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Obstacle course to Maraunui

Obstacle course to Maraunui
 
 
   
   
 
 

THE MIDDLE of a long track is usually the roughest, least maintained section. It is relatively difficult to reach by maintenance crews resulting in it usually being in poorer condition to the well-maintained sections of track at either end and close to the huts. The traverse across the bluffs between Korokoro and Maraunui was about to prove this was no exception to the rule.

20km milestone marker

20km milestone marker

Upon finishing lunch at Korokoro, we left the camping ground and the other group who were about to leave shortly afterwards. The track started in a similar manner to the coastal track we had followed around the edge of the lake this morning. I spotted a plank of wood sticking out of the ground saying 20 kilometres. This is how far we were from Onepoto, nearly half way along the 42 kilometre length to Whanganui Hut.

The track then crossed a rather long swing bridge over another stream. Once across the swing bridge the track suddenly became rough for a few minutes as it quickly ascended into mahoe and silver beech forest. The track became nearly level for a while before reaching a short wooden bridge to which the track rose steeply towards.

Bridge over one of many creeks

Bridge over one of many creeks

From there the track continued gaining altitude and becoming quite rough. Moss was growing on either side of the track with tree ferns, rimu and beech trees growing all around us. The terrain became very steep dropping into the lake below us. The thick canopy denied us all but short glimpses of the lake.

A board walk took us across a swampy section as rain started falling again. It took us around to the first of a succession of little bays where the track went easily around the headlands, but became very undulating in the gullies as it negotiated the small streams that obviously needed to be cleared and the track redirected after successive floods. We were in the middle section of the track, the hard to maintain section.

Into the forest over the bluffs

Into the forest over the bluffs

The shelf that occupied the bays and headlands of the headwaters of Wairaumoana was non-existent here. These bluffs just plunged deep into the water diving straight down some forty to sixty metres to the bottom of what would have been the Wairaumoana Valley. The river would have run close to these bluffs before the lake was suddenly formed.

At the second headland the rain cleared and for a couple of minutes a small patch of blue sky appeared. The southerly must be blowing itself out now allowing the weather to start clearing.

One of the many bays we passed

One of the many bays we passed

Ferns, mosses and toadstools grew along the steep banks on either side of the narrow track. Now we understood why the group heading the other way were so keen to get to Waiopaoa without the diversion of the falls. At least by now they will be relieved that the track they were walking on was in good condition.

Our track on the other hand became rougher. We were heading out of a gully when the track suddenly stopped. Looking around we could see the markers heading straight up the face of a rock at quite a steep angle. We had to crawl our way up the dirty rock face. This was not at all easy under the load of our packs, heavy from the dampness of the rain. At one stage I had to shimmy my way for a couple of metres before reaching the track again. A slip had obviously come down the rock at some point washing the track off it. We scrambled up the leaning rock face covered in dirty moss before reaching some roots we would pull ourselves back up to the track.

Dense beech forest

Dense beech forest

Fortunately that was the roughest part of the track. As we rounded the following few bays passing Te Kopuru Point, its name meaning heavy passing clouds, the track gradually became easier. The gullies were drier (though one had a long section along a boardwalk where a slip had come down a few decades ago and tree ferns and bracken were still occupying the space amongst the moss covered decomposing fallen trees. indicating we were getting towards the end of the range, soon to go into the Marau. The terrain was still very steep and the track kept going up and down, but each successive bay was a little easier than the last.

Glimpse of a deep cove

Glimpse of a deep cove

The name Marau means attack or raid. The history behind this has been lost to time. But there have been Maori settlements here, and in fact there are still private Maori huts here owned by some of the Tuhoe locals.

The Ruapani people were the first settlers of the lake in around the year 1500. Nobody else lived in this remote and rugged corner of the country. Across the Huiarau Range was the Tuhoe Tribe of the Bay of Plenty. Although they occupied the lands on the other side of the mountains, their legend says their ancient people originally came from these mountains.

Boardwalk over swampy gully

Boardwalk over swampy gully

In legend they say the Tuhoe peoples descended from Turoa who was the principal chief of the Mataauta canoe, and also from the ancient peoples of Te Urewera, Te Tini o Toi and Nga Potiki.

Of particular importance in the legend was Potiki, who was the son of Hinepukohurangi, the mist woman, and Te Maunga, the mountain man. Potiki and his descendants (the Tuhoe) therefore became known as Nga Tamariki o te Kohu, the Children of the Mist.

At some point in the seventeenth century, the Tuhoe people lost their land in the western Bay of Plenty due to other tribes and began to head eastward over their ancestral mountains in search for more land. The country there was extremely rugged but they found the Ruapani people successfully living in this otherwise difficult environment.

Passing under a rock

Passing under a rock

The Tuhoe people peacefully settled here amongst the Ruapani, interbreeding with them over the centuries. This is very different to the invasions that normally occur when tribes move into already occupied lands. Perhaps this is because the Tuhoe people familiar with the flora and fauna of the Bay of Plenty were unable to survive in these rugged mountains around the lake without the direct help of the Ruapani.

There is now no clear distinction between these groups and the Ruapani have subsumed into the Tuhoe Tribe.

View across Wairaumoana

View across Wairaumoana

The Tuhoe people are now split into four rohe (tribal districts), based on their main areas – Ruatahuna, Ruatoki, Te Waimana and Waikaremoana. The first three groups are based in towns on the other side of the mountains in inland Bay of Plenty.

The Tuhoe are a particularly conservative iwi, determined to keep their ancient ways and highly reluctant to change. They say this is where their strength lies. As they say: ‘Na Toi raua ko Potiki te whenua. Na Tuhoe te mana me to rangatiratanga.’ ‘The land comes from Toi and Potiki. The power and prestige comes from Tuhoe.’ Their sacred mountain is Maungapohatu on the main dividing range (not visible from this track).

Tall forest near the point

Tall forest near the point

They are the seventh largest iwi with around 35,000 people identifying as Tuhoe. The average age is a very young 20 years. The Tuhoe maintain the camps and huts in the park, and run the conservation programs with DOC.

Despite this there is very little work for the Tuhoe people here, particularly with the modern restrictions on conservation land now taking up the majority of their tribal area. The towns are very small. From around the 1930s most Tuhoe left Te Urewera in search of better employment opportunities. Only 15% of Tuhoe remain in their tribal lands. Around 5000 have moved across to Australia, but most remained in New Zealand. I grew up in the South Island with a family of Tuhoe, who would return to their tribal homelands every two years for the Te Hui Ahurei a Tuhoe (Tuhoe Festival) as did many others in the tribe. The festivals feature haka, debates, sports competitions and fashion shows as well as the opportunity to maintain ties with friends and family otherwise lost in today’s modern mobile lifestyles.

Dense forest

Dense forest

Through the occasional gap through the trees at the headlands we could see across to the grey misty hills across the other side of Wairaumoana (lake of many waters) and to the lower slopes of Panekire. The cloud had completely covered the sky again and very light drizzle was falling. It will be some time yet before the sky clears.

Eventually the bays stopped entirely and the hill followed a straight line along the shore. The track narrowed as it passed under some rocky overhangs not deep enough to pass as caves. The track started to ascend moderately again as we approached Te Kotoreotaunoa Point at the end of the Otaunoa Range.

caption

First view of Maraunui

Finally I could see into the start of Maraunui. About five hundred metres to the north east was Te Taungatara Point, dividing the straight north western coast of Wairaumoana from the three bays of Maraunui – Maraunui Bay, Marauiti Bay and Te Kopua Bay.

Directly across was the entrance to the Marauiti Inlet where we will be staying tonight, and the headlands we will be walking around tomorrow morning. Although the inlet was only a kilometre away, the walk to it was a lot longer, having to go all the way around the back of Maraunui.

Private Maori hut

Private Maori hut

We were already two and a half hours out from Korokoro Campsite. The sign at Korokoro has said Maraunui Campsite was two and a half hours, so if we were making average time we should be there by now. The signs around here aren’t very accurate at all.

We continued following the track, now heading westward into Maraunui. I was hoping the track would be easier through here, but it began with a steep descent down towards the lake. The track did widen, but it was quite rough going up and down hill.

Te Wharau Stream

Te Wharau Stream

It took us forty minutes to follow the undulating track along the southern edge of Maraunui to reach a small clearing, where ahead of us we could see a private hut owned by the Maori here. As we reached the hut we saw another one, both with signs saying they were private property.

The track quickly entered forest again and became a little boggy as we continued following Maraunui Bay until we reached the crystal clear Te Wharau Stream (temporary shelter), crossing a little footbridge about half an hour out from the private huts. This was the westernmost point of the main track, although we had ventured a little further westward at Korokoro Falls.

Unstable section of track

Unstable section of track

The bank on the other side of the stream was a little precarious with the track very narrow about four metres above the creek. One section had slipped away leaving a precariously narrow section to cross. Fortunately we made it across okay. I recalled Matt mentioning it last night at the hut when talking to one of the other groups.

Five minutes after crossing the stream we reached another junction. A steep side track heading up the hill pointed to Maungaroa Valley (mountain with river), 3.5 hours away. The track heads up to the top of the nearby Pukekohu Range (misty hill) and goes off on either direction from there, eventually splitting off into several more tracks going around the remote parts of Te Urewera. One of these tracks returns to the great walk almost right at the end just before the road past Hopuruahine Landing beyond where we will be picked up tomorrow.

Maraunui Flat

Maraunui Flat

The sign said the Korokoro Campsite was two hours away. It had taken us 3 hours 40 minutes. The Waiopaoa Hut was 3.5 hours away. It had taken us 1.5 hours to get from Waiopaoa to Korokoro Junction, so the timing of that section was fine, but this section was way out. Perhaps this part of the track had been measured when it was in excellent condition and has degraded substantially in the years since.

The sign said Maraunui Campsite was 10 minutes away and Marauiti Hut 30 minutes away. We were nearly there, but given the difficulty of the track since Korokoro, I gave Marauiti an hour for good measure.

Maraunui camping ground

Maraunui camping ground

We continued trudging along the track as the forest started to clear into a flat grassy narrow valley. Fifteen minutes after leaving the sign we reached another junction with a side track leading through the long grass to the nearby Maraunui Campsite. The sign said Marauiti was 30 minutes away, so the last sign had definitely been wrong.

Maraunui

Maraunui

We had a short break as I walked the final two minutes into the Maraunui Camping Ground on a flat short grassed area amongst the long grass. This campsite had a shelter identical to the ones we had seen earlier today. The track continued to the lake, but I headed back keen to get to Marauiti.

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02 March 2016

 

Te Urewera

New Zealand

 

38°47'S
177°00'E

589 - 637m ASL

 

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