Click here for photos of Section B
Section Summary: The section provides an almost direct west-to-east route from the west coast of the island to the east coast, passing on tramping tracks and forest roads through four different forests of dense bush: Herekino, Raetea, Omahuta, and Puketi. In between the forests are linking road sections of pastural farmland.
Route: Roma Road (sealed), Kaitia Avaroa Road (sealed), Herikino Forest Track, Veza Road (paper), Diggers Valley Road (metalled), Juken Nissho Forest Road (paper), Waiotehue Road (metalled) to Takahue. Takahue Saddle Road (metalled/paper) to Takahue Saddle, Mangamuka Gorge Track through Raetea forest via Mt. Raetea summit to Highway 1. Highway 1 past Mangamuka Bridge, Omahuta Road (metalled), Jacksons Road (metalled/paper), Pupuke Mangapa Road (metalled/paper), Omataroa Ridge Road (metalled/paper), Waire Road (metalled), Pungaere Road (metalled then sealed), Highway 10 to Waipapa. Waipapa Road (sealed), Rainbow Falls Road (metalled), Kerikeri Walkway past Rainbow Falls to Kerikeri.
Alternative routes: (1) A few kilometers past Raetea peak, at peak 727, an obvious point of depature heads south-east along the ridge to Kumetewhiwhia peak, from where an easy-to-follow straight-eastward ridge-top route would take one out to Harry Williams farm at Makene Road. This would eliminate a long section of Highway 1, but from what I could see from peak 727, appears to require pushing through dense bush at the moment, as there was no cut track apparent. (2) Te Araroa has proposed a route From Omahuta along the Omahuta Forest Road and other forest roads to a short cross-country bush-bash down to Mangapukahukahu Stream, then along the stream bed to Waipapa River. After fording the Waipapa River, one can either follow the Waipapa River Track (mostly in the river itslef) out to Waiari Road, or follow the Pukatea Ridge Track (condition unknown) and forest roads to Puketi. I decided against this route because I didn't want to take it alone for safety reasons, and didn''t want the wear and tear on my body and equipment this early in the trek, or the extra time required, given what I had seen of the deeply-cut stream beds and bush in Herekino Forest. (3) The proposed route also follows the western section of the Kerikeri walkway, which requires a farm permission; here, concerns about bulls on farm property and reportedly out-of-service bridges on the Waimokaikai stream along the walkway had me avoid this also.
Towns: Mangamuka Bridge (meals/store/lodging), Waipapa (meals/store), Kerikeri (meals/stores/lodging).
Route notes: (1) The Herikino Forest Track is well cut and marked at regular intervals with orange triangles, and the tramper is rarely out of sight of one, except for 4 km of old forestry roads in the middle of the section, and perhaps 200m at the very end of the track just before the final straight-up ascent to the ridge just a kilometer before Taumatamahoe summit. The left turn straight-up the hill is marked, however. The last 500 meters of track descending from Taumatamahoe, right before the exit to Veza Road, is extremely steep, and the top-most 80 meters or so of that section is more akin to a dirt-covered cliff than a tramping track and is quite dangerous to someone with a backpack. It took me 20 minutes to descend those 80 meters, with careful foot and pole plants and swinging by the arms around the few trees available to grasp; a slip or even trying to slide down on my rear might have resulted in a serious tumble, given a loaded backpack. (2) Juken Nissho forest road is about a kilometer south on Diggers Valley Road, with orange triagles marking the generally eastward route along the forest road as well (there are a few side roads to confuse, one of which diverted me for 15 minutes, and the actual roads used in the marked through-route are not exactly in the same place as roads shown on the topo map), and considerate hiker-friendly stiles over several of the road gates. This route through to Waiotehue Road is also longer than it appears. (3) Mangamuka Gorge Track begins at a DOC sign at a fork on Takahue Saddle Road. The left fork follows the river, while the right fork goes up the hill and is actually the Takahue Saddle Road. An orange triangle on the DOC sign is deceptive and seems to indicate the left river fork, but the uphill paper road is correct, and orange triangles continue to point the way to Takahue Saddle, from where a well-cut and orange-triangle-marked track heads up the ridgeline and eventually to Raetea peak and out to Highway 1. A kilometer before Takahue Saddle is the last water source until Highway 1--it is a dry ridgetop route. Highway 1 itself has adequate shoulders (verges) for safe walking and light traffic, although the large trucks drive very fast! (4) The Omataroa Ridge Road is quite scenic, with forest on one side and pastoral views on the other for part of the way, and ocassional views through the bush thereafter. It is marked as metalled, but is often just a paper road, deeply rutted in places and suitable only for 4WD; there were no cars driving along it during my hike. It starts with an unmarked uphill fork from the Pupuke Mangapa Road a kilometer past the bridge crossing at Mangapa (nothing there but the bridge!)--coordinates 66 70 130 N, 25 69 510 E--and then heads straight east along the ridge for perhaps 16-17 km, with moderate ups and downs. The only water along Omataroa Ridge is Pairirengarenga Stream, about 2 km after Pupuke Mangapa Road junction.
Maps: N04 Ahipara, N05 Herikino, O05 Rawene, P05 Kaikohe, printed brochure of Herikino Forest Track.
Supplies: Package mailed to Ahipara Bay Motel (with reservation) (4 days food).
Away from the beach, it was now time in Section B to tackle forest trails (tracks) and cruise along dirt (paper) and gravel (metalled) forest roads. The Herekino Forest Track really did take 8 hours. I was surprised. What I had been told but didn''t believe about slow progress in the bush was really true. The tread is made of roots, rocks, moss, bushes, and deep mud puddles, is sometimes very steep, and requires continuous attention. To built a smoother tread in this terrain would be a huge amount of work. Streams are deeply cut into the terrain, so one must descend into the stream gorge and then ascend out again. Occasionally one must physically push through bushes overgrowing the trail, and also navigate around fallen trees in the very dense forest, which has hanging vines and stems and small folliage everywhere, so that in going off the track, one is instantly caught in a tangled web. Off the track, it would be much easier without a backpack, as being able to nimbly duck and squeeze through would be a constant asset. The terrain is called forest, but I would call it "semi-jungle" (fortunately, it lacks the dangerous variety of living creatures that populate real jungles). Three days along these bush tracks gave me good practice, however, and I escaped with only a bruised shin and two slips in the mud onto my back (the pack is a nice cushion to fall on).
Emerging along a dirt road through a Monterrey Pine forest (called "exotic" forest here) on the first day of the section, I was met by Peter Griffiths and driven back to his home for a wonderful dinner with his family and friends. Peter makes wood-handled knives completely from scratch in his own shop, including the blade itself (see http://www.shark-knives.co.nz) and it was a pleasure to spend the evening and next morning at his home. He talked about how the long-lived and majestic Kauri trees were logged almost to extinction in the region at the turn of the century--and shipped to San Franciso to rebuild after the 1906 earthquate. Then he took me back to the same point the next day (walking every step of the way, remember), and I set out to Raetea Peak to camp the next night--a beautiful place to camp with a spectacular view of the setting sun (see photos). The track through Raetea Forest was very enjoyable and even had some more "open" traditional forest sections where one could actually walk on a level and flat leaf-covered tread, and follow by noticing where the tread went, rather than by the "clearing" through the folliage!
The third day from Raetea peak down to the small settlement of Mangamuka Bridge and its simple hotel and huge dinners was uneventful. The fourth day, Friday, I decided to try to walk all the way from Mangamuka Bridge to Kerikeri at the end of Section B, about 50km (30 miles) along dirt and gravel forest roads. I had never walked that far in one day before, and wanted to see what it would be like. I was also eager to post my photos from the first two sections and check emails, and a holiday weekend meant I might only have a chance on Saturday before everything closed. Well, I did make it to Kerikeri at 10:30pm on Friday, after starting at 7am, but it meant walking along the final Kerikeri walkway in the dark. The Kerikeri walkway goes by spectacular Rainbow Falls (perhaps 50 meters high?) and through a Scenic Reserve past a series of other waterfalls along a deep gorge. Hiking was a bit eerie given the sounds of several huge churning waterfalls in the river to my right down a steep slope, beyond the reach of my modest 3-LED headlamp, but the hour-long track is meant for tourists so was easy going and safe. Rainbow falls was beautiful by starlight, and the rest of the Scenic Reserve is (undoubtedly) quite scenic!
Walking along a forest road in Omahuta forest, I came across a small unassuming sign on a bridge post saying the road was closed due to operation of "heavy machinery." Well, a half-hour later this rumble starts in the distance, and in 30 seconds, as I manage to get well off the road, a dump truck comes barreling down the narrow twisting blind-cornered road at probably 40 mph (65 km/hr). Anything in its way would be instantly flattened without so much as a slowing in speed possible. Good thing I had 30 seconds warning! The truck came back the other way a bit later, just as fast, and then I was onto another road.
At one point on Omataroa Ridge, I filled my water bottles from a stream and cooked lunch. A few kilometers later I noticed a sign saying that potassium cyanide pellets (poison) had been lodged in the forest to kill opossums, which are proliferating since their introduction to New Zealand some decades ago, given no natural predators. The sign warned not to pick up the pellets, allow childeren to wonder, or eat animals from the forest. It didn't say anything about the water, but undoubtedly some of the poison is percolating into ground water and streams. And the watershed where I saw the sign fed into the stream I drank from. Three days later, I feel fine, and I''m sure that water concentrations must be very low, but this is something to monitor as I go along, in terms of how such poisons, which are now in widespread use on farms and on public lands, are affecting local groundwater.
Weather was good on this section, with a few sprinkles of rain here and there but otherwise partly overcast to clear skies.
These days in Kerikeri, as I go back over a remaining email backlog from colleagues from before I left Washington, as well as newer emails since I left, I am both missing the daily contacts and flow of ideas and information, but also glad to be away and gaining some perspective and distance. Reflection is still in the future, however, after further time to unwind from the busy time preparing for the trek in the weeks and months before departure.
Page updated October 27, 2003