Labour Weekend 2020
Friday 23rd: A party of nine left Te Aute Road at 7.00 am bound for Pureora Forest Park. Our morning tea break was held in very chilly conditions at Four Mile Bay, Lake Taupo, whilst we watched a lone fisher-woman attempting to catch a trout. We drove the scenic route around the lake, turning right at Turangi an making our way to Taumarunui. We stopped at the Waituhi lookout, where we had splendid views of the three snow capped mountains in Tongariro National Park.
Just short of Taumarunui, we drove about 20 minutes south along SH4 to Owhanga, our destination being the Ohinetonga Walk. We had lunch near the concrete bridge over the Whakapapa River and watched a pair of whio navigating the massive rocks and turbulent cataract as the river tumbles through the valley. A well formed track with board-walks winds its way uphill through native bush. Near the top a huge totara, protected by a platform, had our party trying to estimate its age.
The track descends to a small lagoon, with the filtered sunlight forming some reflections and as we walked across the board-walk we noticed how the algae is starting to overtake this waterway. We crossed over the road and as we neared the river, there was quite a diversity of vegetation. Birdlife was plentiful during this 2 hour wander.
Back on board, we headed into Taumarunui and the Mt. Peka Reserve which overlooks the township and the Whanganui River. Some of the group decided to walk the trails leading down to the river whilst Lex, Fred and Marion brought the truck around. The local community had cleared, planted native trees and constucted tracks in this small reserve , but it has not been maintained.
Before heading to the Holiday Park, there was some supermarket shopping for the evenings meal and Lex then drove us 4km out of town to our cabins. This proved to be a good base for the weekend with good showers, kitchen facilities with outdoor tables which easily catered for the very full holiday park, bordered by the river and a patch of native bush.
Saturday 24th: The route to the Ongarue end of the Timber Trail from our base at the Taumarunui Motor Camp was on SH 4 to Ngakonui Ongarue Rd on to the Bennett Road car-park; to which there is excellent sign posting. The Bennett Road car-park is in two sections; the first, where we parked, is for general public with the other section for shuttle transfer operators who shuttle customers up to Piropiro to return to Ongarue. This section appears to be locked at night.
Outside the car-park there is a very informative map of the Timber Trail. The trail starts on the right, after a short way down Bennett Road and across the road bridge. The first trail marker reads 85; from there it is an undulating track skirting the edge of farm land and plantation pine forest. This section is through private land.
At the 77 marker the trail crosses a road and the climb up to the Ongarue Spiral begins. Here the trail becomes more scenic with bush to our left and some very substantial cliffs to the right. At approximately the 76 marker a sign warns of no stopping with the potential for rock falls over the next 1500 metres.
The Ongarue Spiral is a loop in the main tram line that is completed by way of a tunnel . It was at a bridge before the spiral that we met our first cyclist. Walking through the tunnel we had to marvel at the workmanship through the rocks. The tunnel was shorter than I had anticipated but this ingenious engineering solution eased the grade for the timber trams that made the 43m climb achievable. Once we reached the second bridge of the spiral it was interesting to see the path we had travelled. It was a tad confusing until we realised that the bridge below us was the one we had crossed prior to entering the tunnel.
At the 72 marker we found a spot out of the drizzle to have lunch. At this spot the trail had two paths; one rounded a corner and the other went up the hill passed our lunch spot. At the top of the steeper path was a sign stating “mobile phone reception”. Janice tested this and rang her family.
It was decided at that after lunch we would return to the truck. The return journey was down hill (it is understandable as to why the cyclist ride from Piropiro). Once we crossed the road, we were again on the undulating 8 km track which would take us back to the truck. As we walked back a number of us pulled wilding pines which were in abundance.
Sunday 25th: Everyone was up early and we set off at 7.45 am, stopping to refuel in Taumarunui and get directions to the road-end at the western end of the Hauhungaroa Track. The route to the Mangakau road-end took, about an hour. It was fortunate there was only one vehicle at the road-end, allowing the truck to turn and park on the roadside as there was no available car-park. Someone had scratched an alteration on the DOC sign, adding another 30 minutes to the time to Hauhungaroa Hut. Three locked gates saw us clambering over the wooden railings and looking out for track markers. A good 10 minutes wasted before eventually finding a Te Araroa Trail marker partly hidden by vegetation.
The first couple of kilometres is along a boggy four wheel drive track, passing a dwelling nestled in the scrub, before crossing a tributary of the Mangakau Stream. A nice gentle uphill, then it became steeper, log bridges, tree root handholds and the occasional flat area giving some respite to the uphill grind. The forest is predominately tawa with the odd podocarp and punga present. The party split into two groups , each with a locator beacon. Our group took 3.5-4 hours to reach the hut where we met up with Simon, Janice, Jude and Brent. The hut was built in 2007, it had six bunks with coal/wood burner and was nestled on the top of the spur and we found it in a neat and tidy condition.
After lunch, we retraced our footsteps, returning to the truck where Fred and Marion were waiting for us. It was a good eight hour day in an area none of the party had been to.
Monday 26th: We left Taumarunui, turned onto the Western Bays Road and stopped at the Great Trails car-park beside the Waihaha River. No one seemed in a great hurry to rush off this morning and everyone was advised to stop about 11.00 am , lunch and start returning back to the truck so we could leave about 1-1.30 pm.
The Waihaha track follows the northern side of the Waihaha River through scrub to the confluence of the Mangatu Stream, sidling through regenerating tanekaha. There are good viewpoints enabling views back across the forest and farmland. We regrouped to have lunch just before the track drops down to the frost flats at Pokaiora Clearing, before retracing our steps to the truck. We met several groups who had overnighted at Waihaha Hut, stopping to chat before they walked out to their vehicles.
An uneventful trip back to the Bay after an enjoyable weekend away in a delightful forest setting. Lex, our thanks and our gratitude for all your driving – it was a lot of kilometres travelled . Thanks also to the club members who came along, I hope the trip has given you plenty of memories.
Party: Susan L, Lex S, Janice L, Fred C, Marion N, Simon W, Anne D, Jude H and Brent H.