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January 2015 Issue
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Waterfalls and water slides

Scrambling up side of Pararaha Gorge, Karekare

Pararaha Stream and Zion Ridge Track, Waitakere Ranges Regional Park / moderate

When our friends asked us to tramp Pararaha Stream with them, they warned of scrambling up rock faces and swimming through deep sections of stream. We were keen for an adventure, so we packed our wetsuits, carefully stowed our lunch in waterproof bags and met them at Karekare Beach.

We set off through the pohuukawa glade and stepped out onto the dark sand of Karekare. Heading south along the beach, with cliffs looming on our left and the sea on the right. After Cowan Point the track turned inland, over sand dunes and patches of flax and toetoe. We walked through the old railway tunnel at Tunnel Point and stopped beside a pond for a snack. After that was a scenic stretch of coastal wetland, we wandered past a series of small lakes fringed with raupo and cabbage trees, following the boardwalks across the mangroves to the shelter beside the Pararaha campground.

A sign announced the ‘Pararaha Stream is a route, for experienced trampers only’. I hoped the kids were up to it.

We pulled on our wetsuits and headed straight up the stream, rock hopping through the shallows. I soon realised I didn’t need to worry about the youngsters – with their natural agility and low centre of gravity, they had no problems. I was the slow one.

Further upstream massive boulders blocked the way. With clenched teeth, I overcame my fear of heights to climb past them. The gorge grew deeper and the stream was higher. Soon the only way ahead was through the water, which was up to my shoulders.

Our seven-year-old, the youngest of our group, was scared and we had to carry him at this point. The water was very cold and I was thankful for my wetsuit. At the far side, the boulders were smooth and slippery with algae, making it difficult to get out of the water. We managed to pull ourselves onto a huge tree trunk and when I looked around I saw there were many old kauri trunks wedged in the rocks, remnants of the kauri logging era.

Further on, the kids discovered a natural waterslide where slimy weed formed a cushion over the sloping rock. We continued upstream, sometimes on the banks, sometimes in the stream itself, often clambering up the sides of the gorge. It was thrilling, if a little nerve-racking in places.

Later, when we reached the first of several waterfalls – a vertical 10m – I was shaking as I scrambled up the side. After carefully checking for rocks, the others jumped down into the pool beneath then climbed back up. If that wasn’t exciting enough, soon we were challenged by a swim of 20m through deep water, well over heads. Our youngest clung to his dad’s back like a baby monkey.

After that the stream became shallower and we trooped on happily to the junction with the Odlin Timber Track. We followed it for about 15min to Lone Kauri Road then we turned onto the Buck Taylor Track.

Here, we noticed a strange smell like something cooking. To our right, great puffs of white smoke rose above the forest. And then we caught a glimpse of the flames. Bushfire! We hurried down the Zion Ridge Track, away from the fire, as fast as our legs would take us.

It was a relief to reach the pohutukawa glade once more.

A helicopter flew back and forth over our heads, fighting the fire up on the ridge. We watched it swoop down to fill its storm bucket from Karekare stream then fly to the smouldering slopes above to drop the water. We were impressed by the skill of the pilot and pleased to be out of the danger zone.

Katie Furze

Wild File
Access Karekare Beach
Grade Moderate
Time 5hr
Distance 10.3km
Map BB31