Auckland Baptist Tramping Club

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First thing in the morning everyone was well organised, so the car shuffle was all done and everyone was at Waitomo I-site ready to go at the scheduled time of 9am with a planned 12.5km tramp to Te Kuiti in front of them….17km, we discovered, by the time we reached the end!!

We were a group of 12 and no one had been on this part of the Te Araroa Trail before, so it was good from the point of view that everyone worked together to navigate along the lightly marked route. The main activity soon became who could spot the next marker or stile first, and, once or twice, there were unplanned detours before we got on track again.

Despite the forecast for bad weather for most of the country, we had fine but cool weather for most of the day with a brief ray of sunshine at the lunch break and again when we had devotions, late in the day, at Brook Park.

About 1.5km from the start, we were climbing steep hills, overgrown with gorse…perhaps if participants had known about this bit in advance they may not have booked in!

At the top of each hill (there were a few of them!), there were good views of the surrounding countryside, towards Pirongia, Maungatautari, Kakepuku and the lovely Waikato farmland. About 2 hours from the start we spotted Te Kuiti for the first time. It did not seem far away but it was another 4˝ hours before we were standing on the hill above Brook Park and the end of the tramp.

After crossing the Mangapu stream swing bridge we walked through a nice stand of Kahilkatea Forest before crossing some more paddocks and climbing to the base of the Rua o te Manu Pa Site, where we had lunch around 12.30pm.

As the cool breeze began to chill us, we moved on again across Oparue Road and climbed yet another hill before dropping down onto a farm race, then up another hill, from which we could finally see the trig at the top of the last hill!!

We finally had a whoa hoa moment when we got to the trig around 3 pm and realised there were no more ups and downs to negotiate……just all downhill, and the coffee fix not far away but there was one last stop. While sitting in a sunny hollow in Brook Park among the autumn leaves, Phillip shared his reflection with us, the theme of which was "Achieving a Predator Free Environment":  a predator-free NZ countryside, and, also, for us, a predator-free  or "devil-free" life.

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On Sunday our group split some explored the Waitomo walkway, especially the section through the Ruakuri Scenic Reserve, which some regard as one of the best short walks in NZ.
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Some headed up Mount Kakepuku  along a recently upgraded track, and as it was a beautiful sunny day  we were rewarded with spectacular views all round.

COSTS: Travel $45, Food  $12.50, Accommodation (2 nights) $40