Section 20 of Te Araroa – Mt Tamahunga (Te Hikoi O Te Kiri), Auckland/Northland
11km – meant to take 4-5 hours. Took us 8!!!
After the previous days Te Arai Beach walk I was looking forward to a change of scenery and we set off on the second day of our adventure at first light. From Pakiri Holiday Park we followed Pakiri River Rd for 3km past some scenic farmland, a small church, school and several houses. Mt Tamahunga could be seen standing watch over the area. At 437m it is the highest summit between Auckland and Whangarei and I knew this was going to be more challenging than yesterday’s beach stroll.
At the southern end of Bathgate Rd the orange triangle markers can be difficult to see – make sure you veer to the left. Of course we missed the first marker and ended up tredging through thigh high grass for about 45 mins before we realised and turned around.
The track goes uphill climbing 300m in approximately 2km over some unforgiving farmland so it’s not easy. So many times you think you’re at the top but no there’s always more! Even at this early stage we started having a few doubts about this track as it didn’t look like anyone else had been on it for a long time. Persevering we finally made it to the top!
From this point the trail leads into DOC bushland and is narrow, muddy and slippery. Let me just say that one more time as when I read the Te Araroa trail notes I must have missed that bit. The trail is very narrow, very muddy and very slippery. At this point you gain an understanding of the track’s history where in 1864 180 Maori prisoners escaped from Kawau Island and were being hidden by Te Kiri, a Ngati Wai chief in a pa near the summit of Mt Tamahunga. Due to the impenetrable terrain the government at the time simply chose to ask them to return instead of chase them down!
As you stumble along the trail you can see peeks of the satellite station up ahead. It looks like a giant golf ball or a UFO that’s landed amongst the bush. After this the track descends sharply again and it’s a massive achievement if you manage to stay upright. I completely arsed it about 5-6 times and was covered head to toe in mud. I gave up at one point and simply just slid down short parts on my butt.
This section ends at Matakana Valley Rd and very close to the end you will cross a small footbridge. It is at this point that you can start to hear civilisation and think you’re almost done. But no! This section of the “trail” is not a trail at all. You would not be silly for thinking you had gone off the trail altogether. This last part sees you gripping on to roots of trees so you can angle your way around a bank like terrain where it is almost impossible to put one foot in front of the other. And the bank falls away in quite a deep ravine next to you. There were about 100 of those moments where you just look at each other and are like “what do we do?” Of course you can’t go back but at times it felt like we physically couldn’t go forward either. Subdued and annoyed we staggered wearily to our organised ride and headed off for the only thing you want to do after such an ordeal. Have a drink!
Note: As I write this four months later this walk still makes me cringe and I still cannot get the mud completely off of my pack!
Note: We did this section in May and I would not recommend doing it at this time of year to anyone.
Note: Beware of the electric fences! The “tape like” material is live. Trust me. I know.