Pt2 Day 31. Mangamuka to TA km185 (start of Pukatea Ridge Track alongside Lower Waipapa River) - 17/03/16
Today's gps track is here. Over 26km today - part road and part Omahuta Forest, ending up bush camping pretty much at the start of the Puketi forest. Got underway about 0850 today after hanging around to do another morning "treat" shop! I took the opportunity to have a steak and egg pie for breakfast instead of the usual boring old muesli - great fuel for the day! It was pretty misty this morning when we set off, with only about 500m of SH1 before we turned off east towards the Omahuta Forest.
It was about 5.5km on gravel road up to Omahuta Forest Rd, which is an old forestry track. This continued uphill as a forestry track, involving two other "roads", for another 10km. This was a mixture of regenerating bush and some farmland. There were a lot of beehives along this track - often very close to the road - I was keen to give them as wide a berth as possible given that I only had some antihistamines to counter the effects of any stings!! We even passed an airstrip with a fertiliser bin at the top. For those that have seen the Taihape airstrip, this is similar in principle (steep downhill to take off), but without the big drop off into a gully at the end - exciting flying!!
At the end of this track section, we dropped down into the Mangapukahukahu Stream. We had somehow expected it would be dropping down a bush-clad ridge. Instead it was mostly reasonably well graded through grass, toitoi etc until close to the bottom so quicker than expected. We really must read the trail notes in more detail - then we would have known what it was like!! No matter how many times we say it, we often slip up!
Then it was on to one of the highlights of the day - a 2.5km or so (TA says 2.5, I reckon 3km at least!!) walk up the stream to where it joins with the Lower Waipapa River. This is a steep gorge walk and is not to be attempted when any heavy rain is lurking. Fortunately we were happy with the weather and the stream was a comfortable height - not dissimilar to the Waikare stream walk after leaving Opua. Its a great viewpoint walking up streams like this - although one downside is that it plays havoc with the innersoles on our shoes (mine in particular) when they are constantly wet - with mine occasionally bunching up in the shoe, requiring a sit down and adjustment. But a small price to pay ultimately :-)
A very short duck along the bank saw us safely across the Lower Waipapa just south of the confluence (see photo above). Then it was a chance to empty out the sand from the shoes as this was the last bit of wet-feet walking for a while! Then it was up a steep muddy bank to follow the Lower Waipapa River Track for about 4km. This bit of track has caused some negative comments from some people as being potentially quite dangerous. It is a very rough, narrow "track" that sidles round alongside the river. In places it is very precarious, using trees and poles to keep you more or less upright. Again, the going was quite dry for us and, although challenging, I don't think we ever thought of it as a huge problem. I must stress, however, that I would likely have a different opinion if it was wet and muddy - this would greatly increase the difficulty level.
We also saw the start of a trapping programme here that continued right through to the end of Puketi Forest, with both possum and rat/stoat traps at regular intervals - it would be a tough trap line to maintain in places!! By the time we exited Puketi the next day, we had counted 41 possums, in varying states of decay, hanging from traps - maybe time for DoC to be sending the contractors out to check the line.
After this 4km stretch, we ended up back on the bank of the river. The trail notes mentioned a small freedom camping spot about 30m up the hill from where the Pukatea Ridge Track (which we were to follow) left the river. We headed up and, sure enough, a lovely little spot in the bush to pitch the tent. We dropped our stuff there and headed back down to the river for a much needed wash (no photos!!). After setting up camp we went back down again to top up our water supplies for the night and next day. Then, inevitably, dinner and bed!! More bird calls again here to serenade us - we are both sure we heard kiwi, which was encouraging.
Belinda and Anthony (aka Tony) Hadfield made a decision, in their late 50's, to do something a "bit different" and walk New Zealand's 3000km Te Araroa Trail over summer 2015/16 - although updates will now tell you that this plan will take longer now!!. As the old saying goes - "don't leave home 'til you've seen the country"!!