Auckland Baptist Tramping Club


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The Kaweka Forest Park covers some 65,000 ha in the central North Island southeast of Taupo. A network of tracks connect some 30 huts and bivouacs. There are sightings of up to 25 native and 12 introduced birds. The mountains here are rugged, dissected by the Mohaka and Ngaroro Rivers flowing east to the coast. Because of its considerable distance from Auckland, this area is seldom visited by the Club, but this long weekend presented an opportunity. We opted to explore the northeastern corner of the park, which featured two separate hot springs.

Friday

Diana and Don left Auckland around 2pm, with Simon and Sophie following at 6pm. Phillip travelled from Tauranga. We all met at Taupo Baptist Church, where we had arranged to spend the night. This church offers cheap accommodation (sleep on floor) for $15 pp, plus a $25 kitchen fee. It has 4 rooms available. We were in the creche room and Tauhara Room.

Saturday


Weather: Sunny with cloud. Light winds. 5-15 degrees. After breakfast, Diana and Simon left their cars in the Taupo Baptist carpark. We all boarded Phillip’s 7-seater people mover for the trip to the start of our tramp. The journey from Taupo to the end of Makahu Road took 3 hours, via SH5, Glengarry Road, Rissington, Patoka and Puketitiri. A ford on Makahu Road some 7.5km from the road end was only just crossable.
On arrival at the Makahu roadend (“The Gums”), we observed more than a dozen vehicles. This made us think that a bunk was unlikely and we would be sleeping on the floor of veranda. We inspected the Mangatutu hotsprings and campsite, then had lunch and. No-one chose to swim.

We eventually set off for Te Puia Hut at 1pm. The track followed the wild and fast-flowing Mohaka River, mostly easy to moderate going, with a few undulatons over some high bluffs. In places the track was cut into the cliff face. At one point Sophie slipped over the bank and her fall was stopped by a tree – a lucky escape, and fortunately no injuries. Two rare whio ducks were seen in the river. We arrived at the 24-bunk hut at 4.15pm. and were surprised to obtain bunks.
The hut has two sleeping areas are each end, with communal facilities in the middle. Each sleeping area has two platforms, as well as storage shelves. There is a warden’s room on one end. It has a large covered deck right along the front. The river is about 50m away. There are sink benches (with taps), a wood fire, and two large dining tables. There is plenty of room to pitch tents outside. A large number of people could bunk down on the deck if necessary.
The hut was full and cosy. We ate a pleasant dinner and had a comfortable night.

Sunday

Weather: Sunny with cloud. Light winds. 5-15 degrees. We woke to a cold morning. The group decided not to carry packs to another hut, but instead spend two nights at Te Puia Hut and undertake side-trips from there.

The first side trip was to Makino Hut. This comprised a steep unrelenting climb, quite rutted in places, with sections of exposed rock and loose gravel. We left at 8.30am. and after 2 hours of solid effort we reached Makino Hut (6 bunks), high on a ridge, having climbed about 550m. We were glad that we had not had to carry full packs up the hill. We met two guys there, who said it was a very cold night, with a 4-5 degree frost all around when they woke up. The hut looked like it had been recently painted and refurbished. It sat in a picturesque clearing in beech forest. There is a ridge route from Makino Hut down to Makahu Road (3h). After morning tea and a chat, we retraced our steps back down to Te Puia Hut (1h 45m). We enjoyed a late lunch and an extended reflection.

The reflection (offered by Phillip) focused on the word “wilderness”, which occurs some 300 times in the Bible. Nearly every great leader in the Bible spent time in the wilderness, which was where they were prompted to go to encounter God. The Hebrew word for “wilderness” is midbar, which also means “the mouth, the organ of speech”. We pondered the way in which the wilderness speaks without words. God uses the wilderness to speak to us. Thus sending the ancient Israelites into the wilderness for 40 years (Ezekiel 20:10) may be seen not as an act of mocking punishment or an intense object lesson, but as an act of provision and kindness, because they were in a place which presented an opportunity for listening and adjusting, unlearning a history of oppression, deepening their relationship with God, restoring a new character of belonging, and finding new identity.

After our reflection, we set off up the Mohaka River to the Mangataioka Hot Pools (45 mins each way). There were three plastic tubs set in a large wooden deck, each with its own tap. The warm water came from a spring in the adjacent rockface. We found the soak very therapeutic. The campsite here has tables and barbeques, and a nice sandy beach on the riverbank. A great place to camp in summer.

We got back to Te Puia Hut just on dark. The hut was only half full as many people had departed. We had a pleasant evening but early to bed after a full-on day.

Monday


Weather: Overcast, Light drizzle. 10-15 degrees. The cold air mass had departed by morning so we awoke to fairly mild temperatures. At times there was light drizzle. After breakfast we left Te Puia Hut at 8.30am. for the Makahu roadend, arriving at 11.20am. We decided to hit the road immediately and see how far we could get before a late lunch. As it happened, we got to Tarawera, but sadly found the café closed. Nevertheless we had a bite, then continued on to Taupo Baptist Church, arriving at 3pm. By this time, the rain had set in. After sorting gear, the three cars departed, two for Auckland and one for Tauranga. E.T.A. in Tauranga was 5.30pm. and Auckland 7pm.

Overall, it was an enjoyable weekend, and showed that visiting more distant locations is do-able with good planning. Long weekends allow sufficient time to travel the longer distances but still fit in some very worthwhile tramping. There is always the need to take plenty of warm clothing in winter. Trips with hot pools in the wild are a real plus!


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