cycling track east of Mangatainoka was our destination mid October. This was once a road linking back country Pahiatua with Coonoor and it gently climbs 350 metres over 9 kilometres to a saddle where we had our lunch in the sun . We enjoyed the clematis and many flowering shrubs as we made our way along. After lunch were return back the way we had come.