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May 2014 Issue
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Hot springs hike

Heading towards the summit of Mt Te Aroha
Time
3-4hr
Grade
Moderate
Access
From car parks at Tui Road and the Te Aroha Domain
Map
BC35

Te Aroha, Kaimai Mamaku Forest Park

How about a hike up to the highest point in the Kaimai Range followed by a soak in a hot soda spa to ease those weary muscles?

Established around the Te Aroha Domain and its hot springs, the town of Te Aroha was one of the most popular health resorts in the country until it was surpassed in popularity by Rotorua in 1910. The Mokena Hou Geyser in the Domain vents every 40-45 minutes. Perhaps it’s not as impressive as, say, the Steamboat Geyser in Yellowstone National Park, but it does have its own claim to fame as the only natural soda water geyser in the world.

The town is at the base of 952m Mt Te Aroha, and there are several ways to tackle the mountain. There’s a television relay transmitter station and mast on the summit, and we chose to walk up the service road and take the steep Te Aroha Mountain Track down. Tui Road goes up the north side of the mountain past the golf course, and the Mountain Track leads down to the Domain a couple of kilometres away, so this route required a bit of extra walking through town to get back to the car.

The gravel road started off in light bush, but as we ascended it opened up and was searingly hot, with fantastic views across the Hauraki Plains on one side and over the Kaimais on the other. The roadside was lined with toi toi and grass with the occasional stunted silver beech (Mt Te Aroha is the northern-most limit of silver beech). We reached the summit after about 90min of hot slog and stopped for lunch under the trig, where you can see all the way to Mt Egmont/Taranaki on a clear day, before setting off again down the Mountain Track. This was a steep, rough track through thick bush filled with birds. The rata was flowering and amongst the bellbirds, tuis and whiteheads we were lucky enough to see a North Island robin. The more elusive kokako is also resident in the area, along with kaka, brown kiwi and the long-tailed bat.

The Mountain Track joins the Whakapipi Lookout Track about two-thirds of the way down. It took just over an hour to reach this point, which has a wooden viewing platform overlooking the Hauraki Plains. This track was originally developed in the 1900s by the Department of Tourist and Health Resorts to provide spa visitors with a graduated hill climb as part of the treatment for heart problems. From the lookout it was another 30min to the Domain – and after the steep descent we really needed that hot soda spa!

There are a number of short walks around Mt Te Aroha, including loop walks around the reservoir and the Howarth Memorial Wetland, which was established on an old rubbish dump and is now a habitat for the native grey teal. The wetland has a birdwatching hut accessed by a boardwalk. More challenging tracks follow the side of the mountain around the old tramway and mining relics, making this a good potential weekender. The Tui Link Track, which follows an old mining horse trail, is an alternative to the service road if you want to walk up in the bush.

– Vanessa James

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