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Day 2 - Panekire to Waiopaoa

Day 2 - Panekire to Waiopaoa
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March 2016

 

Te Urewera

New Zealand

 

38°49'S
177°01E

583 - 1190m ASL

 

Google Maps Link

 

   

Introduction to today's journey

The Earth we evolved to inhabit is turning into something more turbulent and unreliable at a pace too fast for most living things to adapt to.

- Rebecca Solnit

WHEN AUSTRALIA, Zealandia, South America and Africa drifted northwards from the polar continent of Antarctica, the Southern Ocean formed around the entire circumference of the Earth. This new ocean generated the circumpolar current drifting eastwards substantially cooling the planet into a series of ice ages. The once luscious tropical forests covering the combined continent of Gondwanaland had to adapt to the much colder conditions. Fortunately the goblin forest growing on this range were amongst the hardiest species and has remained almost unchanged since the days of the dinosaurs. There are pockets of similar ancient forest growing on Tasmania, mainland Australia and the bottom of South America. The vegetation growing on this range is hundreds of millions of years older than the the landform it stands upon.

Today's trek starts at Panekiri and continues following the exposed forested top of the range before abruptly descending to a spur through lush forest and tree ferns. The well graded track continues along a gentle descent for a couple of hours before reaching the edge of the now tranquil lake in a remote sheltered bay at Waiopaoa.

 
 

Today's Journey

Distance trekked today: 7.6 kilometres.

Total distance trekked to date: 16.4 kilometres.

 
 
 
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08:27 - The southerly wind is still blowing outside when I awake at first light. Thick cloud bringing steady misty rain still envelops the range on which we were atop. This lookout point just outside the hut would give a spectacular view when conditions are clear, but up here we are enveloped in cloud.

 

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08:28 - Top of Panekire Trig. Looking back to the right the old wooden trig station stands sturdy against the strong wind in front of a grove of mountain beech trees down the steep slope where we had climbed the stairs yesterday. In front of the trig is a small heli pad, for helicopters to deliver supplies or perhaps to pick up hikers in cases of medical emergency. The thick cloud would make any landing up here impossible this morning.

 

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08:29 - The hut is made from corrugated iron and painted a cheap green colour. Little information is available on its history, but given its rustic character, it would have been built when the track through here was cleared in the late 1960s or early 1970s. The sloping roof is bent over the top perhaps to prevent an apex where rain could leak through. Very old mountain beech trees grow on the other side of the hut near the toilets.

 

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08:30 - The covered board walk verandah provides good shelter from the misty rain. The roof is held up by large poles. A single wire washing line hangs between the posts, but the heavy mist would ensure nothing would dry this morning. The windows are all modern aluminium framed, but otherwise the hut has a very rustic old style.

 

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08:31 - Around the back of the hut is a separate ranger's quarters with a sky blue door leading from the verandah into it. No ranger stayed here overnight, so I looked through the window. This part of the building was private and cut off from the rest of the hut. It had its own small bunk room and cheap plastic dining furniture. This was quite a good self-contained unit but wouldn't provide much sound proofing should there be a noisy group staying here. At least the bunkrooms were through the wall, a noisy group would keep their rowdiness in the dining area around the fireplace at the far end of the hut.

 

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08:32 - From the verandah the long boardwalk steps down to the gravel path splitting into three short tracks. Two lead to small long drop toilet cubicles whilst the other goes to the wood shed on the uphill side.

 

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08:33 - After using the long drop I quickly return to the hut. One by one the others in the hut get up. I met Roger, a rough looking bloke who seemed to be living a rough life, based in Napier. He was preparing his breakfast, wanting to have an early start heading down the range to the next hut beside the lake. There was a retired couple from Whangarei staying in the other bunk room. Jan and Ken had done the track before but quite a long time ago, with regularly heading out to hike different tracks all over the North Island. They too were preparing breakfast ready for an early start.

 

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09:25 - The light inside the hut is dim, but helped by a large skylight along the top of the roof. It was very dusty and a few people have written things in the dust. Obviously it doesn't get cleaned very often, being so hard to reach. Everyone has agreed to wait for a break in the weather before we start. From here it was all downhill to the next hut and only three to four hours today, so we definitely didn’t have the rush of yesterday late start and not reaching the hut until darkness had started to fall.

 

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09:46 - The two young ladies who were originally sleeping in the top bunk in the other room have their mattresses beside the fire and were now stirring under their survival blankets. After quite some discussion we convinced them to wait here until the weather starts to clear, and to head back to the start of the track where their car was parked. It will be too dangerous for them to go on, especially along the top of this ridge.

 

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10:00 - The weather wasn't showing any signs of clearing, so we decide to hang around the hut for a while. Once we are off the exposed ridge it will quickly warm even if rain is still falling. I enter our details into the intentions book. Most hikers on this track were local New Zealanders, with a few from Australia and Europe. Although this was a great walk, it isn't as popular or accessible as most of the others, so it has a higher portion of New Zealanders than other great walks. The girls are still in bed and I suspected they will be staying put there until we have left them. I don't think they liked being ordered around by all these crazy kiwis even though they knew they were totally unprepared for the hike.

 

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10:35 - Accepting the weather just wasn't going to clear anytime soon, we decided to put on our rain gear and brave the elements. Once equipped up, our packs on and our rain capes over our packs we were ready to trudge off along the ridge. We set off along the short board walk beside the hut to the dirt track covered in the leaf litter of the small rounded leaves of the beech trees. The track is wet, but fortunately free of puddles or mud. We enter the dense goblin forest as thick mist swirled its way through the gnarly trees. The thick carpets of moss hanging off the tree trunks and branches are reinvigorated from the overnight misty rain which is still falling sideways from the thick cloud barrelling over the ridge.

 

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10:44 - The montane forest we are hiking through is mostly beech trees – silver and mountain beech. Related species of beech tree grows around different parts of New Zealand, and also Australia, New Guinea, New Caledonia, Chile, Argentina and similar varieties found around Asia, North America and Europe. Their wide distribution is due to the trees evolving back in the times of Gondwanaland when most of the continents were joined together. After initially following the top of the ridge the track gradually drops traversing its way around an 1185 metre high peak. This is the last of the higher peaks along the range. From here the Panekire  Range will gradually lower by about a hundred metres when we turn off and head down into Waiopaoa.

 

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10:48 - At the bottom of the small saddle the track continues along the ridge until reaching the next hill. There it continues on its gentle grade around the hill to the following saddle. We round the next peak marking the start of an inconspicuous ridge stretching out over the lake forming the Whareama Range with peaks of between 700 and 830 metres above sea level until abruptly ending at The Narrows, separating the waters of Wairaumoana from the rest of the lake. Having passed the peak we are now officially in the catchment area of Wairaumoana, and will continue to be so for 48 hours. We are entering the headwaters of the Whakenepuru Stream which flows into the remote Whakenepuru Bay which has the Te Anaakakapa Cave just behind the lake shore far below. The gradual descent along the top of the range repeats around several peaks until reaching a saddle at around 1070 metres above sea level. From here we have a quick view through the dense fog, but can't see very far at all.

 

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10:49 - We continue following the track, mostly passing through the ongoing thick goblin forest with only the very occasional lookout on the saddles. Each lookout seems exactly the same – ancient goblin trees perched at the edge of the cliff, and our surroundings diffusing into the thick relentless cloud as the fine misty rain continued falling from it. The track start winding quite a bit as it passed around spurs. Eventually we reach one saddle where the track extends towards the following peak. This was the clue I was looking for. We are about to leave the top of the range.

 

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11:18 - Sure enough the track quickly doubles back at the top of a long wooden stairway abruptly descending the side of the range towards the lake. Here we leave the hundred-million-year-old goblin forest covering the exposed top of the range towards the lapping waters of Lake Waikaremoana. From here the flora will dramatically change as we descend to the gentle lapping waters of the sheltered lake following over a hundred million years of evolutionary process.

 

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11:23 - We follow the wooden stairs down the hill. The wood used to construct them is in excellent condition, suggesting they are a recent addition. Gravel fills the hole behind each step making for a much easier descent than expected. Without the steps this would have been a rather slow and hazardous descent along the slippery path. The stairs continue following the north westerly direction we had been heading this morning. After the stairs the track continued a moderate descent before doubling back over a steep moss covered bluff. Another new stairway descends steeply beside the rock before a sharp hairpin bend leads to yet another steep stairway. The trees here are smaller but the forest floor quickly fills with ferns and epiphytic plants growing on the steep rain soaked bank beside the track.

 

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11:25 - The terrain becomes very steep in places with board walk bridges providing easy access across the wet rock faces. The wiggly stairway drops steeply through the forest which has already advanced forty million years of evolutionary history. The solid handrails are a little rough and splintery from its recent construction. It certainly isn't smooth like the decades worn teak handrails along the Mount Kinabalu climb.

 

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11:36 - Following 454 steps from the ridge, the wooden stairs end at the headwater streams of Waitehatere Stream. Here the track briefly sidles a steep descent before following the northern stream trickle over slippery rocks. From here it turns off to the right moderately decending the now wide leaf litter covered track following the top of a spur. The canopy of the beech forest suddenly closes in creating for darker conditions. The bigger trees are able to grow on the more moderated terrain along the start of the ridge we are following all the way down to Waiopaoa.  The forest floor is now covered in large crown ferns and other prehistoric foliage in this now spectacular forest. Thankfully the wind has completely died out here in the shelter under the range. Drizzle still falls from the thick mist, but the air is noticeably warmer even though we are only about a hundred metres below the top of the range.

 

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11:55 - The mountain beech goblin forest is quickly giving way to mixed beech, podocarp and kamahi forest, to gradually morph into a broadleaf rainforest as it approaches the lake. New Zealand’s native animals are of ancient species now no longer found in other parts of the world. This was due to New Zealand not evolving sophisticated predator species like in other parts of the world. I can hear some birds in the trees, but they were quite distant. The birds in this part of the forest include the kaka, kakariki, New Zealand robin, New Zealand falcon, and the tiny rifleman. One noticeable absence here is the New Zealand weka, very common throughout wilderness New Zealand but not found at all here in Te Urewera.

 

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12:04 - The track we descend was recently upgradeed. Occasionally I see where the old track leaves the new one clambering over roots now with small ferns growing out of the hard surface once trampled on. It would have been quite a slow descent without the stairs and new track clambering over the roots of the ancient trees along the top of the spur. We continue descending, eventually dropping below the thick cloud. The drizzle eases, but doesn't completely stop falling. The coverage of crown ferns thickens on the rolling forest terrain. We cross little saddles from side to side of the ridge traversing around each hill on the spur. Each side of the spur drops gradually into the gullies containing Waitehatere Stream to the left and Te Punaataupara Stream to the right. Both are too far below us to for us to hear the distinctive sound of water cascading over mossy boulders. As we descend below eight hundred metres altitude, we see the first of the tree ferns forming a middle canopy above the metre-high crown ferns and below the ten metre high canopy of broadleaf trees. Whilst the mountain beeches are still visible, they are less prevalent in this part of the forest.

 

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12:19 - As we continue descending, the variety of vegetation seemed to increase quite substantially. The beech trees standing straight and formal were now largely replaced with the more subtropical trees climbing their way in random contortions perhaps imitating the trees of the goblin forest on the ridge. It is a lot more sheltered down here, so I think perhaps it wasn't so necessary to have to adapt to such harsh conditions. The array of branches allows countless epiphytes to grow on these trees, all living in a very healthy symbiotic relationship unlike the destructive relationship of the strangler figs I am familiar with in Australia. Like the ferns, the epiphytes take shelter under the forest canopy, thriving on the humid rainforest environment, feeding on leaf litter dropping from the canopy above.

 

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12:36 - The flora has diversified to the point where there are now around 650 species of native plant in Te Urewera. Some of these are very common and others now rare. The lower reaches we are now hiking through had an increasing number of broadleaf varieties of shrub and tree, more recent than the ancient Gondwanaland beeches and other species we had been passing since leaving Panekire. The majority of the broadleaf species are still evergreen whereas broadleaf species in other temperate parts of the world lose their leaves in winter. Very few of them have any defensive mechanisms against grazing mammals. Why develop defences when there are no large herbivores to eat your leaves? Large mammals didn’t exist in New Zealand until two hundred years ago.

 

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12:53 - The flowers of these trees tend to be small and white contrasting with the enormous multi coloured flowers in other countries. Once again there is little competition for pollinators. The broadleaf plants are also a lot larger than similar varieties found in other countries. Unlike the Australian trees, few have any resistance to fire. New Zealand’s climate is too wet for forest fires to be a problem, or at least it wasn’t before human settlement. Despite best conservation efforts the landscape is constantly changing with erosion, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions elsewhere on the island. More recently though, the introduction of mammals to New Zealand, particularly possums and deer, has made the conservation of these diverse species a lot more difficult.

 

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13:00 - I can tell we were near the lake when the withering trees suddenly give way to tall standing mahoe. This is a form of native broadleaf violet growing up to ten metres high with white and grey blotched bark on their trunks. The predominance of this species indicates this area was cleared hundreds of years ago, perhaps as part of one of the Maori settlements around the lake. I know there were old settlements on the other side of the lake, but there is little historical record regarding the settlement of the Tahoe peoples on this side. If a village had been established here, it had long gone with its timber structures completely rotted into the soil whence it came and the forest regrown over the centuries since it was abandoned.

 

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13:23 - The ridge has all but petered out now with the track now descending a gentle slope towards what looks like a clearing ahead. Looking at the altimeter seeing we were just over six hundred metres above sea level indicating this clearing has to be the lake.

 

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13:34 - A small sign appears next to the track pointing back indicating Panekire Hut four hours away for people heading back up the range. From the sign the track quickly widens to about two metres momentarily before we reach a junction. A much larger sign indicates Panekire Hut four hours away and Onepoto now 9.5 hours behind us. A sign pointing along the side track indicats the Waiopaoa Hut and camping ground are just five minutes away. The other sign points further along the track along our ongoing route tomorrow. Korokoro camping ground is 1.5 hours away, Maraunui camping ground is 4.5 hours and Marauiti Hut where we were staying tomorrow night is 5 hours away.

 

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13:41 - We take the side track to the right heading towards the hut. The track is flat with the occasional glimpse through the manuka forest to one of the many bay inlets of the lake, at the mouth of the Waitehatere and Waiopaoa Streams.

 

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13:44 - We reach the camping ground. Grasses started appearing in New Zealand around ten million years ago, clumps of which would have drifted here from natural ocean rafts from other continents from where they originally evolved, or perhaps seeds were carried by birds migrating here from Siberia and Alaska. There are no tents at the camping ground today. At the back of the camp site is a steep roof shelter somewhat resembling a marae building, though it doesn't have any carvings or anything else to indicate any Maori connection.

 

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13:45 - Once past the shelter, I see the Waiopaoa Hut about fifteen metres ahead, sitting at the top of a sloping grassy area heading into the lake, hidden by some thick scrub. The grassy area could definitely be used as a camping ground if the clearing around the shelter is full. Behind the hut is the forest on a steeply rising hill beside the gully we have just come down. Aside from Panekire, every hut and campsite along the track is right on the lake, easily facilitating evacuation by boat. Panekire hut has the helipad for helicopter rescues, weather permitting.

 

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13:52 - The first thing I notice upon entering the hut was the strumming of a guitar. Almost immediately afterwards I feel the heat from the small wood burner fireplace in the middle of the large open plan kitchen dining area. The walls, ceiling and floor are lined with semi-polished stained timber panels, overdoing the wooden construction. To the right are the two bunkrooms officially sleeping 30 people. This is less than the 36 bunks in the Panekire Hut, probably due to the absence of a camping ground on the exposed range. We put our packs in the far room and set up our beds on the lower of two level benches covered in mattresses. None of the mattresses on this level have been occupied yet. I take the mattress nearest the far window.

 

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13:55 - Along the far side of the main room of the hut are a couple of kitchens with stainless steel benches and taps. The first one is clearly visible but the second was obscured by wet clothes hanging from several washing lines strung near the fireplace. On this side of the room are three large solid timber tables with pew seating. The others we met at Panekire are sitting around the table with Matt, a large Maori guy who is the hut ranger. He has his own room at the track end of the hut. In anticipation of our arrival he has lit the fire for us and is playing guitar. This is a very relaxed environment. Misty drizzle continues to fall outside as we relax for our lunch in the shelter of the cozy dining hall. This is going to be a quiet afternoon with having completed our hiking for the day.

 

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14:57 - Once rested I leave the hut heading back out onto the large verandah covering the width of the hut and around the sides. I put on my wet boots and head down the grassy flat towards the lake. Before the power station was built the water would have been lapping at what is now the edge of the hut. The new water intakes and sealing of the edge of the lake had caused it to drop for five metres, creating flat sections of lake edge shelf deposited over the two thousand years it had been submerged. The hut conveniently sits at the top of one of these shelves a good five metres above the lake. This has encouraged the revegetation of the forest, but with the lake dropping only a few decades ago, this forest has so far only regenerated thick manuka and kanuka scrub. It will be many centuries before the forest will have fully regenerated to the lake edge.

 

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14:58 - A whole new shelf is being deposited below the waterline, with the edge of the old shelf being eroded into a definite shoreline and deposits creating the new shelf. There are several fault lines running through the lake, and the main plate boundary between the Indo-Australian and Pacific plates runs about a hundred kilometres beneath the lake. Warning signs in the hut and the shelter we had passed just before arriving advises earthquakes could easily create tsunamis in the lake and should we feel a strong earthquake, we need to get at least five metres above the lake level to escape the tsunami waves and stay there until at least fifteen minutes after the last shaking. Hence the location of the hut at the back of the clearing. The scrub blocks off access to the lake except through two narrow openings, one of which I pass through, firstly through the thick scrub, then past the toi toi with its distinctive cream coloured fluffy seed heads.

 

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14:59 - The beach is only a couple of metres from the long grass to the water’s edge. Much of the beach is covered in short grass, some of which was submerged with the stiff blades of grass poking above the surface indicating the water level is higher than usual. The beach has patches of pale golden sand where people usually swim.

 

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15:01 - I am on a small peninsula between the crystal clear inlets of the Waiopaoa Stream to the left and Te Punaataupara Stream to the right. The track coming down from the top of the range had followed a ridge between these streams, so I imagine it was constructed from here along the spur until reaching the top of the range. The birds living in the forest tend to stay in their small territories throughout the year. Those sensitive to the cold of winter sometimes migrate to the coast around Wairoa, but no further. Many species living in wetlands on the other hand migrate enormous distances from the northern hemisphere, sometimes bringing seeds or parts of plants with them. These sometimes establish at the wetlands. This includes the grasses and other plants I could see here.

 

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15:03 - The water is gently ruffled by the slight wind, hardly noticeable compared to the strong gusty breeze we had battled against on the range. The wind here is just enough to gently ruffle the water. About thirty metres offshore are several black swan scattered across the surface no doubt looking for small fish. This is a swan that is entirely charcoal grey apart from a bright red bill. It is the Cygnus atratus native to the southern parts of Australia, introduced to New Zealand by early European settlers in the 1860s. These large birds remain here throughout the year.

 

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15:04 - Occasionally paradise ducks and grey mallard are found here, along with the New Zealand scaup, kingfisher and white faced heron. The lake also has a good population of introduced rainbow and brown trout.  Both shoreline and boat fishing is supposed to be very good here. The cove is completely surrounded by dark forested hills. It extends quite some distance through Wairaumoana directly ahead of us. The left hand side is where we were going to be hiking tomorrow. The cloud has lifted above most of the hills except the highest ones. The low clouds are quite puffy and clear indicating no rain is falling from them, even though they are still moving reasonably quickly from the southerly system from the Antarctic.

 

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15:06 - The hills around the lake were formed by river sediments depositing mud, silt and sand in the middle of a huge plain in the middle of Zealandia between 10 and 15 million years ago, at the times when the Zealandia continent was being stretched from all directions causing nearly all of the land to sink under the Pacific Ocean. The thick layers of sand and mud solidified into sandstone, siltstone and mudstone under the sea floor as the continent gradually sank. A new fault line splitting the Zealandia continent off what is now the coast passing here about two million years ago started the uplift of the sea bed to what is now the North Island as the Pacific Plate subducted beneath the Australian Plate. As the North Island lifted out of the sea, the rock has weathered. The softer mudstone has eroded a lot faster than the sandstone. The highest hills in the area, including the Panekire Range, is made from the harder sandstone. The other hills around the lake, including these ones, are made from softer mudstone.

 

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15:07 - The overcast conditions are ideal for photography even though some fine drizzle is still falling. I head to the left towards the back of the cove where Waitehatere and Waiopaoa Streams silently drain into the lake. I don’t get very far due to scrub growing right up to the water’s edge, but it is obvious the wide cove is gradually narrowing into a channel which will eventually morph into a cascading mountain stream. Panekire Range isn’t visible behind me, but the ridge is obviously still covered in thick cloud.

 

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15:10 - Fisheye view of the lake with the tiniest of laminar ripples on the shore. The water is reflecting the clouds and the surrounding hills. The misty rain is thickening now, so I decide to return to the hut.

 

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15:15 - Matt is cutting wood in the large shed to the left of the hut. The toilets are located in the bush further to the left of the shed. Matt commutes here by boat with the same company that took us up to the start of the track. They are one of two companies that run passenger services on the lake (both have since ceased operations and a new company is providing transport services). They are also contracted to drop rangers at the huts (except Panekire, where the ranger walks up from Onepoto). They are also contracted to do rescues on the lake. Matt mentioned he has to call the boat out quite often for people who have hiked from the other direction and claim they have ankle injuries and are unable to climb the range. Matt has no choice but to call in the boat to “rescue” them. He suspects many of these cases are people who simply don't want climb the range. Taking the boat out from here is the easy way out for them.

 

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16:33 - Returning inside the hut there is another group who I had not seen before. The group of five middle aged people are doing the track in the opposite direction to us, having come from Marauiti today – this is where we were heading tomorrow. They were sitting at the far end table and relaxing, contemplating a swim in the lake after their longer than expected hike.

 

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16:35 - The rain briefly stops, so I return outside to explore the camping ground and head inside the shelter. The shelter doesn't have any walls, just large poles holding up the roof. Along what would have been the side walls was benching for seating. A stainless steel bench runs along the middle of the shelter under the roof, and there is a back wall that had a noticeboard with the same maps I saw earlier in Panekire Hut.

 

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16:51 - Returning to the lake, the water is almost mirror smooth now even though the menacing cloud cover still barrels across the sky overhead. To the right the headland divides the estuary from the next two bays where the legend of Haumapuhia is inspired. Waikotikoti Stream is next around the furthest point I can see to the right. It is a short creek draining to a little flat with a small pond to the left. It goes out into a small unnamed bay with unnamed heads on either side. The name means cut water, indicating a boundary perhaps between the land of two tribal groups. It is considered to be very sacred by the Maori, hence the absence of any track in the area.

 

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17:05 - I relax beside the tranquil water making the most of the pristine scenery before rain will start falling again.

 

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17:08 - Returning to the hut, I spot this birds nest in the trees and it looks used. It it dinner time, so we prepared some packeted dehydrated food. I have the Thai chicken curry. It is very good for reconstituted dry food, but like all dried food, it makes for a good appetite suppressant. There are a couple of magazines at our table. Ironically one of these is a surfing magazine – hardly useful here with the 1 centimetre swell breaking on the beach. Big storms do often occur on the lake where large swells can break (though still hardly enough for surfing), giving the lake its name “lake of the rippling waters”.

 

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17:30 - Another couple arrive having hiked all the way from Onepoto today, stopping at Panekire for lunch. After introductions we ask them about the two young ladies we had left at Panekire. They had passed them about half way along the steep ascent from Onepoto looking in very good spirits and happy to be getting back to the end of the track and later returning to the comforts of civilisation. They would have left not long after we had departed, quickly packing up and starting the journey along the ridge and down to Onepoto. It was good to hear they got out safely. Another group arrives from their long hike from Marauiti. This hut is going to be busy tonight.

 

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18:47 - After clearing up from dinner, I head back to the beach. The other group has by now returned from swimming in the lake. I head out to the beach where the water is now almost mirror flat. Does this mean the weather is going to clear for tomorrow? I can see through the perfectly clear water to the little sand patterns made by the waves last time they were breaking, no doubt during the north westerly preceding this southerly. The submerged grass patches go quite some distance out from the water’s edge indicating the lake is running higher than usual.

 

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18:56 - I look over the lake as rain approaches to settle in for the night. There is no sign of the weather clearing. These southerlies can often go for days on end at any time of year.

 

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18:57 - The camera is strategically jigged up on a kanuka trunk for taking my beachside selfies.

 

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19:04 - The hills surrounding the lake are quite hazy with approaching rain. It will be a matter of minutes before the rain starts falling here, so I return to the hut. The black geese are just off the water’s edge preening themselves.

 

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19:07 - Rain is already falling over the distant hills and rugged headlands where I'll be hiking tomorrow.

 

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19:16 - The hut is now busy with all the other groups now eating dinner. Our group from last night are at the first table along with the new couple who had come from Onepoto and will be hiking with us today. The other groups take up the other two tables with Matt in the middle one with his guitar again. Matt is picking the guitar telling us how wonderful it would be to have a piano in the hut. I thought that would be a fantastic idea. I’ve never seen a hiking hut with a piano in it before, but the harsh conditions with the weather, the heat from the fireplace and the all the moisture from drying wet clothes and cooking would quickly wreak havoc on any piano here causing it to quickly go out of tune and deteriorate. Still an old honky-tonk would make for a great atmosphere, and would save Matt having to bring his guitar.

 

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20:35 - The sky darkens outside and a few candles are lit as we all sat around the tables talking. One of the guys in a group going the other say has a satellite phone which he calls the weather service. They said tomorrow was raining but clearing sometime in the afternoon and fine the following few days. Outside I can hear soft hooting of the morepork (New Zealand owl). On rare occasions the kiwi could be heard here as well, but they are more plentiful further along the track. Also coming to life at night are the elusive long tailed and short tailed bats, New Zealand’s only native mammal species. They keep to the confines of the forests hunting insects and seldom seen along the coast. Eventually we all turn in for the night heading into the rather crowded bunkrooms of the hut to sleep, ready for what we have been told will be a long walk around the coast tomorrow.

 
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