Kaimanawa Forest Park from Clement Mill Road 15-16 Feb

We arrived at the road end around quarter to 10 after an uneventful drive from Havelock North.  Here Janice, Derek and Scott booted up and with packs on back were headed along the track towards Cascade Hut just after 10.  We noted the DOC sign at the road end said 4 ½ hours to Cascade – don’t believe it!  After a quick look around the camp area the rest of us were back in the truck travelling to Army Camp for our first walk.

The only tracks shown on the topo map for this area were the Te Iringa and Cascade tracks but we were hoping to find some unmarked ones.  We were lucky at Army Camp as we found a sign for Kens track beside a little memorial for Ken Follows who, a google search suggests, was an old guy who used to live in a campervan there (he died at Tokoroa in 2016).  We followed this track for about an hour until it came to a small clearing, the other side of which we spied pine trees.  After a spell there we retraced our steps to the truck enjoying the birds and vegetation as we went.  We had a early lunch at the camp site before driving down the road to Clements Clearing which was to be our camp site for the night.  

From Clements Clearing we walked a short distance along the road to the Kaimanawa Wall. The credulous believe that this wall is evidence of an ancient New Zealand culture and that the stone wall is at least 2000 years old and was created by the first settlers of New Zealand, the Waitaha, who were subsequently nearly exterminated by the Maoris, who arrived only 800 years ago while the sceptics and DOC believe that the rock formation is part of  large ignimbrite outcrop formed naturally 330,000 years ago. The wall is not as impressive as we had imaged and we accepted the latter theory.

We then explored the frost flat area around the camp site and then, leaving Peter behind to sleep, we walked up the road to the Kakapo Camp site.  This is a lovely site with a small stream beside it but had no obvious tracks to follow so we returned to Clements Camp via the road.  The bird life in this part of the Kaimanawas was great, nearly all the usual bush birds were seen or heard as well as the Kaka and Long tailed Cuckoo. The robins posed patiently for their photos to be taken while the Kaka obediently responded to Peter’s melodic “Kaka” calls.

In the past there were a series of huts and cook houses along the road but these have long since disappeared. The beech trees in this area of the Kaimanawa were milled for fence posts and battens up until the 1970s when tanalized post became readily available.

There were a few other groups at the clearing, one group of overseas young people and the rest were hunters – all very friendly.  Around 5 we had an exhausted hunter collapse at our site with a very heavy pack full of venison that he had caught around mid day.  After recovering a bit he boiled himself a brew and had a chat with us and then Peter offered him a ride back to his car which was about 5 km up the road.  After dinner it started to rain so we had a game of Quiddler in the back of the truck before retiring for a quite night.

Sunday dawned overcast and after breakfast we drove back to the road end and started along the Hinemaiaia track to Cascade Hut.  This is a very pretty track with some areas of virgin bush, very friendly robins, a lovely stream and is mainly flat for the first hour or two. At one point there is a landbridge, Peter explored below it and found it to be a pumice cave. After walking about 2 hours we stopped for a break just short of where the track starts it’s first major climb, left a note for the Cascade party and headed back, diverting off-track to take photos of a waterfall we could hear below us and for Peter to swim in the Hinemaiaia Stream.  We had lunch back at the truck and waited for the Cascade Party to return before heading home.

Cascade Hut Party:

The track followed the Hinemaiaia stream for about 1.5 hours along cliff edges then we started to climb several steep slopes and drops using tree roots for hand and foot holds. An interesting ancient native forest showing evidence of previous logging -large tree stumps with clinging vines ferns and moss. The moss and lichen looked very dry but fine drizzle on the Sunday refreshed it a little.

After 4 hours of climbing Scott returned to a camping site by the Hinemaiaia Stream where he waited for our return on the Sunday. He was lucky enough to see a  hind come very close as it drank from the river. The next 3 hours the track was visible with plenty of summer leaf fall but we did manage to divert off the track on occasions. Careful placing of the feet was required as there were many tree roots to avoid.

Once on the “top’ there was a very long descent to the river where the Cascade Hut was only 2 minutes inland. Here we had an evening meal, breakfast then returned the same way.

Deer hunters were out this weekend so it was always good to chat about their hunting experiences.  We had the company of Kaka Fantails and one Morepork at various times over the two days. Time taken was 6 hours each way.

Party: Janice L, Derek B, Scott C, Peter B, Susan L, Anne D, Glenda H

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