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September 2016 Issue
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Kaimai Ramble

Crossing the Waitawheta River with the footings of the original tramway below. Photo: John McDonald
Total Ascent
Car park to Te Rereatukahia Hut, 1.5-2hr; Te Rereatukahia Hut to Waitawheta Hut, 7.5-8hr; Waitawheta Hut to Daly's Clearing Hut, 3hr; Daly's Clearing to Karangahake, 5hr
Te Rereatukahia Hut ($5, 12 bunks), Waitawheta Hut ($15, 26 bunks), Daly's Clearing Hut ($5, 16 bunks)
From Hot Springs Road, Katikati
BC35, BC36, BD35, BD36

Daly’s Clearing Hut via Te Rereatukahia and Waitawheta huts, Kaimai-Mamaku Forest Park

Without the high passes, open tops and roaring rivers found in other parts of the country, Kaimai-Mamaku Forest Park may not be the most daunting area to tramp, but there are enough challenges to keep it interesting.

This four-day tramp is limited to the northern end of the park, overnighting at Te Rereatukahia, Waitawheta and Daly’s Clearing huts.

We started the tramp on Tuahu Track, which has a long history, being used by Maori, missionaries and miners and which was converted to a bridle track in the 1890s. The area was seriously logged from the late 1800s through to about 1970, and the often rugged terrain meant a combination of extraction methods including tramways. These historic access ways are now being used as tramping tracks.

Tuahu Track has been formed to almost wheelchair standard up to a couple of large kauri that somehow escaped the logger’s axe. It soon climbs to the North-South Track, which generally follows the crest of the Kaimai Ranges.

Heading north along the main range, which is often assaulted with extremes of wind and weather – the cause of the stunted vegetation – there are views east to the Bay of Plenty and west over the Waikato to Mt Pirongia and beyond.

Te Rereatukahia Hut is reached after about 90-minutes of ups and downs along the track. This hut has been recently refurbished by DOC and the Kaimai Ridgeway Charitable Trust and now has a woodburner and extended covered veranda among its amenities. Work has commenced on some of the nearby notorious muddy sections of track.

Leaving Te Rereatukahia means leaving the North-South Track and descending about 500m to the Wharawhara River, before reclaiming most of the altitude near Cashmores Clearing. This area was logged in the early 1900s with the aid of an ingenious chute, which delivered kauri logs off the plateau to the tramway below and must have been spectacular to see.

We were heading for Waitawheta Hut, seven and a half hours away; the longest day of this trip. There are half a dozen or so river crossings in the Wharawhara and several windfalls to negotiate on the zigzag out of the valley, but these don’t detract from a pleasant day’s walk that meanders along a tramway towards the hut, built on the site of an old saw mill.

The next day is an easy walk to the recently repainted Daly’s Clearing Hut, three hours away. That allows time to wander around Bluff Stream kauri loop to view some stands of kauri and have a cooling soak in the Waitawheta River beneath the gaze of Maungawhio Tapu, the magnificent knoll at the entrance to Bluff Stream.

From Daly’s Clearing, it is possible to reach the Franklin Road end in a relatively short time or to take the five-hour walk out to Karangahake car park. This is a stroll for most of the way, with a highlight being a stand of pole kauri and tanekaha on a small spur halfway out. The one river crossing should be treated with caution especially after rain. Prior to emerging at the car park there are a couple of old tunnels to negotiate, including the amazing Windows Walk. Have a torch handy.

– John McDonald