Ngapuketurua Stream (M/F)
21 Ė 23 January 2006
Colin Cook began this trip by letting it be known that his nephew, Jules Cook, has a farm in the Mangaroa Valley which backs on to a range in the northern Tararuas between Pohehe and Matapu. Here was a potential route into the little visited Ngapuketurua Stream.
Ngapuketurua Peak is crossed by those who travel south from the upper Mangahao dam along the tops to Ruapae and beyond. The stream which flows NE from that peak a long 10km to join the lower Mangahao River seems to have been very seldom visited by the Club. The ĎIndexí to the Tramper lists only half a dozen mentions of Ngapuketurua, but all those Iíve been able to check refer to the peak, not the stream.
In 1928, a party from Levin crossed over Ngamaia before dropping down to Putara. And, still some time ago, Peter Jagger got into the head of the valley from Ngapuketurua Peak. One good reason for the lack of interest showed up well on Neil Challands aerial photos. The valley is protected on both sides by what in the photos might be mistaken for wisps of mist along the crest of the ridges but which show up when you get there as battle-ship green bands of pure leatherwood.
Colinís nephew knew there was a track up to the top of the ridge from his farm, even though he hadnít been far up it himself, and Neil fondly thought that hunters who had put work into that would have routes along the top of the ridge too. So with cars safely parked in a paddock, we followed Julesís directions across the flank of .440, dropped to a saddle, and started up into the bush on a somewhat overgrown but quite decent track to .669.
Leatherwood in these parts tends (tends!) to grow on the north- and northwest facing sides of ridges and spurs. At this point we could without difficulty get to the top of the ridge Ė only to take in the dismal view of leatherwood and scrub all along the other side. The track ended in a little cut circle in the leatherwood Ė great viewpoint but not a hint of a route along the ridge top in either direction. Notions of traversing the higher peaks at the head of the valley, Ngamaia, Conical Hill and so on, in a grand circumnavigation of the Ngapuketurua watershed collapsed like a punctured balloon. Just getting down to the stream looked bad enough. Picking a narrow point in the leatherwood we shoved our way through but were soon into rougher and steeper bush-lawyered scrub before finding a side gully into a side creek. Iíll say this for the valley: the waterways may be rocky and greasy but there are often usable bush terraces alongside that provide fair travel. The Ngapuketurua itself has ample tent sites on such terraces and it wasnít long before we found room for two large flies.
Would we have to spend the rest of the long weekend figuring out how to get out of the place? (No one fancied trying to find again the way we had come in.) Study of the map and photos suggested there might be a break in the leatherwood a couple of kilometres upstream at about .638, with pronounced spurs to follow on both sides. That settled, we were free next morning to explore up the river, shifting camp as we went to a better site opposite our chosen escape spur. Here we found the valley was well known to someone, for we came across two old plastic-littered campsites, one with a very large plastic sack containing what felt like sleeping bags and boots - or maybe waders, for an old nylon line reel indicated fishermen rather than hunters. It began to look as if our chosen route out might even be a used one.
We carried on upstream with daypacks, wading two or three waist deep pools, for another hour or so, came to a deeper pool, realized that going further would most likely produce only more of the same, and stopped in the sun to make a fire for lunch.
Dave and Susan chose to go on up the river a bit, reporting later that they had soon encountered yet another unmanageable pool. The rest headed up a spur to Taramea, through bush that was reminiscent of the Rimutakas and easy enough until, distinctly short of the top, old man leatherwood was encountered, all its lean and lanky limbs extended downhill to deter us. We had neither the energy to fight, nor the time to try and turn the enemyís flank, and so retreated back to camp after a very moderate dayís exertion.
After another dry night we headed up behind the second of the old camps (from about 266626) and sure enough were soon on a variously marked track that not too long ago had been quite well used. A bit before the top, the route, much less clearly marked where markers were most needed, sidles downwards in a NE direction and crosses a saddle before climbing gently to just under the scrub on .638. From here, for a while, various items of clothing had been torn into generous strips and nailed to trees to provide colourful but surely temporary markers at the head of the spur. Lower down were many polished metal discs, presumably meant to reflect torchlight in the dark. It is a good track down to the farmland, and sets you down on the Mangaroa Rd beside a ford at about 291614.
Colin later sought retrospective permission for our exit route. The farmland is owned by David Death who said that the track we followed, though he had not been on it himself, has been there all his 40 years in the valley and is known locally as the Weasel Track. He is willing to be asked for permission to cross his land.
The track certainly provides E/M access to the Ngapuketurua Stream, but then what? Itís a pleasant stream to camp by even if campsites are always in the bush, not out in the open. The streambed, as far as we explored, is a bit rough, but not difficult Ė except for the occasional pool, some waist deep, some over 2m deep. There are some fine rimus down in the valley, but the bush on the middle slopes has been seriously wind-ravaged over the decades, and higher up is often replaced by thick scrub, and of course leatherwood. Good views are not easily come by without climbing some scrubby tree. Apart from the Weasel Track, it is a valley which makes for slow travel, and which affords few pleasures.
- Neil Challands (leader), David Castle, Colin Cook, Ken Fraser, Susan Guscott, Norilie Lopez, Tim Stone and John Thomson.