Altitude: 439m to 973m. Gain: 562m. Loss: 517m . Gradient: 11 deg (Moderate)
Skills: - Occasional rivers (3/6)
The creekbed looks passable, but an old sidle track bypasses the first 500m of the Maniaroa above the confluence. A piece of marker tape on the south side of the Tawawharara Stream just above the confluence marks the start of an old track across flat terraces between the two creeks. A signpost in the middle of the bush and an old tent camp are passed, before descending to the Maniaroa 500m above the forks.
The remaining 800m to the next main forks are spent in the riverbed - the creek in small and there is good rock on both banks. The main flow swings south, and a small creek enters from the east - the forks marking the start of the track into the Tataweka. 20m upriver, a signpost points up the ridge: Tataweka 4hrs, Tawa 5hrs, Moanui Roadend 8hrs. Given that it's 8km from Tataweka to Tawa, the accuracy of the sign is immediately in doubt.
The climb to pt985 is good - windfall, but good clean solid dirt underfoot, not the slippery mud and tangled undergrowth of further west. Surprisingly soon a triangle points right off the spur, and a benched track sidles right (east) across the face to the saddle
Where the good going ends. The track follows the clear ridgeline for a few hundred meters then inexplicably drops west to sidle the steep, overgrown face. The face is cut by several dark, tight gullies, and intersected by several spurs A good cover of fern obscures continuous windfall on the ground, and hides dropoffs where the once benched track has fallen away. It's not fun - give me a pack of triangles and I'd remark the track up and over the summit in the good bush.
Eventually, the track decides to descend somewhere east of pt985: zigzagging down in such tight zags that it crosses the same windfallen tree 5 times. Under all the rubbish it's still a benched track - cut on a gradient for horses. Once. Finally the tramping track gives up on the benched track and, encountering a steep descending spur, follows it to the creekbed at the forks. A great improvement.
From the forks due east of pt985 the route follows the river downstream. The valley floor is true Waioeka: broad expanses of loose rounded river rocks the sze of apples, stretching the width of the flats. A small stream wandering down them, undercutting each bank in turn to ensure the maximum of required crossings. The creek is low when I visit - knee deep at most, but it;s slow going on ever shifting rocks.
Two more creeks enter from the south, and we remain in the riverbed (maps showing a sidle track are lying). Shortly after (20m-ish) the second creek a worn but unmarked track climbs south into the scrub. Following it some 40 vertical meters we emerge onto a grassy platform overlooking the forks. Tataweka Hut sits at its rear.