Seeking some dry tramping in the Haurangi Range in a wet July
17-19 July 2008
Having had plans for Tararua trips postponed because of wet weather, it seemed like a good idea to try the Haurangi Range which, being further east and lower, would be hopefully drier than the Tararuas. A two night trip was planned from the mouth of the Mangatoetoe Stream just west of Cape Palliser to the Putangirua Stream camp ground just South of Te Kopi. As a through trip was planned, two cars were needed for our party of four. One car was left at Haurangi Lodge, Te Kopi, and we then travelled to Cape Palliser. Conditions were ideal: the sea was flat, the temperature mild and as yet, no rain but some was forecast for later in the day. At Mangatoetoe we spoke to one of the locals who allowed us to leave a car parked on the verge outside their gate. Mangatoetoe Stream is a very easy walk partly in the stream bed and partly on a four wheel drive track on farm land alongside the stream. The numerous cattle unfortunately render the stream an unsuitable source of water unless boiled. We reached Mangatoetoe Hut on lunchtime, the drive from Wellington having taken about 2 hours and the walk to the hut about one and a half hours. Mangatoetoe Hut was neat and tidy and is located on a flat river terrace surrounded by manuka. After lunch we made our way up the true left of Mangatoetoe Stream marked on the map, Palliser S28, as continuing on the true left to a saddle. The reality is that there has been considerable storm damage washing the track away in places but the route is still easy to follow. There are several stream crossings - none of which are at all difficult. The climb to the saddle is steeper than it looks on the map and is followed by a sidle before a descent to the headwaters of Otakaha Stream. Otakaha Stream has quite a large catchment and had been subjected to more extensive storm damage than the smaller Mangatoetoe Stream. By now we were tramping in light rain which was to fall for the rest of the day. Following the stream was easy travel and interspersed with some track travel although a lot had been washed away. Kawakawa Hut is located on a terrace a short distance from Otakaha Stream, which is the hut’s source of water and it needs boiling as there is still evidence of cattle. The hut was well supplied with firewood which was rather slow burning as it was not completely dry and in rather large blocks - an axe would have been handy. The hut was in good condition having been recently painted and a comfortable night was had by all after a stew consisting of fresh meat and vegetables. Brian’s pack was now a good deal lighter.
The morning greeted us with light high cloud and the obligatory patches of blue. On leaving Kawakawa hut the track enters a grove of Kawakawa trees and there are a few more easy stream crossings but no more storm damage. After about a kilometre of flattish travel there is a steep climb up a narrow bush-covered spur which is really quite spectacular - both sides of the spur drop away almost vertically. The climb is a sharp 180m burst followed by a sidle before climbing to a saddle at about 400m followed by a civilized descent to Pararaki Hut and lunch. By general consensus this was the pick of the huts but alas we were not able to stay there. Like all the other huts Pararaki is a six bunker and and the nearby stream is its source of water. The hut was well maintained and had a very cosy feel about it. After a rather longish lunch we were greeted by another steep climb. This time the climb was more substantial - 550m - not all of which was steep but most was a steady climb. It was interesting to note that the rimus were present up to 750m, whereas in the Tararuas they tend to phase out at about 600m. The abundance of bird life in the area had been a real feature every day and was on the final day as well. The track now descends steeply to Washpool Hut which is in a rather damp location as witnessed by the mould on the underside of the mattresses. Dry wood was difficult to find and no-one had left any; the next party to use the hut would not be so unfortunate as Ken had found a good source of wood. The fire was sufficient to give us some warmth and to dry some wet socks. Getting water involved a trip down a rather slippery track to the river which Colin managed with ease.
Our final day started with light rain which very rapidly became rather heavy and persistent. It was straight out of the hut and another steep climb, this time of 330m to bump 590. From 590 the climbing was more gradual and undulating until 700m, which is close to Surf. From 700m the direction followed is northwest on an undulating, well maintained but rather slippery track until the four wheel drive track is reached. We followed the four-wheel drive track until the Pinnacles track which we followed down to the car park. Part way down we stopped to view the Putangirua Pinnacles where soft Miocene age unfossiliferous gravels have eroded to form a ‘badlands’ topography. The erosion is a rather recent feature having possibly started about 7000 years ago and some of the existing pinnacles may be 1000 years old. By the time we arrived at the car park the rain had stopped and a short walk from the car park had us united with our transport. The Haurangi Range is a very interesting area which club members don’t visit all that frequently but the area has good tramping on wellmaintained tracks and huts. Overnight accommodation is available at Haurangi Lodge, which has two twin cabins and a house which would sleep about six.