Leyland O’Brien Tramway, Bay of Plenty

To prepare for my youngest’s first hut stay in September, I thought it would be a good idea to test out how long he can endure on a bush walk…

So first things first, I need to find him a friend to walk with. From previous experiences when my kids have a friend with them, there is a far lesser chance of complaints and a far greater chance of successful distraction!

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Hooray my friends are coming with us, both kids will have a buddy!

The start of this track can be confusing as there is no DOC signage on this particular track. My advice would be to either go in at the signpost for the “Pa Kereru Loop” track (this may add-on about 10 minutes to the walk), or take one of the two wider tramway looking tracks, to the left of the Pa Kereru sign (they both come out on the Leyland O’Brien tramway at different points not far from each other).

We took the track to the immediate left of the Pa Kereru Loop signpost, and the nice wide (but overgrown) track descended for about 100m until coming out to the flat track. The first part of the walk goes through swampy terrain, with long board walks and small bridges keeping the feet dry …. but it doesn’t last.

Because then the mud starts! Initially the two 7-year-old girls worked very hard to keep their shoes clean and their feet dry, which led to many interesting conversations, negotiations and techniques on crossing the many little streams and countless mud pits. However there came a turning point where my daughter paused and contemplated how to get around yet another mud pit…that was it, she gave up the fight and ran “straight up the guts”! The younger boys had given up the fight a lot earlier. The rest of the walk consisted of the kids happily yelling “mud run” and sprinting through the mud pits.

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After 1.5 hours of easy (muddy) walking we reached the Ngamuwahine River, where once crossed the track continues for another 30 minutes. We turned around at this point as the river had reasonable flow and we didn’t want to attempt crossing it with the kids, as no doubt one of the 4 kids would have ended up in the water and being the middle of winter, that water was cold and the walk out would not have been fun!

We found a picturesque spot by the riverside for lunch and then we set off homeward bound. The walk back to the car was reasonably painless, with not many complaints or bribes needed.

The kids did awesome and now I am confident that my 5-year-old can go the distance. I would recommend this track to help build or test kids endurance as it is flat and you can just turn around at any point, but maybe only to families with a little bit of bush experience (due to signage and river crossing).

Note: “The Blade” area as it is locally known is right at the end of Whakamarama road. The driveway down there (from the road end ) is ~900m of gravel road to the main car park (this is single lane so go slow, there are a couple of places to stop if you come across another car). Other tracks can be accessed from this car park.

Nutshell 

  • Location: Kaimai Mamaku Forest, Bay of Plenty
  • Access: The Blade, End of Whakamarama Road, Whakamarama
  • DOC Duration: 2 hours one way      Forest Family:  1.5 hrs one way to the Ngamuwahine river crossing (this is in line with the DOC times, as the track continues for 30 minutes after river crossing) we returned the same way. Our group was made up of 2 adults, two 7 and two 5 year old’s.
  • Track Grade: Advanced (due to river crossing)
  • Highlights/Features: Mud, mud and more mud (it was winter and kids were doing mud runs), remains of the historic tramway and a beautifully clear river with plenty of picnic spots along the way.
  • Notes:  Rivers in the area can rise very quickly after rain, hence the advanced grade. We also encountered a hunter with his hunting dogs on this track (luckily the dogs were well-trained and friendly).

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