Access: Nine kilometres north of Otaki on SH1, North Manakau Rd leads E for 4km to the end of the seal. The road is not maintained beyond this point.
Overview: Eight hundred metres before the end of the seal, the huge Waikawa Picnic Ground (Topo50 BN33 898 898) lies alongside the Waikawa Stream. From here access to Thompson is simple.
You may drive some 500m beyond the end of the seal to a gate, but only 4WDs should continue any further. From this gate, the old narrow logging road rises high above the Waikawa Gorge for 2km to the old road-end carpark which is now cut off to all wheeled traffic by a large slip 300m before the end.
This slip is negotiable by a steep scramble. Twenty to 25 minutes' walking beyond the gate, but before the slip, the route to Panatewaewae angles uphill on the L. Three hundred metres beyond the old carpark is the junction of the Waikawa and Panatewaewae Streams. From the terrace on the other side of the Panatewaewae Stream, easy travel over old logging trails leads (to the L) NE up the Panatewaewae and (to the R) S up the Waikawa. Just downstream from the forks a track leads from the TL of the Waikawa Stream to Thompson. [revised November 2017]
In older times this stream had two names, Kaitawa when it flowed in the ranges, changing to Waikawa on the plainlands below a slip. This streamside slip was the source of the 'bitter water' below that point – the meaning of Waikawa.
Beyond the bridge across the Waikawa Stream at the Picnic Ground, a good logging road climbs in 2 hours or so towards Thompson. From its highest point (Topo50 BN33 900856), a rough 4WD leads up to join an old logging road coming from the Waitohu Valley, which has sidled Thompson to the E. The summit, some 40m above this road, can be reached either from the N or the SE. A few minutes beyond .595, going up, the road levels off and turns S. Just before and below this point, another road drops to the NE to emerge into long grass through which it continues, well to the R. A track then drops, at first through grass, down to the Waikawa just below its confluence with the Panatewaewae and to the old logging road on the other side.
Beyond Thompson, one logging road drops to the Waitohu; another overgrown logging road branches off SE to .730 and beyond. (See 15.1.) [revised March 2016]
At the forks 300 metres beyond the old road-end carpark, cross the Panatewaewae Stream, gain the terrace and turn R. Ten minutes up the Waikawa Stream brings a clearing, a slip, and then the swampy grass of the old sawmill site.
The tracks beyond the millsite are not cleared, but traces of the old logging tramlines may be explored for some distance up the various streams. [revised December 2019]
From the sawmill site in the Waikawa (16.2), drop to a fork. Either climb the spur between the forks, over .490 — from the top there is a 120m drop to the West Waitewaewae. Or follow the stream branches up to a spur (Topo50 BN33 919857) which leads to the saddle. From the saddle, a few minutes brings the West Waitewaewae River – 90 minutes from the sawmill site. See also 14.15. [revised December 2019]
Gain the terrace beyond the forks, 300 meters past the old road-end carpark. An old tramline formation leads L up the Panatewaewae Valley over several grass flats; however, erosion and windfalls have lessened its usefulness. From the mouth of the side-stream just beyond the high grass terrace at the end of the last big flat (Topo50 BN33 931 890), a route leads NE to .437 and the old logging road on the ridge above; and thus to Panatewaewae or back to the road 300 metres down-valley of the old carpark (see 16.6). The falls above the 450-metre contour may be bypassed, with sufficient time and grit, to the minor flats beyond. [revised November 2017]
Several routes exist to the Waitewaewae trig. Any of the spurs between the sawmill site in the Waikawa and those in the Panatewaewae eventually gain .708 and Waitewaewae .939. A popular route follows the spur from the Panatewaewae-Waikawa forks over .590 and .708, reaching the summit in 2 to 2˝ hours. [revised March 2016]
Twenty minutes beyond the gate but before the slip, an old logging road climbs on the L (look for an obscured wooden fence beyond a small slip). After 1 hour, bear right at a grassy area just past another gate and note if returning the same way. After a further hour on a more recent logging road, an unmarked track leads in 45 minutes to Panatewaewae. The summit is not obvious. The ridge beyond is negotiable to the Makaretu-East Waitewaewae saddle at a BN level. [revised November 2017]
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