Whirinaki Forest Park

 Matariki 24-26TH June

Friday morning saw a small party of five depart Hawke’s Bay in thick fog which was to last till we reached Minginui, thanks to Simon and Murry for getting us there safely. It was a very full carpark as we disembarked to a chorus of kaka calls. On a very cool morning, we set off at 10.45 am along the well benched track. Ten minutes from the carpark we had to clamber over and around our first windfall. The Te Whaiti canyon with its moss covered fluted walls had a good amount of water flowing downstream.

The route we were taking was the Moerangi Mountain bike track, the signs saying 4.5 hours. It was a steady climb of about 600+ metres, initially through the large podocarps then into a predominately kamahi forest with several rimu and totara present along with an abundance of ferns, pongas and fungi. As the temperature rose to 10 degrees, we heard and saw more bird life- tui, bellbird, tomtit, fantail, whiteheads, warbler, robins, kereru and a solitary morepork.

We passed a clearing with a sign stating that cellular coverage was available, slowly sidling below the Moerangi highpoint @1051 before descending to the footbridge at the junction of the two branches of the Moerangi Stream. It was another 10 minutes to the 9 bunk hut, nestled high above the stream – there was a party of four already in residence, with one of the women trying to light the fire with damp wood (the woodshed has been placed in a poor position as the rain pours into its interior). It rained steadily during the night  and we awoke to the mist starting to lift out of the valley.

Our mission on the Saturday was to undertake a return day trip to the historic Rodgers (Te Wairoa) Hut. Some 10 minutes from the track junction we came across a slip about 3 metres by 3 metres, easy for trampers but not so for the mountain bikers. The track undulates as we crossed 11 streams, 90% were bridged on our way to Rodgers Hut, a 3 hour walk from Moerangi. A new hut  has been built for the Whio team in a grassy clearing, five minutes from Rodgers, it was open and had a lot of radio gear and their supplies,  a three bunk hut  with no signage. Rodgers Hut has had a log burning stove installed, 9 bunks and a stained glass window above the bunks- a lot of old tin lids have been nailed to the walls with the names of people who have stayed there. At 1.30pm we set off on the return journey.

Sunday saw us away at 8.15 am on the return journey to the River Road carpark. It was a shorter ascent to the clearing and we made good time. Murry and Simon diverted water that was running down and scouring out the track by removing a couple old tree stumps, joining us 15 minutes later. We stopped at the clearing with views out across the valley, before our descent back to the main Whirinaki track- it is amazing how things look differently on a return journey. As we wandered along the undulating track back to our van, we passed a magnificent podocarp with rata vines entwined around its trunk. We were out shortly after midday and drove to Arataki’s cafe at Waiotapu to have lunch, before our journey back to the Bay.

Party: Jude Hay, Anne Doig, Susan Lopdell and our wonderful drivers Murry Alderson and Simon Whittam.

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