KAWEKAS: Mangaturu, Mangatainoka, Makino River, Makino Hut
Labour Weekend 2001
The weekend plans were to head up into the tops of the Ruahines, but the wind and rain forecast for the weekend didnít look inviting for tops travel. Someone suggested the Kawekas, an area none of us had really tramped in much before. Along the Mohaka and Makino rivers and back across the bush covered tops, all fairly well protected from heavy rain and high winds.
We stayed Friday night in the motor camp at Hastings and headed off at 8.30am next morning, ignoring pleas from children to visit Splash Planet. It was raining hard as we drove past Rissington, but just as we approached the Mangaturu picnic area the drizzle receded.
We left the road end at 11am. A very pleasant undulating walk along the Mohaka River with a beautiful display of kowhai scattered in the bush overhanging the river, and the clematis paniculata sunning its petals on the upper branches. There was a stunning display of clematis at Te Puia Lodge, where we arrived after 3.5 hours. Scanning through the logbook, Kerry & Bruce Popplewell and Tony Gates had visited in the last year. A deserted hut, but we decided to walk the 45 minutes to the Mangatainoka hot springs. Again deserted, we set up tents and headed for the hot pools. Stuart was brave enough to try the river first. As we soaked, a group from Auckland arrived and then 9 from the Upper Valley Tramping Club. It started to rain a little and we cooked dinner under the fly.
Next morning, in for an early soak, a couple of hunters came up from Te Puia Lodge; about 13 in the hut that night. Another couple of hunters came down from the ridge and one had a Sika rump around his neck. A helicopter flew low overhead with a couple more carcasses attached. We packed up and left about 9.30am and headed back to the swing bridge by Te Puia Hut. The tourists had arrived; a girl was heading up to the hot pools in bare feet and carrying a polythene bag.
Our intention was to head to Makino Hut. It was 2 hours directly up the ridge, but the comment in our book of a more pleasant route was "up the Makino river with its bright shallows and small pools the hours slip easily by". It wasnít summer and there was certainly a lot more water but it looked a more interesting alternative. The teenagers didnít agree with our thinking so with some reallocation of lunch we allowed them to go the direct route as we headed up the river with Claire. Very pleasant with the warmth of the sun on our backs.
We sat on the banks and had lunch. Two thirds of the way along we could see a group coming the other way. We were aware the Upper Valleys were circulating via Makino Hut so we presumed it was them, but it was a party from Waikato Tramping Club, heading down to the hot pools. We were the first people they had seen all weekend.
The river was becoming narrower with more boulders so we picked up a track on the true left crossing to true right. We thought we were nearing the turn off when we came across a hunter camped at a clearing. He stated that the track up the ridge was just five minutes up the river. We eventually picked up the blazed track. It was quite a grunt up the 450 metres to the top of the ridge, which took us an hour and a half. It was then a pleasant ridge walk through beech forest to the Makino Hut. From the footprints there was evidently another party in front of us. We arrived just before 6pm. The children had had a pleasant time, in the previous four hours since they arrived at the hut, drying out the tents, chopping firewood and relaxing. It was good to see a standard six-bunk forest service hut recently renovated. It had been relined with ply, had a new water tank and a fresh coat of paint. The other party that had come through was another Waikato party walking from Ballard Hut. Dinner cooked, a kaka was squawking in the nearby treetops.
The rain started to set in by 9 am next morning, so we packed up Nigel and Stephenís tent and headed off. Again an open beech forest. A quarter of an hour to the Te Puia turnoff, and another half an hour to the Makino Biv. The forest changed to manuka as we descended, again clematis adorned the track. By 11am we hit the road and headed down to Mangaturu picnic area, another half an hour. The Waikato group were walking back to their bus at the Makaho road end, a couple of hours away. We drove back up the road to pick up the rest of the group then returned to the Mangaturu hot springs for another welcome soak in the hot pools in the rain.
As we drove back up the road we picked up a few wet Waikato tail-enders and took them back to their bus. The Ruahines and Tararuas were shrouded in thick cloud as we returned to Wellington, but we had had a very good weekend tramping and the weather had been kind to us.
Peter Smith(scribe), Trish Gardiner, Stuart Smith, Nigel Smith, Ray Molineux, Carol Molineux, Anne Molineux, Stephen Molineux, Claire Molineux.