Early afternoon on Thursday 1 April 2021, eight trampers departed from 10 Bracken Ave
along with three wives (Cathie, Jill and Ruth who would be joined by the Pureora day-walkers on Friday).
The road south was busy with Easter holiday traffic but we made good time to arrive at the Pureora Cabins
before it got dark. Equipment and food for our four-day tramp on the Timbertrail were sorted, the final
weather check was made and the trail maps that we had picked up from the DoC office in Te Kuiti were
distributed before getting an early night.
The first day of our tramp dawned foggy
and cool but a good pot of porridge prepared us for an 8am start just a few hundred metres from the cabins.
The forest was dense and the mist was still in the air as we came out into the open at the Forest Edge
shelter and skirted areas that had been logged. It was good to observe regeneration but the contrast
with the original forest was obvious. The trail alternated between well-formed tracks and wider forestry
roads and we did not encounter many cyclists until we stopped for lunch near the highest point on the
trail (971m). Even though we decided not to take the side-track to the summit as we needed plenty of
daylight to erect our tent at the end of the day, we still managed to get a few views across the extensive
forests to Lake Taupo. As well as the large forest trees we were all interested in the blue mushrooms
along the track and remembered these as we reflected on the colours of Easter in a later devotion. The
track to Bog Inn Hut headed off the main trail before the 20km mark – it was more overgrown but soon
joined the Hauhungaroa Track which led to Bog Inn – a small Forest Service hut built in 1960 with four
bunks (which David was pleased to note had been upgraded from the sacking and poles he had seen on his
previous visit), a table big enough for us all to dine together at and a good area of bench space for
cooking in a covered veranda. There was just enough room for us to pitch the double fly beside the hut
and we were pleased that there was no overnight rain. Murray reflected on the idea of being on a pilgrimage
and suggested our Easter tramp was an opportunity to capture the essence of a pilgrimage – comparing
it to the pilgrimage that follows the walk in Jerusalem by Jesus on Good Friday.
After a hearty breakfast of porridge on Saturday morning we set off before 9am via a shortcut back to
the main Timbertrail. The track again varied between wider roads and narrower trails, open blackberry
covered country and denser forested areas and undulated between some deep valleys. The highlights of
this section were the huge suspension bridges we crossed – massive structures with wires stretching either
side to brace them against the bounce and swing often experienced across such wide valleys – we were
impressed with the engineering incorporated into this track and appreciated not having to descend into
the depth of the valleys. Again we had the track to ourselves most of the day and at the 40km mark arrived
at the Piropiro Campsite (regretfully avoiding the temptation to look too closely at the rather flash
lodge we passed!). With our tent erected amongst campervans, cycling groups and hunting parties we were
able to get our meal cooked out in the open. Sitting around as the sun set, we reflected on the symbols
of the Easter season, deciding that in our current experience the blackberry represented a good reminder
of both the new life traditionally represented in Easter eggs (the seeds in the berry) and the suffering
of Jesus on the cross (the crown of thorns placed on his head). The night proved to be a bit more noisy
as people moved around and was again cool for the season - thank goodness for extra thermal layers!
Warmed up by our porridge, we set off by 8am (having turned back our watches for the end
of daylight saving!) for the longest day (25km). The weather remained fine and the track included more
bridges (the 141m Maramataha Bridge is the third longest suspension bridge in NZ) and had the added interest
of remnants of the timber-milling days that started in the 1920’s – we walked through deep cuttings for
tramlines, saw the remains of turntables and log-haulers as well as an old coal range that obviously
once stood proudly in someone’s kitchen. At the 65km point we reached the Number 10 Camp which was once
one of the many small settlements of houses around a timber mill - it now has a large picnic table, a
small shelter, a toilet, a sign showing us where to collect water and a tent site perfect for our double
fly. After our ‘back country’ dinner at the picnic table we shared some Easter Eggs and reflected on
the colours of Easter – which for us included the variety of green leaves of the forest, the distinctive
blues of the mushrooms and the many shades of brown of the earth (amongst a spectrum of colours we had
experienced). All have symbolism in the Easter season (The colour green brings rays of hope, blue symbolizes
heaven or sky and the beginning of a new creation and the brown signifies humility and God’s connection
with the commonplace and the ordinary).
The night clouded over a little so was
a few degrees warmer and in the morning it almost looked as though it would rain – but we had removed
our raincoats by the time we headed off at 8am on the last leg of the trail. There were more suspension
bridges, more timber-milling relics and it was fascinating to follow the trail through the Ongarue Spiral
– it begins as you traverse a bridge over a deep cutting which is in fact the trail as you exit a curved
tunnel that has taken you down a graded loop that the timber trains could manage. The last part of the
trail moves into more open countryside, crosses a sealed road then skirts the edge of farmland. This
final section was made all the more pleasant when we meet the day-walkers right on 12 o’clock - they
had carried a cut lunch in for us so we all sat on the side of the track and shared stories about our
tramp before walking out the last couple of kilometres to the carpark and heading home.
is a great extended tramp – the surface is very well formed, there is a lot of variety and interest along
the way with the forest, the history and very different campsites giving plenty of opportunity to reflect
and enjoy a unique area of backcountry New Zealand. The group of eight were good company and worked well
to support and care for each other making it a very successful and enjoyable Easter weekend.