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June 2011 Issue
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Bush walk with a point

Views from Kohai Point extend to Whale Island and beyond. Photo: Wayne Erb
6-7hr including swim
Car park at bottom of Gorge Road in Whakatane, or carved gateway on Ohope Road near the beach roundabout
BE40, also walkway map from Whakatane visitor centre
Ngā Tapuwae o Toi walkway, Whakatane

Between Whakatane and sun-tanned Ohope Beach lie three uplifted hunks of bush-clad country.

There’s great scope for a daywalk that bags the lot – Ohope, Mokoroa Bush and Kohi Point Scenic Reserves. In fact DOC, Ngati Awa and volunteers do the upkeep on a loop track called Nga Tapuwae o Toi that covers all three.

There are several starting points. We chose Ohope, just a hop over the road from the beach.

The track zigzagged through pohutukawa forest, not the typical coastal strip but an entire hillside dominated by the national Christmas tree. Grand at any time, I could only wonder what the place looks like in bloom.

Near the top of the hill, we found the area is sanctuary to another national treasure: a sign explains how to listen for North Island brown kiwi at night. The reserve is home to about 150 of the birds, with the Whakatane Kiwi Project determined to keep numbers rising.

Emerging briefly onto Burma Road, we met two bushmen, woodsaws and knives swinging from their belts. They were out maintaining trap lines – one bloke proudly showed us a map of rat and possum traps dotting the entire reserve.

“You’ve come to the best part of the country,” said his mate.

I was inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt when we soon entered a beautiful dark gully where buttressed pukatea trees stood tall and proud. Short boardwalks took us over delicate bogs and the track was gently graded for the most part.

Too soon we headed down through Mokoroa Bush where locals tell us they see more bellbirds, robins and tomtits these days. We then made an unavoidable dash through Whakatane before climbing back into the coastal bush of Kohi Point.

The hike took us past pa sites where storage pits are still visible beside the track.

At the tip of the point trees gave way to flax and scrub. The sea curved out in all directions beyond Whale Island and waves swirled and foamed in rocky inlets beneath us.

“I’m looking forward to that swim you promised me,” said Ping.

She soon got her wish. As we pressed on, I glanced at my watch and remembered warnings about the tide at Otarawairere Bay. Here a staircase led us down to the rocks, where we slipped off our shoes and walked barefoot as the sea snuck in close. Come at the wrong time, and you’ll find the high tide cuts off the route around the bay.

Instead, we made it to the beautiful beach, fringed by bush and no one in sight. We both enjoyed the promised swim, floating among gentle waves until it really was time to get going.

A climb through the bush took us over one more headland and down to the west end of Ohope Beach. We strolled barefoot past baches to arrive where we began, both weary and refreshed by our day.

– Wayne Erb