Is the Conservation Minister smarter than the average bear?

17 03 2013

Is the recently rehabilitated, formerly disgraced, Conservation Minister, Nick Smith,  smarter than the average bear when it comes to making the right decisions about not messing up Fiordland with crazy Disneyfication get rich quick schemes?

We think the best way to help him come to the right decision is set him in down in front on a kids’ film, the filmed in New Zealand, Yogi Bear. (It got hammered by critics, but my better half and I, close to our 40ths, loved it.)

yogibearbluray

It comes with a great message, made so simple, even a National Party MP could understand it (we hope).

The story goes like this:

Mayor Brown, who has wasted too much of the city’s money on trivial things (being analogous to National’s spending on the Roads of National Significance boondoggle no doubt) needs to turn his deficit into a surplus and decides to monetise Jellystone Park by selling it to logging companies. Yogi, Boo Boo and all their fellow forest creatures are going to be out of a home, and instead of perpetually stealing pic-a-nic baskets, they have to cooperate with Ranger Smith and love interest/biology researcher Rachel to save the park. There are the predictable scenes of rafting over a waterfall, and waterskiing bears and Mayor Brown is shown as the on-the-take, shallow, nature hater that he really is, when he gets his comeuppance and Jellystone Park is saved.

This year the Minister is going to make a decision on whether either or both of the schemes to violate Fiordland are going to be given concessions. There is understandably a bit of a local backlash about the proposals, ie see Save Fiordland’s website.

Firstly there is the Milford Dart Tunnel which proposes to build a tunnel for buses with an eastern portal near the Routeburn Shelter and a western portal just north of Gunn’s Camp on the Hollyford Road. Tourists can then rush from Queenstown via the road to Glenorchy, over the little bridges over the Rees and Dart rivers, through the tunnel, to the Hollyford and then on the existing Hollyford Road, through the Homer Tunnel, and into Milford Sound, instead of going the long way round through Mossburn and Te Anau.

Secondly there is the plan to build a monorail from the Kiwi Burn through the Snowdon Forest to Te Anau Downs. With this tourists would be able to rush from Queenstown to Milford via a boat across Lake Wakatipu, then an “all terrain vehicle” (oh gosh) on the Mt Nicholas Road to KiwiBurn and then catch a monorail to Te Anau Downs where presumably they can get on pogo sticks to go through the Eglington Valley to the Homer Tunnel and down to the Sound.

Both of these would mean granting significant commercial concessions to build intrusive infrastructure in Te Wahipounamu/Fiordland World Heritage Area that would have big effects on scenery and recreational users to save tourists a few hours on an exhausting day trip bus ride. They would both significantly reduce the mana of the parks.

Here’s a suggestion for any tourists coming to Fiordland and are in Queenstown and want to visit Milford Sound. Don’t do it as a day trip. It is a long way to go, and there are many beautiful things to see on the way. There are world class walking tracks and the scenery is fantastic. Fiordland is worth more than one day of your life.

On paper the Milford Dart Tunnel would appear to not have much impact you might think, but the roads and bridges between Glenorchy and the eastern portal will all need to be upgraded for the large number of buses using the tunnel. (There would also be political pressure to open up the tunnel to trucks and cars once it was built).

The Lower Dart. What this valley needs is lots of diesel pollution.

The Lower Dart. What this valley needs is lots of diesel pollution.

Most of the Routeburn track walkers won’t notice the buses in the tunnels underneath (and the people in the buses would be looking into blackness when above they could be hiking in a lovely beech forest up to the Harris Saddle). A hundred diesel belchers going past the start of the walk to Lake Sylvan are going to mess with the ambience of what would have to be one of the nicest short walks in the world.

The beech forest en route to Lake Sylvan.

The beech forest en route to Lake Sylvan.

A short walk to a peaceful oasis of serenity, Lake Sylvan.

Peaceful Lake Sylvan

Peaceful Lake Sylvan.

At the western end of the tunnel the Hollyford Road will have to be widened and upgraded to take the extra bus traffic. The Hollyford Road near the start of the Lake Marian track is narrow and steep and in pristine forest. They’ll have to cut down a lot of trees to accomplish this. On the Hollyford Road past the turnoff  the traffic will thin, and only be there to provide access to the Hollyford Track. It’s a good thing the tourist buses will rush past giving no-one the opportunity to see such a magnificent river as the Hollyford.

The Hollyford River.

The Hollyford River.

I had a hike once in the Snowdon Forest.  I walked in from the Mavora Lakes and in from the KiwiBurn. I’m pretty much of the opinion that this part of the World Heritage Area should be incorporated into a National Park and better protected.

Walking around the South Mavora I was pretty much of the opinion that the 4WD access should be shutdown, because they had churned up the fragile soils in the beech forest into mudpools. DOC, if you’ve got any staff left, you should look into that.

Potholed and hillocked - 4WDs fucked up the South Mavora Lake.

Potholed and hillocked – 4WDs have fucked up the South Mavora Lake.

The Kiwi Burn area itself is beautiful with flat walking following the Mararoa River through the forest.

Bridge over the Mararoa River, near KiwiBurn.

Bridge over the Mararoa River, near Kiwi Burn.

Would this look better with a monorail?

En route to the Whitestone.

En route to the Whitestone Valley.

If tourists want Disneyland then I suggest going to Anaheim, Lille, Orlando or Hong Kong. If they want to see a beautiful corner of the world (except for the bloody sandflies) then I suggest they do it on foot, or take more than a day to do it by the existing road. These projects are unnecessary. They will despoil a beautiful and unique part of the world. They will commoditise, monetise and Disney-afy a part of the natural world. They will allow a couple of companies to generate wealth for themselves, whilst detracting from the common good that is owned not only by every New Zealander, but by everyone on planet Earth.

Can Nick Smith make the right decision? Is he smarter than the average bear?

Save Jellystone. Save Fiordland.

Save Jellystone. Save Fiordland.





A walk for deaf botanists

9 11 2012

On a train ride home I read over someone’s shoulder an article in the NZ Geographic magazine which detailed that a part of the Paekakariki Escarpment walk had been opened, so I got off my bum on another trip home and had a look.

The Paekakariki Escarpment walkway will eventually be part of Te Araroa replacing the noisy footpath along the Coast Road between Pukerua Bay and Paekakariki. At the moment only the first mile or so at the northern end has been finished.

If you want to walk it start near  the SH1/Ames St intersection and walk over the railway overbridge on the western side and go down the new set of stairs and then under the road.

The track is rather overrun with weeds. It seems that every Paekakakariki garden escapee from the last 150 years has taken root and decided to multiply.

In fact it was very Day of the Triffids, and a bit like other 1950s sci-fi where the plants eat everyone:

I had hoped that the escarpment track would be built way up high, but it isn’t. The bit built so far is not that high above the road or the train tracks. So if you are hoping for a peaceful walk then you’re not going to get it. It’s all within the noise cone of the highway, which makes it unpleasant.


Presently at about a mile along there is a gate, beyond which they are still building the track.

Overall the views are quite nice, but it’s a walk really only for deaf botanists. Otherwise take your earplugs.

Enjoy your walk with the help from our sponsor





Tramping from Levin to Palmerston North

25 08 2012

If you’ve got a spare 4 days and want a decent enough tramp that isn’t going to kill you, with public transport at both ends, then I’d recommend a walk from Levin to Palmerston North following the route of the Te Araroa Trail. It is varied and challenging enough to keep you interested, but not so hard to be too difficult. There are no real places to stay along the way, but it should be reasonably easy enough to find a few tent spots along the way.

Starting in Levin at the post office tower first walk up Queen St East to Denton Road and climb the hill up the Arapaepae Lookout track. It’s short and sharp.

Levin from the Arapaepae Lookout

Then follow the track over undulating hills until reaching the far end of Gladstone Road. This is about 3 to 4 hours from the start in Levin.  A little further on along Gladstone Road is the start of the Mangahao-Makahika track, which is to be walked from the Makahika Stream to the Mangahao Dams. Initially it goes across some private land and there is an easy creek crossing or two.

Crisscrossing the Makahika Stream

It starts off flat and only ever climbs gently.

After crossing private land the Mangahao-Makahika enters the Forest Park

The Mangahao-Makahika has a modest climb to a couple lookouts. The walk takes about 5 hours through to the Mangahao Dams and not the 7 or 8 as the brochure and the signs say.

Most of the Mangahao-Makahika track is through forest.

The track descends to the Blackwood Stream deep in the forest. Then it is a short track out to the Mangahao Dams road. Once the Mangahao Dams are reached walk past the 1st dam and take the Tokomaru Valley Road turnoff walking north until the markers are found.

The preferred entrance to Burrton’s track is marked by these markers. There is another access at a boggy carpark a little further north, but this part of the route is worth walking:

Burrton’s track is flat. There are some river crossings which on a frosty winter morning are bracing. If the river is up they’d be too hard.

Burrton’s Track follows the Tokomaru River, and is probably the scenic highlight of the walk.

It’s probably best to camp away from Gladstone or the Mangahao Dam roads. Camping somewhere away from vehicle access ensures your camping won’t be disturbed by the dickhead element. If you don’t want to camp you could stay the first night at the Makahika Outdoor Centre (by prior arrangement) near the end of Gladstone Road. You could also probably, with a bit of effort, make Burn Hut on the Burn Hut Track for night 2, but there’s nowhere for a 3rd night.

Early morning bend in the river.

A good camping spot would be at the first Tokomaru River crossing. There’s a large grassy area with plenty of room. Further along near the site of Burtton’s Whare would also be good.

The perfect lunch spot with light streaming through the foliage.

After the most spectacular bit of the walk through the beautiful forest along Burtton’s Track the Te Araroa trail heads along Scotts Road. It’s not unpleasant. There’s no traffic (and it is behind a locked gate) . It is just in a pine forest.

Is this anti Te Araroa trail graffiti? Why would anyone be against a walking track?

With any luck you’ll meet some pig hunters, like we did. I think the one we met wrestled any pigs and then bit them or something. He didn’t carry a rifle and perhaps he killed  them just with a dirty look.

Through the forest near Scotts Road

Scotts Road is closed to traffic (you’ll perhaps meet some illegal motorcycles) and would be rideable by MTB. It follows a contour and was once a road rather than the current track. Then the Back Track takes you to the end of Kahuterawa Road (which is also the start of the Sledge Track). You could probably camp near the carpark (and there are some loos – the first and only loos of the trip). Walk along Kahuterawa Road for 5 kilometres or so then turn onto Greens Road. The views are quite good over the Manawatu and the roads themselves are quiet country roads.

Keep walking on Greens Road and then onto Turitea Road. On Turitea Road the Te Araroa trail disappears across a paddock to follow the Turitea Stream at the back of people’s houses and paddocks. This gets muddy underfoot and there are a couple creek crossings. The locals might be burning off like they were for me, and you might get pissed off with the smoke and have no choice to walk through it, but hopefully they won’t be quite so stupid for you when you walk that way.

Greens Road countryside

Cross Old West Road and climb the steps into the backblocks of Massey University.

In the backblocks of the University

The walkway finds the Turitea Stream and follows it through the campus. This is actually a nice part of the hike and it finishes up near the entrance to the University. Then it is a noisy walk along the footpath of Tennent Drive through the tunnels with some nice murals, and across the bridge over the Manawatu River.

And then you’ve made it to Palmy.

Palmie’s clock tower beckons at the end of Fitzherbert St

It’s about 50km by road between Levin and Palmerston North, and it’s reasonably direct following the route I describe. I’d estimate it’s about 65 km.

Messages from our sponsors : Mountain View Motel Levin  a great place to stay at the start of your trip.

and does your partner snore like a big old black steam train? Well my better half reckons I do so she started importing earplugs in bulk.





Thwarted access to the hills

5 02 2012

In other countries there is a right to roam. On my Scottish OE I enjoyed climbing any hill that took my fancy. In Sweden the allemansrätten ensures you can pretty much walk anywhere you’d like. In New Zealand outside the conservation estate we get a few scraps of land to walk over. When the land was stolen or bought from the Maoris and it was settled and divvied up there wasn’t much thought for the future recreational needs of all New Zealanders. So there is not much right to roam.

I love the fact that all the topo maps are now available for free from LINZ (even if they are the hugest tiff files that slows my computer down to a snail’s pace) and I really like the Walking Access Mapping System that shows all the cadastral boundaries for all NZ and where you can legally walk. Unfortunately it doesn’t show lots and lots of paper roads criss-crossing the countryside. Take the Horowhenua. There’s only a few surprises. The Waitarere-Hokio Road does indeed join up with Moutere Road as a paper road. The Moutoa Floodway and the stopbanks around Opiki are on public land, as is the historic bridge (but there’s no sign to say so near the engineers monument, so everyone thinks they’re trespassing to go down to the old bridge, but they’re not). And there is a paper road through the Tokomaru gorge.

There’s also some paper roads leading off Wallace Loop Road, Potts Road and Heights Road, but they don’t seem to link up with anywhere you could walk, except tracks that cross private land. This is a great shame, as it would open up quite a lot of nice hikes linking through to the Kohitere Forest (which is private, but open for trampers and mountain bikers). It’s this lack of connectivity of the public rights of access which is stopping developing recreational resources for the people of the Horowhenua, and hence also stopping a few visitors from visiting if there isn’t as much for them to do.

Here’s a snapshot from WAMS showing the area I’m talking about. The pink is a paper road, and the orange and white banded road at the bottom is in the Kohitere Forest. Between them are tracks along the ridge line of the first range of hills you can see looking east standing in Levin.

I went for a walk doing the loop in the forest, beginning and ending at the You Are Here, and walking the northern part of a loop on the brown track below to the Arapaepae Lookout and walk the Arapaepae Track back. (It is part of Te Araroa, but it is a bit unique as it as branch off the main part of the Te Araroa Trail, to link through walkers into Levin.) I also thought I’d explore the trails northwards until I came to a big fence or a dumb No Trespassing sign.

I’m much of the same opinion as the late Christopher Hitchens that “faith” is an overrated virtue, if it is a virtue at all, and trespass is a most underrated virtue. (That’s me, that last bit, not Mr. Hitchens) Most often it is just an excuse for a landowner to be a dick and to stop people from walking across their land, which commonly is a low impact kind of thing anyway.

The Kohitere Forest is planted pines with a few covenanted blocks of native forest. It’s a pleasant place for a walk or mountain bike ride.

And the views of the Ohau Valley and onto the Tararuas can be quite pleasant:

The track leading north out of the forest on the ridge line (I dunno if this bit is private or not. There were no signs or gates as such.) The views were fantastic. From Kapiti Island over the Horowhenua and past the Manawatu. The track was a bit overgrown, but would be safe mountain biking (if you’re allowed on it). Here’s the track of unknown legal status:

 

Then there is a locked gate with a sign saying no trespassing, and it does go past some houses. So I turned around and went back the way I came. It is really unfortunate that there isn’t a stile and a right to keep on walking. It is really close to the paper road down to Wallace Loop Road, and really what harm would it be to let people walk over these tracks? The track continues, but is verboten:

The no trespassing sign was a bit rude, with the trespassers prosecuted rubbish that they often have, when really all they could do to a trespasser is to ask them to move on, and if they complain to the police all the police can do is put a trespass notice on you, and then it would be an offence to go back onto the private bit of land in the next two years. But at least it wasn’t as rude and mean spirited as this stupid one near the start of my walk. I’m glad someone has tried to rip it from the tree.

The views from the ridgeline were all pretty nice, but here is the view from the Arapaepae Lookout:

Nice place for a hike. Pity about the lack of legal access.





Te Araroa Trail in the Tararuas Part 2

30 12 2011

This is the second of two posts about the part of the Te Araroa Trail between Otaki Forks and Poads Road, Levin. Click here for Part One.

After a night in the comfy Nichols Hut I had a cloudy morning which meant that I started off on the wrong ridge from Mt Nichols and I worked out I was headed for Park Forks, where the Park River joins the Waiohine (mainly because the track was dropping away too quickly, and it wasn’t a track) so I retraced my steps and the cloud had lifted. I was an hour away from the hut, stuffed-as, and yet I could see I was only 100 metres or so above it. How I missed the track heading in the right direction I don’t know. The forest on the correct ridge was magical. It was a nothofagus forest, covered in moss. I’d recommend this bit of the walk along the Dracophyllum Ridge to anyone, but it is two days hard walk to either end of it, so it will be a seldom visited pleasure.

On the ridge between Nichols and Dracophyllum Huts

The forests are largely silent, apart from the odd rifleman, tomtit and tui. I found this little fella on a mossy log. He wasn’t moving, and he was dead. Going by his antennae he was rather cross about it.

This weta was broken. It needs a visit to the Weta Workshop.

The sign said 2 hrs between the huts, but with my little, useless detour and my general plodding it took well over 4 hours. It was probably the loveliest bit of the trip, but still hard work with two small peaks to get over before getting up to the biv. The photo below shows the track on a relatively flat bit.

Enroute to Dracophyllum hut

Finally …

Sweet, sweet water on the ridgeline at the hut

After Dracophyllum the track emerges from the forest, goes up and down a few small mounts like Butchers Knob and heads to Pukematawai, the line of the track can be seen following the ridge to Pukematawai at the back of the photo below (with Mt Dundas further on)

The ridge to Pukematawai north of Dracophyllum

I try to not step on any of the plants in the alpine zone, and especially not the cushion plants. I find them amazing.

A large cushion plant

After reaching Pukematawai (300 metres of vertical doesn’t seem too much after yesterday’s 1100 metres) the trail follows down an adjacent ridge. (I didn’t have the energy to get to the summit). I could see Te Matawai Hut 500 metres below. I made it down only 10 hours after leaving Nichols Hut. That was a huge demanding day.

Spot Te Matawai Hut 500 metres below Pukematawai

Day 4 saw me heading over the Dora Track and down the Gable End Ridge, which is not the Te Araroa Trail, which is routed through Waiopehu Hut and the Waiopehu Ridge. Gable End Ridge is about 2 hours quicker. It is almost a kilometre of vertical down. Again it was a hard slog, with occasional views over the Horowhenua. Getting off the endless downhill to the flat at the confluence of the Ohau and Blackwater Stream was heavenly. Then it was just an hour out.

Levin and Lake Horowhenua from the Gable End Ridge

According to the DOC times on the back of my map Otaki Forks to Poads Road is 22 hours. I did it in 32 hours. I found it pretty damn hard. It was long. It was up and down. Most of the track was rough as guts.

I’ve had some hard tramps in the past – There was buggering the ankle in the heather on Scotland’s Ben Hope and hobbling down the mountain before going to the pub and then the hospital. There was buggering the other ankle and walking out of the Rees Valley for 8 hours high on codeine and ibuprofen after the ankle had deswollen enough to get my boot on. There was the 8 metre fall on the Rabbit Pass in Mt Aspiring National Park (I bounced). There was the food poisoning and altitude sickness summiting Mt Kinabalu and chucking up 20 times on the way down. There was the 465km south-north crossing of Tasmania.

This little 4 day walk was up there. Routing the Te Araroa Trail over this route was a bit contentious. It’s only walkable in sustained good weather, which pretty much means Summer only. A lower, safer route over the Oriwa Ridge bypassing the high main range of the Tararuas was proposed and then opposed by some tramping clubs, so it didn’t happen. There isn’t a continuous route over Mount Thompson behind Manakau (but maybe there could be one with a bit of imagination). After seeing the people at the Te Araroa Trail opening I figure a large portion of people walking the Trail are retirees. So the question is could you throw 60 year olds over the Main Range of the Tararuas and expect most of them to make it out alive? I think the answer is for every hundred 60-somethings trying it at least 90 of them would make it to out alive, 50 of them at the other end. In other words I think it is just a wee bit too hard. Highly memorable, and fantastic, but also pretty damn difficult. Maybe as an alternative skip this section and walk up the beaches from Waikanae to the Ohau River estuary. The current route is not as hard to walk as the Whanganui River section, which is really hard if you are not the Messiah, but maybe the Te Araroa people could consider choosing another route.





Te Araroa Trail in the Tararuas Part 1

29 12 2011

This is the first of two posts about the part of the Te Araroa Trail between Otaki Forks and Poads Road, Levin. I had walked from Seatoun to Otaki Forks 3 years ago and got to Otaki Forks and thought the next section would require a bit of forward planning and 4 days of good weather. It took me 3 years to pluck up the courage, and have the time off work coincident with good weather, but I finally did it.

The routing of the Te Araroa Trail over the tops of the main range of the Tararuas is a bit contentious since it is thought to be too hard for most people. I definitely have an opinion on that but I’ll save that for part two.

It only takes 50 minutes to drive from Otaki Forks to Poads Road on the flat, but it takes 4 days to walk it. If you were super fit you could walk it in three. I think it is too hard to walk it in any less time. It took me a total of 32 hours of walking over 4 days. I was slower than just about every advertised time.

I started from the picnic grounds at Otaki Forks and over the footbridge it starts off on an easy track towards Waitewaewae, also called YTYY. (the first time I saw YTYY on a sign, a direction marker for where the track is diverted above a slip, I thought “huh?” and guessed it meant Tuktoyaktuk airport, then I said it out loud, and went “oh derr”)

Above the Otaki River

The track is easy til it gets to the swingbridge over the Otaki. (The swingbridge would make a nice there and back walk in an hour from the picnic grounds)

Swingbridge over the Otaki, not far along the Waitewaewae Track

The track goes up the Waitatapia Valley(not the Otaki Valley) following some old timber cutters’ tram tracks. So yes this is some flat bits. It’s also the last of the flat bits for 4 days. There is the aforementioned slip to negotiate, with a straightforward little climb and you come upon an old stationary engine.

Logging relic on the Waitewaewae Track

The track up Saddle Creek to the Plateau is, as the guide book said, as rough as guts. At least if you’re thirsty all you have to do is bend down and drink. Water would become an issue over the next 3 days as the track follows the ridgelines, and there is never much water on a ridge. The huts all had good water. Waitewaewae Hut on a swimming hole in the Otaki was a welcome relief.

The comfortable Waitewaewae Hut

The next morning another swingbridge takes you to the east side of the Otaki River and then there is a 1000 metre climb up Shoulder Knob to Junction Knob on the main ridge of the Tararuas. There is no other way to say it other than it was hard, steep, and relentless. I climbed and climbed, and then I climbed. When I made it to the sign on Junction Knob I had a little rest and fell asleep.

Just above the tree line, a kilometre of vertical above the last hut

I love walking on the tops and seeing all the alpine flora.

Daisies on the tops

At the junction I turned left for Mt Crawford (I once had a day climbing the similarly named Mount Crawford in South Australia with a friend, and drove back afterwards through Birdwood where the National Motor Museum had a historic pinball display. $7 and we had an all afternoon lock-in with 63 historic pinball machines – my favourite being the Dennis Lillee Howzat! machine. Sadly it is a different Mt Crawford). Mt Crawford was the highest point of the tramp at 1462 metres. That’s not high by New Zealand standards, but in the Tararuas the tracks go over the ridge tops, and hence are seriously up and down. Down in the Southern Alps the tracks follow valleys and use passes to get between them. Tramping in the Tararuas is therefore hard work.

The ridge between Mt Crawford and Mt Nichols

Nichols Hut was also wonderful to see. When first glimpsed it is 100 metres below, and the rutted track down to it after a gruelling day was hard. I was too tired to go back to the hut to get the camera, but I’d vote the view from the loo at Nichols looking down the Waiohine Valley all the way to what I think was Carterton District spectacular.

Nichols Hut

More in part two …





Te Araroa Trail opening

3 12 2011

I’d announced The Te Araroa Trail opening was happening today, earlier this week, and I made an effort to make it along.

(I know Te Araroa, means “The Long Pathway” so “The Te Araroa Trail” literally means “The The Long Pathway Trail”, but if you have ever uttered the words “Mekong River” then you’ll just have to forgive me)

This morning in Island Bay it was a day that had everything; sunshine and a brass band:

The Govenor General opened the Te Araroa Trail for all of New Zealand and for foreign visitors too. There were also speeches from Geoff Chapple, who’s original idea was the inspiration for the track, and Wellington mayor Celia Wade-Brown. There were parallel ceremonies on 90 Mile Beach in Northland and Bluff in Southland.

A plaque was unveiled and trees were planted:

And like a few others, my buddy and I set off to walk the first 14km heading north out of Island Bay. The weather was warm and that made the views quite stunning:

The South Coast looking over to the Pencarrow side

Looking over Newtown to Mt Victoria

It was really a beautiful day for a walk or a game of cricket:

The City from above Brooklyn

The top of the cable car

We talked about keeping on going over Tinakori Hill, Ngaio Gorge, over Mt Kaukau and into Johnsonville and then we shortened it to just Crofton Downs station, then we said hey it is hot, and we walked down to the Wellington Station instead, through the rose gardens which were smelling quite nice:

On the train ride no one sat next to either of us, probably because we weren’t smelling like roses.

One thing Geoff Chapple said during the ceremony, was that one of the first things they did back at the start, circa 1994, was to put together a route the whole way from Cape Reinga to Bluff which could be walked from the start, and ever since they’ve been improving the route sending it off-road wherever they could, which is a process still continuing. In an upcoming blog will be how that strategy could be employed by Nga Haerenga, the National Cycleway.

Congratulations were read out from the organisations behind the Trans Canada Trail, The Appalachian Trail, The Pacific Crest Trail and the Bibbulman Track. That puts into perspective what little old New Zealand has achieved with Te Araroa.





Te Araroa Trail to finally be opened

30 11 2011

At Shorland Park in Island Bay this Saturday at 10am the Governor-General, Lieutenant General Sir Jerry Mateparae will declare open Te Araroa, the Long Pathway. All are welcome. It’s quite an achievement, a 3000km walking trail linking Cape Reinga to Bluff, built with the goodwill of many people and not a lot of money and I’d like to say a very personal thankyou to everyone who has worked on it, donated money to the trusts, allowed the route to cross their land, to DOC and all the councils on the route, to the community groups, to Geoff Chapple for the original idea and subsequent enthusiasm, and everyone who walks and loves any part of it.

New Zealand now has a world class long distance walking trail. As far as I know the Rimutaka Incline Railway Group hasn’t yet applied to put a steam train over the route. There are bits that are still along roads (but it’s up to 90% not along roads), and there are still a few bits where yet to be convinced landowners need to get into the groove (like going up onto the crest between the Ohariu Valley and Tawa).

Personally when I became a bit of the backwash and moved to Wellington from Australia in 2008 I wanted to get a feel for the topography of the place so I started walking from Seatoun on the Eastern Walkway to Lyall Bay and then I walked around Evans Bay to Oriental Bay and then I walked to Island Bay on the Southern Walkway, then I walked the Te Araroa Trail all the way to Otaki Forks. It took about 8 days, not all at once, because Wellington doesn’t get 8 nice days in a row.

Here’s a few piccies of the route north out of Island Bay following the trail:

Shorland Park, Island Bay

 

Central Park, Brooklyn

Near the top of the cable car

Sign in the Botanic Gardens

in the Botanic Gardens

from Tinakori Hill

Old Coach Road, Johnsonville

In the pines above Tawa

Porirua from the slopes of Colonial Knob

Mana Island from Colonial Knob

Between Plimmerton and Pukerua Bay

Paekakariki

Queen Elizabeth Park

Mangaone Walkway between Waikanae and Otaki

 

Otaki Forks

From Otaki Forks the trail goes up over the high peaks of the Tararuas and it becomes a bit more daunting. There I stopped and I still haven’t gone any further. Maybe someday.





Shine Falls – a remnant of the NZ walkways

1 10 2011

If I’m reading history right in the 1970s there was a small movement (amongst Taranaki locals?) for the establishment of an East West Walkway across the North Island from Cape Egmont to East Cape. It never eventuated, but it did inspire the New Zealand Walkways Act of 1975. That founded the New Zealand Walkway Commission and 12 district committees who’s aim was “to establish walking tracks over public and private land so that the people of New Zealand shall have safe, unimpeded foot access to countryside for the benefit of physical recreation”.

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Six Disks Track

14 09 2011

Here’s another suggestion for something to do when the rugby is on; The Six Disks Tramp near Levin. Yes a tramp, not a bike ride, but hey I’m branching out.  This post is sponsored by Mountain View Motel, Levin. A Great Place to Stay.

If you thought that any of the tramps near Levin were too short (like Lake Papaitonga), or required way too much commitment (like the giant 3 or 4 day tramps through the Northern Tararuas), and the tramp to Burn Hut from behind Shannon although a nice length is a bit hard to get to with the log trucks messing up the road, then fear not. Try the Six Disks Track. It is a 9.9km loop from Poads Road (off Gladstone Road) in the hinterland behind Levin. Strictly speaking the Six Disks Track is the short connecting track between the Ohau River track and the Waiopehu Track, but I’ll describe it as a clockwise loop.

Admittedly it doesn’t look much on the map, but it is one of those curly, lovely, tree root and mud tramps that the Tararuas is great for. It’ll take about 4 hours or so, so it is worth a stop if travelling through Levin (and worth an overnight stop according to my sponsor).

From the carpark at Poads Road the walk crosses a private farm over some old terraces of the Ohau River.

When it enters the Forest Park there’s a fork in the track, follow the Ohau River one on the left, as later on the Six Disks track is steep and you’d want to be climbing up it, rather than coming down. The track above the river is mostly flat, and quite a nice track, albeit a bit muddy.

The Six Disks track is signposted going straight up a hill shortly before you reach a swingbridge over a small stream after which the Ohau River track climbs the Gable End Ridge. Climb the Six Disks Track. This is the fun bit. It is as rough as guts, and steep as. It’s a whole lot of fun being a 3D tramp which brings out the gibbon in all of us. The track is often at eye level a few feet ahead. At the top where it hits the Waiopehu Track there is this sign. Notice it is only an hour back to the carpark, which is twice the speed that the walk to this point took. This is a function of how easy the tracks are to walk. The walk down isn’t anywhere as hard.

Most of the walk is within forest, but there are a couple of vistas here or there, and the higher peaks still have their snow cover.

A 4 hour muddy steep tramp in the Northern Tararuas sure beats watching men put their heads up each others’ bottoms or whatever rugby is all about.








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