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The lake reveals its colours

The lake reveals its colours
 
 
   
   
 
 

THE ALARM went off a little before first light. Fiona leapt out of bed getting us up in a rather drill sergeant manner. We quickly crawled out of our sleeping bags and staggered into the dining hut for breakfast.

Mist on water at first light

Mist on water at first light

I could see the stars were out though there were still a few clouds around. Looking towards the inlet I could see the first rays of the coming dawn.

We quickly had breakfast and packed up as per plan. I stole a couple of minutes slipping down to the water’s edge. A light fog haze covered the surface of the water subduing the brilliant yellows and purples of the forthcoming sunrise. There were a few dark clouds, but these were low and drifting to the north east, revealing an otherwise clear sky which was most welcome after the past two days of rain. The southerly had finally blown itself out clearing to bring on what could be a brilliantly fine day. Knowing New Zealand though, this couldn’t be guaranteed.

Clearing sky

Clearing sky

The water offshore was a little ruffled from a slight breeze, but here in the inlet it was completely calm with just the slightest wavelets lethargically working their way towards the thin sliver of sandy shore upon which I stood.

Beyond the headlands the black silhouette hills of Te Taungatara Point blocked the view into Wairaumoana, but I could see beyond these to the tops of the Whareama Range extending out north of Waiopaoa. Behind these hills towered the distant Panekire Range still hidden from view behind a thick bank of cloud.

Mist on the lake

Mist on the lake

Roger, mum and I were the first to leave the hut. Jan and Ken were almost ready, and Dean and Fiona decided they would stay a little longer, having the entire bay to themselves for a while before catching up to us at their fast pace.

Roger, who we have all established being one not to dally around, went on ahead at a fast pace keen to reach the water taxi landing point first. The harried walk will mean a long wait at the other end.

We left the hut following the track through the very long grass, reaching the sign which stated the Waiharuru Hut was 2 hours, 6.2 kilometres away. Either the track was of a much easier grade than yesterday, or this sign was horribly wrong like the ones from yesterday.

Leaving the hut

Leaving the hut

We followed the track towards Waiharuru catching the first glimpse of the risen sun just as we reached the swing bridge over the Marauiti Stream, with a few steep steeps to climb onto it.

From the bridge I could see along the calm pool stretching around the next point towards its mouth in the lake. It flooded some of the bright green short grass due to the lake being a little higher than usual with the recent rain. The hut stood nestled in the forest above the bend of the stream.

Marauiti Valley

Marauiti Valley

The stream hugged the northern side of the valley quite tightly, framed with a line of toi toi. Once across the stream the track followed the side of the steep hill passing around huge boulders, but otherwise fairly flat and wide. It was definitely of a much better grade than the track we had walked along between Korokoro and Marauiti. That was a big relief as yesterday’s times on the track signs were too short given the condition of the track.

In between a couple of the big boulders, we had a reasonably clear view back across to the hut and the lagoon, where Fiona and Dean were now swimming. They obviously weren’t in as much of a hurry as we were.

Bright sunrise

Bright sunrise

The first European visitor to the lake is believed to have been missionary William Williams in 1840. He was an Anglican missionary from Nottingham who arrived in the Bay of Islands in 1826 where he set up a mission. Following the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi, he travelled in the Eastland area from the late 1830s arriving here from Poverty Bay (Gisbourne) in November 1840. It had taken him six days to hike from Wairoa to Onepoto Pa through thick forest and rugged hills.

William described the lake as “a romantic lake surrounded by rough mountain scenery.” His group was well received by the small tribe and apparently already had a good knowledge of the gospel having received some books from the Rotorua mission. Their prayer books were already worn out in places.

Marauiti Stream

Marauiti Stream

He stayed at Onepoto for two nights as adverse weather prevented the crossing of the lake, but the next day was clear so they crossed over by canoe and traversed up to the main dividing Huiarau Range through thick forest and the ground covered thick with snow.

The responsiveness of the people here convinced him to set up a mission in the Gisbourne area. (flashback to Gisbourne church lowered by earthquake). In those years he was the only ordained minister on the East Coast. He would do frequent visits up to Waikaremoana. He eventually moved to Napier where in 1859 became the first bishop of the area working until he had a stroke in 1876, and dying in Napier in 1878.

Marauiti and Panekire

Marauiti and Panekire

We continued following above the edge of the inlet. The low rounded hills of the Whareama Range stood about two kilometres offshore. These were the headlands stretching out to the right of the Waiopaoa Hut. Behind the range was the slightly jagged Panekire Range looking quite distant with streams of sun rays crossing in front of it.

It was not long before we reached the point marking the entrance to Marauiti. A flat rock extended out into the water between Marauiti and Te Kopua Bay. Directly across the bay was a low rounded forest covered headland attached to a longer ridge rising to a hill which we will crossing a saddle in front of. Hidden in front of the rounded hill was the low Te Taungatara Point.

Rounding the point

Rounding the point

By now the sun was high enough for the lake to become a very nice deep blue colour. It was the first time I have seen colour on the lake. The past three days have been overcast, and the previous time I had been here on the other side of the lake had been overcast as well. The lake is very beautiful in overcast weather reflecting the green and brown vegetation of the lush surrounding forests, but when the sun does come out, the lake reflects the blues of the sky and allows us to see into its deep crystal clear waters.

The track is better today

The track is better today

Now we had reached the point, the track which had been going in an easterly direction out of Marauiti now turned to the north east to follow a reasonably straight line all the way to Waiharuru Hut, which was supposed to be two hours from Marauiti, before continuing in the exact same direction across the saddle to Tapuaenui which was supposed to be another hour and a half away. From Tapuaenui the launch pick up point was about another hour away. This would be a total of about four and a half hours so long as the track remains in good condition.

The route between here and Waiharuru followed what appeared to be a fault line running along the northern half of Wairaumoana, passing along the backs of three bays divided by headlands rising before suddenly being cut off a few hundred metres out in a line extending from the row of headlands we had clambered over between Korokoro and the entrance to Maraunui yesterday.

Dense fernery

Dense fernery

We had just gone around the corner when Jan and Ken caught up. Jan mentioned Ken had somehow developed a bit of a knee problem last night and it was slowing them down. They were getting a different water taxi from the rest of us, and their pickup point was about another half an hour past our pickup point, somewhere on the other side of Whanganui Hut. Our pickup point was just before it. Ken and Jan therefore had to move a little faster than the rest of us to make their launch which was coming at the same time as ours.

We passed around another big boulder before the track quickly descended to a fairly flat area with even terrain though a little boggy as we headed towards the back of the bay.  The track through the leaf litter of the scrubby beech forest was now easily wide enough for a quad bike to go over with reasonable speed. I could see the forested saddle ahead.

Sheltered rainforest

Sheltered rainforest

In between the small headlands the gullies were full of many tree ferns and the ground was covered in a thick carpet of large healthy crown ferns. These ferns provided perfect foraging for the elusive ground dwelling animals like the kiwis.

Eventually the track left the bay following a broad gully in the dense tree ferns towards the saddle. This was the first of three saddles we need to go over today, although the first two were very small, this one rising sixty metres above the lake, even lower than the Whakaneke Spur between Maraunui and Marauiti. The forest was pristine and refreshed from the rain fallen in recent days. Huge beech trees with buttressed roots towered above us blocking the sun trying to cross over the hill. The track was still in very good condition though, despite a few short spots where it rose over roots. It was in a far better state of maintenance than the track we had followed towards Maraunui yesterday allowing us to maintain a good pace towards our pickup point at Whanganui later today.

Towards the low saddle

Towards the low saddle

Once we crossed the top of the low saddle, the track gradually descended to a small wooden bridge across a small stream in the dense forest of tree ferns. The sun had come out on this side, filtering through the bright green foliage.

Bridge at bottom of saddle

Bridge at bottom of saddle

Near the bottom of the saddle I could see the pristine waters of Te Totara Bay. The track leaped into a swing bridge crossing the Waitotara Stream. The side of the bay was quite steep, so the track narrowed a little with another swing bridge crossing a particularly steep gully. From here I had a good view out of the bay through The Narrows into the start of the main section of the lake. Behind The Narrows stood the far end of the Panekire Range, now covered in a cloak of white cloud. It would be very foggy up there now, but the rest of the sky was now mostly clear with patchy thin low cloud.

Swingbridge across bay

Swingbridge across bay

We reached a short headland separating Te Totara Bay from Ahimanu Bay. From the headland I could see back into the perfectly clear waters of Te Totara Bay and the low saddle behind it we had crossed a little earlier. It was such a tranquil setting hardly a ripple on the blue surface of the lake. The sandy bottom quickly dropped off into the black depths of the lake, not giving up any clues to the forest it had drowned 2200 years ago.

Looking back over Te Totara Bay

Looking back over Te Totara Bay

We rounded the small point going along the wide track surrounded by thick undergrowth of crown ferns in the bright sunlight giving a brief view of Ahimanu Bay. The track began a gradual ascent towards the next small saddle behind a small hill at the end of the bay. This was the last we would see the bay. The tall beech forest had now given way to thick scrub giving no views apart from the track ahead. By now the track was boxed with wooden sleepers on either side holding in gravel, making an otherwise boggy walk very easy.

Hiking above the lake

Hiking above the lake

The saddle was very low, less than twenty metres, with a moderate descent on the other side quickly into the next unnamed bay. The water here was a deep pristine colour. We passed the 33 kilometre milestone plank marker. Shortly afterwards we had another view across the almost mirror flat bay towards The Narrows, by now mostly concealed. The cloud was starting to clear above the Panekire Range now and overhead it was almost completely clear.

We continued heading into Upokororo bay when we reached a sign pointing to Waiharuru Campsite at the start of a swampy area. This was going to be our resting spot and we were making good time.

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03 March 2016

 

Te Urewera

New Zealand

 

38°45'S
177°01'E

587 - 642m ASL

 

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