Altitude: 355m to 1318m. Gain: 3202m. Loss: 2587m . Gradient: 7 deg (Steep)
Skills: - Occasional rivers (3/6)
A small parking area below the road marks the start of the Koranga and Tawa Hut tracks. This is just where the Moanui road starts to climb from the river towards Koranga Station.
Altitude: 355m to 394m. Gain: 56m. Loss: 34m . Gradient: 4 deg (Flat)
From the gate at the roadend, the track starts on the riverbank through farmland - cow-pugged muddy flats for 500m to the bushedge. Here, a track starts just upriver of the sidecreek, climbs to cross the sidecreek 10m above the valley floor, and enters the bush beyond. This is a good platformed sidle track and great going, 600m beyond, a signpost marks the turnoff to Tawa Hut - a track dropping left to the river and a bridge.
Altitude: 359m to 698m. Gain: 456m. Loss: 390m . Gradient: 9 deg (Moderate)
Skills: - Streams (2/6)
Turning off the Koranga track at the signpost, the track drops to forested river flats where a swingbridge takes you over the Koranga River. On the far side in rough pasture, a vague track sidles the opposite face climbing slightly to the next side stream. The track then disappears completely and you are left to find your own way up the cruelly steep sidecreek through rough grasslands. After about 200 vertical meters the gradient lessens and you pick up a farm track at a gate. Following the track upwards for a further 100 vertical meters, you swing an arc taking you eventually south across the head of the valley parallel to the bushedge, until a DOC triangle on the bushedge marks the start of the Tawa Hut track.
Beyond the bushedge, thing get much better. A benched pack track cuts down the valleyside through tall bush to a shoulder, then drops to the valley floor. The valleyfloor has been devastated by floods in the past, and the track is erased in many places - but still well marked. The ground is gravel and river stone left by the water, but tall trees still stand unaffected.
The valley narrows and the track returns to the northern valleyside where the benched track is cut into the steep face. The river drops away leaving us high on the face. We descend slowly towards the valley floor through majestic rimu and totora, twisted with rata vines. Opposite the confluence, a signpost marks the turnoff to to Kahunui Hut.
Altitude: 363m to 445m. Gain: 24m. Loss: 106m . Gradient: 5 deg (Flat)
Below the track junction, the track continues t siudle the valleyside until it broadens at the confluence with the Makakoere. Here it drops to flats on the valleyfloor - a signpost marking the turnoff to Makakoere Stream and hut.
Tawa Hut sits 500m beyond on gently sloping grassy flats.
Altitude: 363m to 499m. Gain: 192m. Loss: 57m . Gradient: 3 deg (Flat)
Skills: - Occasional rivers (3/6)
The sidle track heads 500m upriver from Tawa Hut before swinging east up the Kakahui (heading for Moanui roadend). At the bend / forks, a DOC sign should mark a rough track which drops back to the river allowing us to continue up the Makakoere – but this sign was missing on one of my visits, so be vigilant.
Upriver from Tawa, the deep pools, easy gravel and refreshing shaded valley are no more. Instead, the river becomes a small stream in an often-broad, rocky riverbed. Going is not actually hard – except in the sense of sharp hard rocks on soft paws and feet – but in many ways it is more reminiscent of the Raukumaras further north than the Waioeka / Ureweras. Fern forest remains on a few flat sections, occasional markers hinting that there was once a sidle track – but for the most part walking is on the rocky bed. 500m before the hut there’s a section of ‘rapids’ where the stream tumbles over boulders, which although not the size of a house, would make a cozy hut. Needless to say, the tramper must scramble over the same.
Shortly after, intermittent markers on the eastern bank climb though fern forest and cross a side creek to emerge on a terrace at the hut. This route is not obvious and is easy to miss. A more obvious track to the hut climbs from the broad river flats 50m upstream from the hut, doubling back and climbing the eastern face to a terrace where the hut sits hidden. The hut is not visible from the valley floor, and it is important to be vigilant for one of these two tracks to it – many parties report spending nights camped upriver having missed it, only to spot the track on their way back down river. The track is sometimes marked, and sometimes not – there seems to be an issue with the marker being repeatedly removed.
Makakoere Hut is another standard 6-bunk forestry hut – this time with an open fire rather than woodburner. It is, again, popular with possumers and hunters and like many huts in the area get rough treatment at times. There is tank water at the hut – which is good, as it’s a long walk to the river.
Altitude: 497m to 665m. Gain: 210m. Loss: 45m . Gradient: 3 deg (Gentle)
Skills: - Occasional rivers (3/6)
Above Makakoere Hut the valley again opens to broad flats – grass and moss becoming established and making great walking. Sadly this only lasts a kilometer or so, after which normal service resumes: rough river rocks and travel in the riverbed to the major forks. Taking the eastern fork (the Makokoere) the stream narrows further, dense vegetation crowding us into the riverbed. Gradient increases and the rocks become larger, and we spend most of the time scrambling over rocks or hopping over the now-narrow flow. Passing the 2nd (after the forks) major sidecreek on the west, keep a lookout for a large DOC triangle 80m further upriver, which marks the start of the track to Rangaakapua Hut.
Altitude: 661m to 1318m. Gain: 725m. Loss: 88m . Gradient: 16 deg (Steep)
Now for the hard bit – it’s only 3km to the hut, but a steep 700m climb, most of it in the first kilometer. The track starts vague, but good markers start to appear 50m above the river. What is consistent, however, is the gradient – it’s a steep, overgrown scramble some 300m to the first knob - unrelenting. Shortly before this outlying knob, the track cuts right off the spur and angles across the south face to hit the saddle beyond. A welcome, flat respite, but don’t get used to it, as another 300m near-vertical slog follows to the ridgeline. If, like me, you’ve come 25km from Nikau Flats today, you may be forgiven for feeling a tad tired.
Finally the track emerges onto an old slip, and the summit is in sight. Trees become dwarved, and daylight starts to penetrate. Cresting the ridge, we descend 60 hard-earned-meters to a boggy basin beyond, climb again (“only 2 more”) descend, and finally make one more 160m ascent to reach the 1310m summit. From here it’s a relatively easy kilometer of meandering along the top to emerge from stunted beach into leatherwood and find the very welcome sight of Rangaakapua Hut.
Rangakaapua sits on the boundary of mossy cloud- (‘goblin’) forest and leatherleaf scrub. A great 3-bunk hut, with 3 more spare mattresses to go on the floor. There’s a woodburner in it’s own alcove with amply drying space above, and an impressive library. Insulated and warm once the fire’s going, despite it’s altitude.
Altitude: 722m to 1298m. Gain: 27m. Loss: 583m . Gradient: 10 deg (Moderate)
South-west of Te Rangaakapua, the track starts through leatherleaf and intermittent clearings. Badly marked, and slow going casting around to relocate it after each clear section. The views, however, are impressive: range after range fading into the distance, the sheer face of the scared Maungapohatu to the south. Dropping west the track enters the bush, and immediately becomes overgrown – more slow going. Marking is generally ok, but there are a few crucial sections where it vanishes completely and good map and compass work is required to locate the correct ridge to follow. It seems to take an age to reach the track junction, but when we do it is marked by an obvious. Marked by an aged red signpost, dating from before the days of DOC, the writing pretty much obliterated by time and graffiti, but it’s presence at least marking the spot.
Altitude: 577m to 742m. Gain: 0m. Loss: 165m . Gradient: 11 deg (Moderate)
From the track junction, drop SSW off the ridge for a kilometer or so. You soon reach a small stream,cross it, and emerges onto a grassy paddock at Mangatoatoa Hut. The track is getting overgrown, but still well marked.
Mangatoatoa is a recently refurbished 8-bunker, in a nice sunny spot. It gets a bit of use by hunters, but is not a busy hut, and is well cared for by Urewera standards. You might even find some firewood in the woodstore!
Altitude: 563m to 884m. Gain: 482m. Loss: 360m . Gradient: 10 deg (Moderate-hard)
Skills: - Streams (2/6)
Dropping to the river forks below Mangatoatoa the track heads down a crumbling ridgeline, so crumbled in fact that on my last visit it was necessary to scramble off it and head down the creek instead. It then climbs up the spur opposite – not the next one downriver, as indicated on some maps. The start of the track is marked, as is the track itself, but it has not been cut in years. Thankfully the vegetation is fairly sparse so it’s more of a route-finding challenge than an actual bush-bash. The climb is only 200m, but feels like more, followed by more smaller ups and downs on the long meandering ridgeline before descending to the next creek - after which we repeat the whole sequence again. This time markers are sparser and it’s very easy to lose the track both on the climb, and where it leaves the ridgeline. Good map & compass work (or a good nose for tracks at least) may be required to locate the track in places. Finally, after crossing a third stream, the track climbs yet again to emerge in the large short-cropped clearing at Makomako Hut, carpeted by deer-pellets.
Makomako is easily accessed both of foot and on horseback, sitting as it does on the 6’ track. It does not fare as well as nearby Mangatoetoe, and cops quite a bit of abuse. It sleeps 8-12 on two platforms, and has a woodburner and an additional fireplace outside in the remains of a previous hut.
Altitude: 680m to 859m. Gain: 358m. Loss: 215m . Gradient: 5 deg (Gentle)
It’s a long, but relatively easy slog from Makomako to SH38. From the hut the broad, benched 6-foot track sidles contours in a generally southwards direction to the turnoff a couple of km ENE of Maungapohatu. Unfortunately, here the good benched track continues straight on into the private land, and we must turn off it and climb on what is now just a standard tramping track. A kilometer later there’s a DOC signpost – the crossing with Ruas Track – the only time I've seen times measured in days on a DOC signpost!
Altitude: 780m to 1182m. Gain: 672m. Loss: 544m . Gradient: 5 deg (Moderate)
Leaving the 6' track junction, the road sidles for a few kilometers then crosses a creek, swings sharply west, and begins a long, steady climb to the 1200m Huiarau Range. There is no water at dry times from the creek before the climb, all the way to SH38 – be warned. There’s not much to say about the walk, other than that it offers glimpses back into the private Maungapohatu valley, and seems to take forever! There are several good cleared camping spots along the access road, but none have obvious water supplies, and as such are probably used more by people in vehicles.
The old shelter at the SH38 junction is long gone, but if you do need to camp, there is a clearing where it used to sit, 50m before you reach the highway, and there is a small, but reliable creek for water on the other side of the highway, just west of the Whakataka Hut track sign.