From the junction the track south drops to the first of two small streams, returning after each to the plateau that makes up much of the eastern Kawekas. The descents and climbs are easy, the track broad and well cut through open beech.
A couple of km later, the beech again makes a sudden change to manuka. The track starts to drop steeply down a mud-gravel spur. A deep V-notch valley opens in front, below. The 2m wide cut track vanished, replaced by a narrow foot-worn trail, zigzagging down ridgeline, slip, and finally dropping steeply though slippery beech forest to the North Mahaku River.
The river is unbridged but low - I was to cross easily with still-dry feet, though the deep riverbed hints of impassible flows after storms. Large triangles lead 50m downstream to where the narrow trail resumes, climbing what appears to be a steep streambed before finding a ridge to follow back up towards the plateau above. Nearing the summit we leave the thick scrub and enter a landscape of fiercely orange clay-pan, a landscape that could only be here. Cresting the plateau a signpost marks the junction with the track to Iron Whare to the east.
(On topo50 map series 1 this section is completely wrong, showing the track leading upriver some 400m to another spur before climbing).
Having 4 days on my hands, I’ve been looking forward to the challenge of tracking down the historic Iron Whare, some 1km off the main track. I’m slightly disappointed then, to crest the plateau and find a standard engraved-steel Kaweka signpost saying ‘Iron Whare’ and pointing east down a well-cut DOC track. Them’s the breaks.