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The tranquil Korokoro Falls

The tranquil Korokoro Falls
 
 
   
   
 
 

THE MOST beautiful forests are hidden away deep in the remote valleys where streams cascade over mossy boulders providing the high levels of humidity allow the vegetation to thrive sheltered from the worst of the weather encountered on the exposed mountaintops and lake.

The junction

The junction

The track around the coast continued for some distance rounding more headlands before we entered another big grove of ferns on a boardwalk. Then we reached the junction. The three routes of the track were lined with the thin trunks of fallen manuka to distinguish the track from the surrounding flat ground under the tree ferns.

Narrow track up the valley

Narrow track up the valley

We were about an hour and a half out from Waiopaoa and making good time. There was a side track heading inland for thirty minutes towards Korokoro Falls. I recalled from the comments in the intentions books in the hut this diversion was considered by many as one of the highlights of the walk. The other sign continued straight ahead to the Korokoro Campsite just five minutes away.

We hid our packs under the tree ferns. I took out my gorilla tripod from the pocket and wrapped it around the strap of my camera bag. Once I was organised we started following the track up towards the Korokoro Falls.

Rough section of track

Rough section of track

Korokoro is named after the lamprey Geotria Australis. It is an eel like fish with a sucker mouth highly valued by the Maori as a delicacy.

The track quickly narrowed to a just comfortably narrow groove with thick moss growing on either side of it. It quickly resembled the goblin forest we had walked through around Panekire, though a lot more diverse as it was very sheltered down here.

Through enchanted moss forest

Through enchanted moss forest

Rain continued falling but I could now hear the rushing water sound of the Korokoroowhaitiri Stream, the name meaning a place of thunder where lamprey can be found. Perhaps the stream was first discovered during a thunderstorm.

By now the scrub had given way to small beech trees and mahoe. It was not long before the terrain steepened and the track was negotiating its way around roots and trees rather than staying on a level grade. Large ground ferns started to appear around us. The soil was quite red from the red beech growing around us. The camera bag and gorilla tripod were a bit annoying in the rough terrain.

We reached a small gully where the track steeply dropped into before rising on the other side. We saw Jan and Ken from our group coming back the other way saying they had successfully reached the falls and we were making good time.

The track continued undulating around old slips and over roots heading up a moderate grade before I could see the stream below us down a steep bank. The track followed the river upstream with occasional views between the trees and large ferns.

Korokoroowhaitiri Stream

Korokoroowhaitiri Stream

We continued following the small river upstream until the track suddenly ended with a thick steel cable tied off between a tree on either side. We headed across the river one at a time holding onto the cable and negotiating our way over the huge boulders. Most of the boulders were covered in moss, but they were clear and shiny where people had walked on them. It was quite an obstacle course negotiating my way along these rocks with wearing the tent-like rain cape and wearing the camera bag with the gorilla tripod hanging off the bottom of the straps making it swing wildly. Fortunately, the cable provided nice balance, so long as I was pushing the cable in one definite direction.

Cable across the stream

Cable across the stream

There was one spot in the middle where I needed to swap to the other side of the cable, so needed to get a good footing on a flat boulder, and swing the cable nearly a metre to the other side. Thankfully there weren’t any lamprey jumping out of the stream. I’m not sure whether there were any here – they may have all been fished out by the Maori settlers in times past.

We both reached the other side and continued following the track through the spectacular tree ferns. I noticed the rain that had persisted all morning had now stopped falling. This was what I needed – doing long exposure shots of waterfalls whilst it is raining always leads to disappointing results with spots of rain on the lens distorting the image.

Tranquil forest

Tranquil forest

The track steeply ascended to a small flat area between several huge moss covered beech trees from where we could see the spectacular Korokoro Falls through a gap in the trees. This was the end of the track and the westernmost point of the trek. The waterfall was quite a long way down, but we were almost level with the top of the falls and the trees made an excellent frame around them.

Korokoro Falls

Korokoro Falls

We took a few short exposure shots of each other against a big moss covered tree with the waterfall behind us.

Once we had taken pictures of each other we rested for a while as I set up the camera on my large gorilla tripod for some long exposure shots. Conditions here were perfect. The thick cloud overhead diffused the daylight so I could get the most out of the colours and textures of the forest. The rain had completely stopped falling. There weren’t even any drops dripping from the trees overhead. This meant I could keep the lenses clean without drops of water falling on them distorting the images. There was not a breath of wind. This meant the foliage wasn’t moving at all. The only movement was in the water tumbling over the waterfall, giving the potential for some perfect waterfall images.

Above the falls

Above the falls

I have done a fair bit of waterfall photography in the past, preferring the longer exposure shots. They have not always come out though. Sometimes it has been windy causing the surrounding vegetation to move restricting the length of exposure significantly. Other times I have had the bright sunshine creating too much contrast for images to be workable.

The one thing missing from here were the birds that had once abundantly filled the forest with the beautiful birdsong of New Zealand. We had heard a few birds coming down off Panekire Range yesterday, but we had not heard any at all this morning. Perhaps there are too many predators living on the new shelf from when the lake was lowered, but I had expected to hear some up here in this remote patch of bush. Perhaps the sound of the waterfall was masking any distant birdsong, or perhaps they were still sheltering from this morning’s rain.

Long exposure shot of the falls

Long exposure shot of the falls

The seat was a bit low, so I ended up moving the tripod against one of the trees and holding it firmly to keep it perfectly still.

The waterfall was putting on an excellent show, living up to a recent comment I had seen in the Panekire Hut intentions book ‘Korokoro waters are like a flowing curtain of water (beautiful)’. The rain of the past day and a half had swelled the stream enough for a good volume of water to be falling. This stream drains quite a large area constrained by the Otaunoa Range running from south west to north east like all the other ridges and streams here. The water entered the waterfall quite evenly over a width of about eight metres. It dropped twenty two metres to some boulders at the bottom where the water briefly gathered into a deep pool before cascading through the boulders downstream towards the lake.

Wide angle shot

Wide angle shot

Mum headed back down towards the bridge as I took a few more long exposure shots making the most of the blurring of the water in motion against the perfectly still vegetation before heading back to the log to pack up.

I followed the moderately steep track downhill capturing a couple of toadstools on the way down. After a few minutes I reached the start of the cable. Mum was almost across so I had timed my departure very well.

Fungus growing in moss

Fungus growing in moss

I started to head across the boulders on the cable. Really every step was the same as those I had taken on the way across earlier, only backwards, so this crossing was actually quite a bit quicker than my first crossing as I was familiar with the boulders.

We followed the rough track back downstream as it gradually improved in quality. Finally we reached the Korokoro Junction having taken about an hour and a half to complete the diversion to the waterfall.

Crossing Korokoroowhaitiri Stream

Crossing Korokoroowhaitiri Stream

We put our packs on and continued heading along the track, which quickly rose to a large wooden swing bridge crossing the Korokoroowhaitiri Stream.

Korokoroowhaitiri Stream

Korokoroowhaitiri Stream

The stream was hardly recognisable as the stream we had followed cascading through mossy boulders, but here it was a mirror flat dead calm channel extending out towards the lake about a hundred metres downstream. There was a fairly substantial bank of tall grass, tussock and toi toi before the scrubby forest started, indicating quite substantial floods come down this stream during heavy rain.

Upon reaching the other side of the swing bridge, the track ended in a T junction. A sign pointed to the camp now two minutes away. A sign in the other direction said Maraunui campsite was two and a half hours away, with Marauiti where we were heading some distance beyond that.

Korokoroowhaitiri Stream

Korokoroowhaitiri Stream

We had been hiking for three solid hours, so it was time for a break for lunch. The track opened out to a large grassy area with a shelter identical to the one we had seen at Waiopaoa was set into the scrubby trees.

The grassy area was bordered with toi toi through which we had glimpses to the calm waters of Te Korokoroowhaitiri Bay and out into the ruffled grey waters of the lake to the misty hills on the other side of Wairaumoana.

There were quite a few people in the shelter, including Ken and Jan who had just finished lunch and were now on their way to Marauiti, so we said goodbye and will catch them there.

Korokoro Camping Ground

Korokoro Camping Ground

There were another five older people at the shelter, including the older couple we had been picked up with in Wairoa. They were all hiking back the other way and were resting here having lunch. They appeared rather tired from this morning’s walk from Marauiti. They mentioned the tap water pump was broken, but I quickly fixed it – the fitting holding it all together just needed screwing back in place.

As we were preparing lunch we mentioned the beautiful Korokoro Falls to the other group, but they just didn’t seem very interested. They were tired from the last leg they had completed and were keen to get to Waiopaoa as quickly as possible.

Lunch in the shelter

Lunch in the shelter

Over history there have been a few Maori settlements around the lake. Most of these have been lost in time, with just the remote settlements of Waikaremoana and Aniwaniwa on the other side of the lake still remaining. Even those villages have little evidence of the ancient settlements.

Two groups of Maori occupied the lake before European settlement. The first of these groups were the Ngati Ruapani. Today they are based around northern Hawkes Bay and southern Gisbourne along the coast.

The tribe takes its name from their ancestor Ruapani who was born around the year 1450 at the Popoia Pa on the Waiopaoa River about 21 kilometres north of Gisbourne. He was considered royalty being descended eight generations down from Papa, the captain of the Horourta canoe of the first Maori settlers who arrived two hundred years earlier. Ruapani was also directly descended from Kiwa, the canoe’s priest. He is also descended directly from Paikea who is believed to have crossed the oceans to New Zealand on the back of a whale. This mysterious Maori legend was made popular by the movie ‘Whale Rider’. Ruapani is also said to be descended directly from the Toi people and also Maia who is said to have crossed the oceans travelling on a gourd. Given all these lines, Ruapani was revered as the convergence of all lines of Maori greatness.

The tap I fixed

The tap I fixed

Ruapani became chief of not only his tribe, but also became paramount chief of all the Turanganui tribes at around age 75 in 1525. These tribes covered all the land extending out from Gisbourne across to the main dividing Huiarau Range of the North Island. The tribal territory included what is now Te Urewera and the lake near its southern boundary, and out to the coast.

His relatives began settling the mysterious forest lands surrounding Lake Waikaremoana from around the year 1500 having left the contrastingly dry Gisbourne area.

His success didn’t last though. The surrounding Te Aitanga-a-Mahaki, Rongowhakaata and Ngai Tamanuhiri tribes gradually strengthened and began invading Ruapani’s lands.

Eventually he was forced to retreat to the new home of his relatives in the isolated Lake Waikaremoana. There he lived quietly for the remainder of his days. When he died, his body was taken up to Gisbourne and buried at Wainui Beach.

Ruapani’s family remained here at Waikaremoana for many years, and the legendary prophet Te Kooti was descended from him, only to eventually be captured here upon his escape from the Chatham Islands.

The Ruapani Five Lakes across the other side of the lake are named as tribute of Ruapani and his family, who would have perhaps otherwise been lost to history.

Paradise duck

Paradise duck

Looking out in the camping ground of short recently cut grass, I saw a rare paradise duck foraging for insects. These are much darker than other species of duck, its deep metallic navy blue feathers were highlighted against the grey and dark rusty brown coloured body feathers.

We relaxed under the shelter resting for a few minutes after finishing lunch. There was a long hike ahead of us following the edge of the lake towards Maraunui camping ground, followed by Marauiti Hut where we will be spending the night.

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02 March 2016

 

Te Urewera

New Zealand

 

38°48'S
176°59'E

589 - 621m ASL

 

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