The Pureora Forest Park in June.

5 – 7 June 2021

5 June:  Rimu Track and Geographical Centre of the North Island

We left Pukahu at 7.00 AM, fueled up at Bay View and drove along SH5,  with the obligatory stop at Opepe, before picking Derek up  at Taupo.  With the full contingent of trampers it then was off to the Pureora Forest Park via  Atiamuri,  Whakamaru and then  SH32. Alas the signage to Pureora from SH32  is somewhat lacking and we overshot the turn off but the ladies at the Tihoi Trading Post gave us the directions back to Kakaho Road.

We stopped for an early lunch at the Kakaho  campsite and after lunch we walked Rimu Loop walk. The  Rimu Walk is marked as a  1.7km, 1 hour walk but it did not take us that long to walk through this lush forest (maybe the time for the walk was a warning of the abundance of steps that would be encountered). The walk ended a couple of hundred metres north of the start,  the sign was missing and the posts askew and this was to be a warning of things to come. Driving through Pureora Forest has been made extremely difficult with most of the black and white sign posts smashed or no longer there.

Pureora Forest Park
Kakaho Campsite

Unfortunately we did not have time to climb Titiraupenga so it was decided that we would walk into the monument at the Geographical Centre of the North Island from the short track off Waimonoa Road. From the Geographical Centre there is a track through to Links Road (part of the Titiraupenga Track) that would take 2 hours; this was to be our tramp for the afternoon.

Seven of us did this walk while the other 2 returned to the truck to bring it round to the Links Road carpark, picking up a phone one of us had dropped on the way.  With a lost phone, three streams to cross, some steep slippery hills and a little difficulty with navigation it took well over the 2 hours for all to reach the Links Road carpark (more like 3 hours). Oh the joy of getting to the top of the final hill and the end of the track to hear Susan tell us that she had the missing phone.

It was then  was back in the truck to find our way to the Pureora Cabins. Once again the lack of signs caused a problem but with a bit of help from google maps we were on our way to luxury; well hot showers, electricity, and a kitchen with the necessary crockery and utensils. Since our last stay in these cabins they have been spruced up with a coat of paint. It was great to have the cabin with a lot of room for us all to sort out our gear for the next day’s overnight tramp.

Pureora Forest Park
Pureora Forest Park
Geographical Centre of NI

6 June:   Waihora Lagoon to Waihaha Hut

We left the cabins about 8.00am and drove along State Highways 30 and 32 to the eastern side of the Pureora Forest Park. We drove down Waihora Road, a gravel road for 7kms. Our drop off site was a disappointment as the was an inordinate amount of rubbish (mainly loo paper) everywhere which made the place look unkempt. A toilet inclusion would be of enormous benefit to the surrounds.

Once past the carpark, we headed along heavily rutted 4WD tracks to the forest and steadily climbed into the bushy surrounds. We passed a group of boys plus their leader from the Tihoi Adventure Camp, it was a delight to see them excited about their outdoor challenges. The orange markers were often covered in lichen and sometimes sparse, especially difficult as there was a lot of windfall to navigate around. Lots of bird calls could be heard, with occasional flapping of the kereru above us. Sometimes the track became slippery, particularly on the exposed roots and this often caused Derek’s demise. He managed to dirty his backside a few times and like a true, hard-core tramper, with his good humour, bounced back up

Reaching the junction after 1.5 hrs, we continued along the Hauhungaroa track ( translating roughly to “wind sounds along the long road”) to the Waihaha Hut ( translating to “searching for water”). It was impressive to read that this is part of the Te Araroa trail and we were doing a small part of it.

The group took turns at leading. With the irregular rain falling and the wet ferny cover, we were quite wet and varied having our raincoats on and off. It wasn’t cold at all, just felt mildly humid. This weather obviously suited the low level plant life. Many trees were covered in lichen and moss. There were also lots of ferns, my favourite being the kidney fern which was quite prolific.

Together we completed 10.5km over 6.5hrs.It was great being met by the other HTC trampers, especially with the water already boiled, wood collected and the fire lit. Just after arrival, the heavens opened and steady rain fell,  a perfect ending to a day of enjoyable tramping.

Waihaha Direct:  

A party of four drove around to the Great Lakes Trail carpark beside the Waihaha River, crossing the bridge, we set off just before 11.00 am. Initially the track passes through scrubby converted farmland, after 30 minutes  it crossed the swingbridge over the Pikopiko stream before a long gentle ascent through regenerating tanekaha to a dry plateau.  It then dropped down to the valley floor and meandered through the frost flats covered by monoao (dracophyllum subulatum)- this is thought to be the result of a pre-European fire and subsequent frosts inhibiting any new growth.

About 2 and a half hours from the car-park we passed through some bigger tanekaha forest with miro, rimu and Hall’s totara springing up. Soon the distinctive cluster of mature rimu signalled we were not far from the hut and 10 minutes later we walked out onto the grassy clearing in front of the hut.   There was no one in residence as we had passed five groups walking out, so we choose our bunks, had a hot drink and collected firewood. A couple of us donned parkas and wandered along the track toward the Mangatu stream mid afternoon- due to the overcast conditions was quite dark in the forest. A lot of birdlife seen and heard on the way in- tui/ bellbird/ kaka/tomtit/ robin/ keruru/ waxeye and we had been told about a pair of whio near the hut (this pair we observed on the next morning, sitting on a log).

We had estimated that the other party would arrive about 4.45-5.00 pm and like a clock Murry strode into the clearing, closely followed by the rest – they did appear to be a bit wet! The evening was spent chilling out, recounting the days travels, cooking our meals and by 8.30pm most were in their sleeping bags.

7 June:   Waihaha Hut to The Truck

All up bright and early, an interesting variety of breakfasts consumed, packs repacked, firewood collected and hut swept and left in a very tidy condition- thanks to everyone for pitching in. just before we were ready to go, Susan saw the pair of Whio,  in the stream beside the hut and those who had their cameras handy took pictures .

We returned the same way as the group of four had walked in, stopping off for all to view the small gorge with its rock pools and cascades- soon after this the river briefly goes underground before emerging, increasing in size and quietly flowing toward Lake Taupo.

Thirteen km travelled in 3hrs and sadly we had to leave the Pureora Forest Park and return home, stopping briefly at the Mitre 10 complex near the Napier-Taupo Road to have afternoon tea and farewell Derek.

Party: Janice L, Jo P, Paula K, Anne D, Derek B, Simon W, Murry A, Susan L and Lex S.

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