Southern Escape

11 – 12 March

Cyclone Gabrielle had closed easy access to both the Kaweka Range and the eastern Ruahine north of Norsewood, while SH 5 and SH 2 north of Bay View were closed. This meant if we wanted to go tramping we had to head south. So Saturday morning eight of us did just that, driving to Arapuke Park in the northern Tararua Range behind Linton. We arrived there about 9.45 AM where upon a party of 5 led the way up the Sledge Track planning to do one of two loops in Hardings Park.

Jude, Paula and Derek carried  on from the Sledge track to complete the Toe toe and Platinum Mines loop tracks with beautiful scenery along the way.  The path is very well marked with quite a few steps of stairs along the way.  The Platinum Mines track is a short loop extension at the northern end of the Toe toe track which take you further to a number of old mine-shafts.  They were able to see down into the vertical and horizontal mine shafts although they couldn’t explore them because they were blocked with mud and debris.  It was a fantastic loop walk and took about 4 hours or so to complete. 

Simon and Nic left them at the junction and carried on eastwards to the start of the Otangane loop They followed along the southern side of the loop, their goal was to visit high point Aruwaru. After taking in the views at Aruwaru they returned back on a marked, overgrown unmapped track south of the loop.

Meanwhile Peter, Anne and Glenda walked the Sledge Track at a more sedate pace taking many photos of the typically NI west coast bush and the picturesque Kahuterawa Stream. After about an hour they reached the end of the Sledge Track, which is the point where the track to the Toe Toe and Otangane loops starts. Instead of following this track they crossed the stream and zig-zagged up a steep hillside into the Arapuke Forest Park, a mountain biker’s haven. As they climbed they could see windmills to the north east, some of which were still in construction, and to the east they could see where our other parties were headed.

Arapuke Park was once a forestry plantation but is now slowly regenerating back to bush and wildling pines. There are many mountain bike tracks in the park but there are two tracks where walkers are allowed. They took the longer track, Arapuke Road, which took them along to another entry to the park at the end of Scotts Road. From Scotts Road they were once again in the bush as they followed the Back Track back to Kahuterawa Road and our van. The Back Track, an old road that was closed in the early 1980s, is part of the Te Araroa Trail and part way along it there is a sign indicating the 1500 km mark which is the half way point of the trail.

The Arapuke trio were back at the van before 3 and had an hour or 2 wait for the other parties, first the Toe Toe Loop party and then the Aruwaru party. We then drove over the Pahiatua Track, to Woodville for fish and chips and then to the Ferry Reserve at the eastern end of the Manawatu Gorge to camp for the night.

Sunday morning, after filling water bottles at Woodville, we headed off to Top Grass Road and then Kumeti Road to park at the road end. We were not impressed with the pile of domestic waste at the road end , nor the smelly deer carcasses there, and have since informed DOC and the Council of this. The first part of the tramp was a walk up the Mangapuaka Stream to the track that goes up a spur near where the old Kumeti Hut was once. The stream is easy walking but obviously not easy driving if the remains of a drowned car in the river was anything to go by.

A party of 5 (Derek, Jude, Nic, Paula, Simon)  set off up the spur first with the goal of reaching the high point just past the junction for the turn off to Kiritaki Hut. The track up the hill is a fairly steep climb in parts with about a 250 metre climb to the top of the ridge, here after a brief break we continued along the ridge towards our goal. The path along the ridge was slower going than anticipated, with large parts of it overgrown enough to require caution to proceed to ensure we didn’t trip over hidden obstacles on the track or the occasional hole.

Going along the ridge you continue to climb upwards (however nothing like going up the spur) and we were rewarded with views down both sides of the ridge at times. As we continued on we moved into leatherwood along the sides of the track leaving us more exposed but providing great views.

Just after the 5 km mark we hit a section overgrown with Toe toe making it hard to follow the person in front and to determine where the track was meant to be headed. At this time we had been going for just under 3 hours and the decision was made to turn around here, about an hour short of our goal knowing that we would still need to head back down the spur to the river.

Meanwhile we the amblers, Peter, Glenda and Anne, didn’t notice the steep gradient of the spur because it was so pretty. We enjoyed the multitude of flowering Easter orchids and small white rata flowers plus many red admiral butterflies as we made our way upwards. As well as this, as we climbed higher we had good views of the Dannevirke hinterland and the surrounding forest. We met a couple of hunters, with bows and guns, coming down the spur, one was from Wellington and one from Cambridge, and they told us they had passed the other group at the top of the spur.

We had our lunch at the top of the spur and then headed back, getting the van just before 3 pm. We drove a few 100 metres back along the road to the picnic area (away from the rubbish) to wait for the others. In the bush around the picnic area is a very large rata (maybe 800 years old) that is well worth a look. The others arrived back to the picnic area around 4.30 pm and it was then back to the Bay.

Party: Simon W, Nic W, Jude , Paula K, Derek B, Anne D, Peter B and Glenda H

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