Kotumu stream to The Peak
The plan for this trip was to go up the true left branch of Kotumu Stream and cross over the spur into the head basin of the next stream north, commonly called Waterfall Stream (on account of the two waterfalls marked on the map) and thence on to The Peak. A few months before, John Thomson had led a trip from Kotumu stream to Waterfall stream and had recommended a route to avoid the scrub bash which they had encountered.
Failure to establish contact with the landowners meant that we had to start from the public carpark. The walk to Turakirae was into a bracing southerly but we soon warmed up in the sun on the walk to Kotumu Stream. A herd of goats was encountered in the stream bed. The left branch offered no difficulty until we arrived at a side stream which joins at 300m altitude. This side stream was deeply incised, but we only had to follow it for about 30m before we came to what looked like a slip but was in fact the gully we wanted. A clamber over soft sediments at the bottom quickly got us onto grassy slopes. A couple of small gulches at the bottom required taking to the scrub to get around, but other than that it was all steep, grazed grass to the top of the knoll above Waterfall Stream (GR R28 736766). The slopes would not be fun in wet conditions without some instep crampons, as a slip on the grass would mean a long slide to the bottom of the gully. There was a bit of waist high scrub on the knoll but with plenty of goat trails.
On the knoll there is a house-sized boulder which has been split in two with a chasm between. The north side of the boulder would be an adequate bivy rock in a southerly. From the boulder we followed a goat trail down an old slip into the Waterfall Stream bed. A side trip was made a few metres downstream to traverse a tunnel beneath another giant boulder which straddles the stream and was known from earlier visits to the valley.
We lunched at what would be an ideal camp site (grid ref R28 736768). It was now too late to be able to reach The Peak and so we had a bit of time on our hands, which we chose to fill in by exploring the good animal trails on the true left of Waterfall Stream. It was along this trail that we came across a herd of deer in a clearing. The trail hugs bluffs up the left branch and we had to climb to an elevation of about 580m before we found a trail leading down into the stream. The sensible decision would have been to now turn left and head back towards Kotumu, but somehow we found ourselves climbing towards The Peak. This spur starts well but turns into old slip head scarps covered in thick vegetation higher up, necessitating a tight scramble. We reached The Peak at about 2:30 pm and enjoyed afternoon tea in the warm sunshine.
From here on it was just a case of trying to keep on the faint trail to Kotumu. We finally reached the Orongorongo riverbed at about 5:30 and it was fully dark by the time we reached the cars to complete a ten hour day.