18 January, 2013

Tramping this summer

Well tramping might be an overstatement.  This summer (2013), I set out to walk a number of NZ Department of Conservation (DOC) tracks and I have been able to spend some great times walking on headland, shore and bush tracks.

We spent a week over new year up north at Rangiputa on the Karikari Peninsula (Doubtless Bay).  I walked many of the local tracks - nearly all coastal walks with stunning views over one of the most beautiful areas of Aotearoa New Zealand.

We then spent a week at Whangamata and I took the opportunity to tramp through two tracks in the Kaimai/Mamaku range.  One of these was to test my limits - see next blog.

One of the best tracks I covered in the north was further east at Mahinepua Bay.  The track begins at the beach where there is a fascinating contrast of cultures.  Just as you reach the beachfront, on the right is a beautiful little well kept cemetery, only partially filled and occupying a prime position.

From the headstone inscriptions it would appear to be an important Maori burial site.  Right next door, literally over the fence is a modest sized camping ground. Pitching your tent within a few metres of a row of graves must be thought provoking.

By total contrast, across the road and facing the beach is an outstanding modern house, very low with every room along the front a complete wall of glass facing the sea.  I have no idea how the occupants manage with all their rooms being absolutely transparent.

The Mahinepua Peninsula Track heads uphill from the end of the beach and travels the length of the peninsula, mainly along the ridge top with spectacular scenery in every direction.  Looking back towards the bay it is a picturesque setting while from the trig point there are views of the Cavalli Islands and Cape Brett peninsula with the Karikari peninsula in the distance.

Several groups of steps (nearly 290 steps in all) enable you to keep to the track and protect Maori pa sites.  It was about an hour to the trig point, however there is no cover as the peninsula is largely low bracken and manuka.  On the way back I stopped at a delightful bay for a swim and for lunch.

On our first day we had climbed to the top of Puheke Hill which has great views of the whole of the Karikari Beach, Matai Bay and Waikato Bay.  It was to Waikato Bay I next went to explore the Fig Tree track, a three hour return walk to the trig point.  Sadly having trekked for an hour right around the bay I could not find the starting point from the track from the beach.  Most of the land is private land along the beach so I was reluctant to explore too far.
However it was another beautiful walk around a stunning bay from the Matai Bay campsite.  I have a note to advise DOC that their track is difficult to identify.

The next day I thought I would try the Matai Bay headland track which leaves the campsite along the fenceline of a large tract of Maori land which occupies the entire northern end of the peninsula.  I must say that it felt somewhat inhospitable - not sure why although the terse no trespassing notices probably contributed to the feeling.

I reached a fork in the track with no particular directions to indicate the right way.  The one I chose appeared to head towards the headland but after twenty minutes or so the track became very difficult to negotiate and even to identify.  Not wishing to lose the track and spend time thrashing through the bracken and undergrowth I abandoned the walk and headed back - very disappointing.

The last walk was quite different, a very pleasant and easy walk along the Kaitaia Walkway.  Just an hour and a half through the bush to a lookout from which it is possible to see the Ninety Mile Beach.

We met two English women in NZ for several weeks, also going from track to track.  It was not their first time in the country for this sort of holiday.

A great five days!