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Trip Reports 2002-02-09 Waiorongomai

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This article was first published in the Tararua Tramper in April 2002

The Waiorongomai Stream

9 February 2002

Wanted: a way into the upper Waiorongomai, for the pleasure of walking down through its little gorge. Some years ago I had gone up-river on a weekend trip through to Narrow Neck, but with full packs and a desire to keep dry, we had struggled around the pools and given up at what proved to have been the last one. So, look at the map for another way in and make it a day trip. And yes: go up a side stream, over the intervening ridge and drop into the headwaters. You can't always just follow the map in this country, because bad scrub and very low wind-brushed bush can make the going altogether too unrewarding. But I'd found that this route worked, and eleven people took up the offer of a sunny Saturday in lots of water.

The key side stream joins the Waiorongomai at 883929. You need to watch for the side valley, as you don't see any water coming from it, but as the main stream turns 180 degrees here it shouldn't be missed. The side stream meanders over a surprisingly wide and flat valley floor, but it is best to keep fairly close to it as the next fork is easily passed by. We then took the long spur in between up towards spot height 640 - good travel once you're through the supplejack belt, with some especially fine clumps of tall rata around the 400m mark (plentiful poisonous-green bait indicated appropriate attention from the recent aerial 1080 drop).

I climbed higher than was strictly necessary, but after sidling left over to the top of a spur at about 600m, a short scramble into the crown of a low beech tree rewarded some of us with a splendid vista over the Waiorongomai headwaters to the ridge across the valley that bounds the source of the Orongorongo River. The side creek down to the main stream at 868958 was rough and full of decaying vegetation but not difficult. We took to the true left bank for the last 100m and found a safe and easy route down the end of the adjacent spur. It was a bit over 4 hours going in.

The rocky bed of the Waiorongomai is mostly very broken up, but the stream seems capable of flushing shingle down and out of the gorge and maintains several distinct pools. Changes do occur: the first big pool is no longer easily passed via its rocky side as it was ten years ago, and we had to climb well up into the bush (watch for an animal track to lead you back down). Of the other big pools, more of a group and further down, only two were at all serious, although some jumped into the deep end and swam, long legs and judicious use of sandbars and sunken logs saved others from complete immersion. The last deep pool has formed below a high log jam which must surely one day give way, but which has been there now for fifteen years to my knowledge.

Tired of all that water, no one objected to using the bush track out from the hut at the forks. A bit under four hours back to the cars.

A very enjoyable way to spend a summer's afternoon (if you like that sort of thing!). Party members: Colin Cook, Ken Fraser, Chris Everett, Sieny Pollard, Tim Stone, Mike Arnold, Marg Conal, Dave Reynolds, Julian Visch, Susan Guscott and John Thompson (leader).

Page last modified on 2006 Jan 09 07:04

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