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July 2011 Issue
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Above the Makaroro

Trampers near Piopio as storm clouds gather. Photo: Richard Davies
Sentry Box to Parks Peak Hut, 2-4hr; Parks Peak Hut to Upper Makaroro Hut, 1.5-3hrs; Upper Makaroro Hut to tops, 2-3hr; Tops to Sentry Box 5-7hr
There is limited parking on the side of Mangelton Road at the start of the track to Sentry Box Hut. Mangleton Road is at the end of a long sequence of roads that reach into the Central Hawkes Bay backcountry
Upper Makaroro Hut, Eastern Ruahine Forest Park

The Makaroro is a classic eastern Ruahine river. Flowing with an easy grade and heavily gravelled, it issues forth in the northern Ruahines and is hemmed in between the main range and the subsidiary Parks Peak Ridge. It then winds its way out of the park, thin ribbons of water amongst the extensive gravel and weeds, to join the Waipawa River.

The river itself is lovely tramping (especially once you get above the weeds), but the tops above it are even better. On this particular trip we started from Mangleton Road in the Central Hawkes Bay. From Sentry Box Hut, an old four-bunk Forest Service hut, a good track climbs steeply up to Parks Peak ridge.

There is a new hut at Parks Peak now, which is a good investment by DoC. Parks Peak is lovely tramping, and can be very pretty once the winter snows arrive. We cruised along enjoying the stunted beech forest and good views across to the open tops of the main range.

Another good track drops down to the Makaroro River, and after a chilly ford we pulled into Upper Makaroro Hut. This cute orange box is emblematic of North Island tramping. The hut is nearing its 50th birthday but has been lovingly cared for by generations of trampers and hunters. It is simple, but perfectly functional and when we open the door it feels like we have arrived home.

We sit outside, enjoying the gurgling river and the beech forest. We consider climbing to the main range to stay at Kylie Bivouac, but ‘Upper Mak’ is just so appealing. Wonderful, simple huts like this are what New Zealand’s tramping and hunting culture is all about and the decision-makers who care for our land on behalf of us would do well to come and sit outside a little orange box like this and reflect on this culture, and the elegance of these simple facilities.

A climb delayed is never a climb avoided and the next day we ascend Totara Spur. Unsurprisingly, totara is a feature of this spur and it is an extremely pleasant climb. The tops above Totara Spur are broad and rolling and very easy tramping, although they can be a little confusing in the mist. The weather deteriorates and we quickly don jackets and marvel at the cloud formations.

From the alpine bog north of Tupari we head off through lush long tussock over Piopio. There are great views north into some remote country off the Napier-Taihape Road and we pick out spurs and streams we have explored on previous trips. The vast red tussock expanse of the Mangohane Plateau is a striking landform, with huge limestone bluffs dropping in to the Ikawatea Stream.

Easy tramping leads us past the derelict Aranga Hut before we rejoin Parks Peak Ridge. By now the weather has well and truly packed it in and we are pleased to be on such a good track. The wide grassy path leads through the beech forest and soon we are back at the top of the spur down the hill to Sentry Box.

Another wonderful weekend in North Island back country.

– Richard Davies