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November 2011 Issue
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Uphill all the way

Crossing the Kauaeranga River at the start of the tramp to Moss Creek
From the end of Kauaeranga Valley Road, near Thames

Moss Creek Campsite, Coromandel Forest Park

While camping at Kauaerenga Valley on the Coromandel Peninsula, and lazing around a fabulous swimming hole my partner David decided we should do something more active, like a challenging tramp. I suspected he really wanted to try out the new super light tent he had bought as we were still using the old one; more roomy, but heavy.

The Pinnacles seemed the obvious choice of tramp, but too busy a track for us. After some discussion with a ranger at the DOC visitor centre, we decided on Moss Creek – a three-hour tramp to a campsite from where we could either continue the next day on a track to the Pinnacles for a three day round trip, or return the same way. The ranger smiled and assured us there was no way we would meet anyone going up to Moss Creek, adding as an aside that the route was steep. You should start to get suspicious when you hear things like that.

Three hours sounded like an easy tramp so we delayed in the gorgeous swimming hole until the afternoon. When we did finally get going, the traffic of people heading to the Pinnacles was thinning but we were still pleased to be going off the main route after a few hundred metres of sharing the same track.

The track to Moss creek was definitely steep, it took way longer than estimated and actually became a wet, slimy and hard to climb creek. We caught some views across to the Pinnacles through the bush on the way up, but were too busy scrambling around to notice much else. At the top, it got wetter, if that was possible, and the track was lain with chopped branches across what was basically a swamp. A track leading to the summit of Mt Rowe had a sign warning it was unmaintained. It looked like a real bush bashing expedition to get up there.

When we arrived at Moss Creek, in the dark and five hours after starting out, we found the campsites made by DOC were raised on boards with a bark base. They were hardly salubrious, but we weren’t fussy – at least we would be off the swamp.

The tent had certainly been light to carry, but fitting two people inside for a good night’s sleep was pushing the limits. We woke to a freezing morning, we were at an altitude of 720m after all, and stretching cramped limbs we discovered there was no view, just the ghostly stumps of dead trees. It looked like the area had once been burnt and was now regenerating.

Once the mist cleared and we warmed up, we opted for the return to the swimming hole rather than the round trip. Going down was almost as much fun as going up had been. The DOC ranger had been right: the track was steep, barely maintained and we wouldn’t meet a soul on it.

But for all that, it was a great tramp, and well named. We had it to ourselves, saw some beautiful blue fungi, got to try out the tent, and that swimming hole was all the better after a bit of exercise.

– Fiona Cameron