A charming hut and authentic Kiwi bush trip within reach of Auckland. By David Ruddock
Most hiking adventures begin with the hope of seeing soaring views or, at least, a rewarding vista at the destination. This circuit promises neither but makes up for it in accommodation charm and an authentic Kiwi bush experience.
There are many tracks in the Kaimai Range for all ages and abilities. This particular circuit is for the adventurous types.
The track can be accessed from either side of the Kaimai Ranges – Ngamarama Road on the east side or Te Tuhi road from the west. From the end of Te Tuhi Road, follow a farm access road through private farmland for approximately two kilometres before entering the bush to start a steep and sometimes muddy climb.
Continue past the turnoff to the Mangamuka Hut Track for one kilometre to join the North South Track. Turn right and walk south for 1800m, negotiating several creek crossings (all of which are shallow and easy), until you reach Te Whare Okioki Hut. This new hut (not shown on the map above) is the preferred accommodation. However, if time permits you can also continue on the circuit to Mangamuka Hut.
From Te Whare Okioki the track descends for about 1.5km to the junction with the route leading to Mangamuka Hut. Take the right-hand fork and climb 60m to a plateau beneath Pt640m. A gradual descent then leads to a swampy section just before Mangamuka Hut. The bush is dense and small streams are worth stopping at to admire their lush mosses and vegetation.
Mangamuka Hut has a cosy fireplace and classic tiny-hut charm. There is ample room for tents close by.
From here the track undulates north for approximately three kilometres through a forest of tall ponga trees to complete the circuit at the Te Tuhi Track junction. Turn left here and head downhill to exit the bush. In the open there are spectacular views of Thames Valley and along the Kaimai Range to Mt Te Aroha.