Waikoau  Tomos and Gorge

30 January 2022

High summer and a gorge trip, what more could a man ask for. After signing in at the shearing shed, we headed back to the airstrip gate and wandered down to the airstrip past literally hundreds of bunnies.

It was years since I was last there and my memory is notoriously wrong, so everyone had to argue about which way to go, but I figured that if we dropped into the patch of bush below us we would bump into the Waihimo gorge eventually. The bush was open and easy going and we did indeed eventually bump into the gorge, if a little further down than anticipated, so I headed back up the side of it to eventually find a route of sorts down into this hidden wonderland. Most of the party hadn’t been there before and they were gob-smacked by the grandeur, beauty and sheer size of this collapsed cave system.  You follow a trickle of a stream down the bottom of it over huge limestone rocks while these giant cliffs either side of you tower and loom above you before almost meeting in the middle, all the while the sun streaming in through the narrow ribbon of sky high above. At the bottom,  the gorge ends in a waterfall that you walk past later in the day as you go down the Waikoau  River.

 Scrambling back up the gorge we exited on the true right and came out by a corner post with a broken stay only a short walk from where the track leaves the farmland to go down to the Waikoau. Seven of us headed down the river spending some of the time in the river and some of the time sidling through some really nice bush, a bit eaten out by deer and goats but still considerably better than the disgraceful condition of the Boundary Stream and Bellbird Bush deer park just up the road.

Eventually we took a major sidle on the true left and couldn’t get back into the river for miles unfortunately missing much of the stunning limestone gorge. At one point we did manage to drop back in for lunch and there were four giant meringues of foam circling each other in an eddy, there were also a number of places where the sunlight reflected off the water and onto the overhanging rocks.

When we came to the waterfall on  the true left that marks the beginning of the slab sided gorge that you have to get through to get to the end off the trip Marie and Anne left us.  They  climbed out on the true right to walk overland to l Blue Lake. The  rest of us forged on down the gorge. The Waikoau is not a very big river , but it is a very tight gorge with vertical unclimbable sides. The first half an hour of this gorge could be described as really exciting and/or, bloody scary depending on your point of view, I must be getting old because I was certainly leaning towards the  more worried attitude. After that for the next half an hour it’s mostly just really deep with slippery sides that you can’t hold onto, no current and in my case a pack that I was relying on for buoyancy that got heavier and heavier as I got lower and lower in the water. You come around the corner and it’s shallow , you climb onto a farm track, cross the bridge and stagger on up the big hill over farmland in the hot afternoon sun and arrive almost dry at Lake Opouahi car-park. I really am getting to old for this sort of trip, must do it again next year! Thanks Andy for walking up and collecting the van

Peter B, Glenda H, Susan L, Gabrielle S, Anne D, Nic W, Tina G, Andy F, Terry F, Marie T

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