Also check out part two where we cover the highlights and challenges of tramping with 7 little people and 6 amazing mamas!
Late night, tired ratty kids, and maybe one too many wines at the BBQ the night before …. but it was winter and the sun was shining, I simply had to get out amongst it, breathe in the bush air and soak in some rays. My mum was visiting and she had told me about this great track with 360 degree views, and not too far of a drive (maybe the kids could rest on the drive). I didn’t manage to wrangle up a friend for the kids (5 & 7) at such late notice so it was just us and Oma (my mum).
We accessed the Otanewainuku car park from the Tauranga side, down Opopi road and then left onto Mountain road, which in parts is a gravel road. There was a shelter with information on the tracks of the area and further along the track a toilet. The track sign states 45 minutes to the trig in either a clockwise or anticlockwise direction, we gave this decision to the kids and clockwise was chosen, this as it turned out is the least steep direction to take, and it took us 50 minutes.
The kids, with their self-packed backpacks, took turns leading us down the track; The bush is stunning, the towering Kahikatea trees (New Zealands tallest forest tree), frame the sunlight and blue sky perfectly making you feel like you are amongst giants and their roots are huge and provide great pockets for the kids to hide and jump out to “scare” you (cause we never see them do this).
The first part of the clockwise track is reasonably gradual, the second half zigzags uphill with some big steps for little legs. A platform amongst the tree tops tells us that we are at the trig, up the narrow stairs and wow! The views are wicked, you can see White Island, Mount Te Aroha and if the weather had of been clearer on the central plataeu we would have been able to see Tongariro, Ngauruhoe and Ruapehu. It was beautiful and an amazing lunch spot.
The kids unpack their bags on the platform and out comes: muffins, apples, water, soft toys, a transporter truck full of smaller cars and to top it all off, my son had carried up a large rock that his Aunty had painted for him; Not once did he complain of a heavy bag, I couldn’t contain my laughter, I was very surprised but also very impressed.
After the snack and play we start to head down the steeper track direction (which would be the anticlockwise track coming up). The kids took a keen interest in looking for the silver fern on the way down, their determination and perseverance was outstanding as every fern we passed was checked, and can I just say this track has an abundance of ferns. Many discoveries were made including the koru/spiral of a young fern and a curious robin that came to check us out, good spotting Nina. It took us another 50 minutes to come down, but that was with lots of exploring and many many stops.
I fully recommend this track, it’s stunning in so many ways and considering we all weren’t at our best that day it was one of my favourite walks I’ve done with the kids. There is another couple of walks that are accessed from the car park, which I’ll definitely be going back to check out.
Confession: If you, like me, have been driving past the Karangahake Gorge main car park (for years…) and have never stopped to do this walk, I’m here to tell you (now that I’ve finally done it), that you simply must check it out the next time you happen to pass, because this is a little beauty of walk! It has just the right ingredients to be a brilliant family walk, for example; it’s a short relatively easy walk, has amazing scenery, a stunning river, swing bridges, creepy tunnels, gold mining history and relics, and wicked views from the “windows”. Seriously it will blow your mind!
Park in the main car park, there you will find a detailed map of the walks. Follow the signs and directions to access this track, you will cross two swing bridges on route (a torch is essential so don’t forget to pack one). We visited in mid winter and spent a happy hour at the river here just after the first bridge with the kids aged 5, 7,8 and 11. They enjoyed looking for “precious” rocks like fools gold and quartz and messing about in the river, yes they are in their togs and yes they did get very wet!
However they soon dried off in the sun and after a picnic we crossed the second bridge. From there follow the signs as the track splits as it heads up hill, the track to the right is longer and more gradual, the track to the left is shorter and sharper. We took the latter. You will see old mining relics and closed shafts as you head towards the tunnels; a short one at first followed by a much longer tunnel, in which you really do need a torch, trust me I tried once and wimped out half way! The “windows” cut out of the rock look down onto the river, it’s quite gorgeous! All the windows are safely barred.
Once you pop out of the tunnel you will head down some steps, turn right and head across the swing bridge with the Waitawheta river below you. The return track is cut into the rock and follows the river back to the main swing bridge and car park. This is a good walk to have up your sleeve when overseas visitors stay and you want to show off our beautiful country just a little bit!
Extra: Need more? There are also other great walks and bike rides to do along the river here. They are well sign posted and highly recommended. There is also a cafe across the road from the main car park if tiny tummies start rumbling or you need a coffee!
*Toilets are located in the main car park.Sorry NO dogs allowed on this walk.
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!
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.
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.
Anita and I are so freaking excited to welcome you to the launching of Forest Family! We will be delivering a fresh family perspective on a range of walking tracks in NZ and from abroad, including short day walks to over night hiking trips. We will be offering “Confidence Booster” walks to women who want a little guidance in getting started (look out for those in summer) and, we will be reviewing the mountain bike trails that we ride with our families.
We’d love for you to subscribe to our blog and come along on this adventure with us. We hope it will inspire you to create some adventures of your own!
Thanks for joining me!
Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton