Burttons Track, Wednesday 8 November 2017
Photos: Marie Deroles, Pam Dransfield and Julia Mackie
We set off on Tuesday evening with 11 on board and a lot of gear, as we were staying overnight. We stopped off at Aokautere for take-aways ranging from pizza to fish and chips. Our hosts were only five minutes away in Kahuterawa Road so after a warm welcome and introductions, we sat on their deck and ate heartily. Pam (Robyn’s friend) and her husband Michael could not have been more welcoming. Pam is a keen tramper and was our guide for the next day. Michael provided transport.
The forecast for Wednesday in Palmserton North was for gale-force winds and rain starting at 5am, with 7mm in the two hours up to 8am. Our plan was to start at 8. They got it spot on apart from the amount of rain. It was torrential. The tap was turned off at 8 and we had a dry day from then on. It was windy, cool and sometimes sunny.Amy joined us and Michael took Robyn, Pam, Amy and Barry, whilst the van took the original 11 to the end of Scott’s Road and the start of the track. After the drop-off at 8.30 Michael went home and Ted took the van to the other end of the track to walk in to meet us (with probably a coffee or two along the way at Shannon). The walk commences by following the metalled forestry road alongside the Kahuterawa Stream. Pretty boring as the trees had been felled – and an uphill slog for an hour. The gradient increases until the signpost and stile marking entry into Tararua Forest Park are reached.
The track then descends from 500 metres above sea level down to a stream at 200 metres above sea level, taking about an hour, and is clearly marked. In places, it was very muddy. John (his surname starts with B) decided to do a back flip followed by a pirouette into the mire.
We were warned that if we could cross the stream then we would not be able to cross the river. After the early morning downpour, we had some concerns but thankfully it was not an issue. The stream and river were both dirty but quite crossable.
The track crosses the stream and then begins to follow up the Tokomaru River. After descending to the river and crossing another stream, the track crosses the Tokomaru River, clearly marked with large orange triangles. The trail here is on private land. This area is marked with orange poles through open clearings. We had a sticky beak look in at a hunters lodge which was well appointed and with good views down to the river.The Tokomaru River is crossed for a second time and re-enters the forest park and the start of the original Burtton’s Track. Five minutes further on, the former Burtton’s Whare site is reached. Considered as midway when going south, it is was an ideal site for a lunch break.
James Burtton was the pioneering farmer who opened up this valley and lived at the whare site. His tale ended sadly when he fell eight metres into the river from his suspension bridge in 1941. He suffered a broken leg, but had the fortitude to feed his dogs before dragging himself for 12 hours to safety. He died of complications from his injuries.
Because we were following the river against the flow, we were actually walking uphill for the last few hours of the track, so it was very draining. The trail ends at the car park just off the Mangahao Road, 7.7km from the Mangahao Power Station.
Ted and Michael were waiting for us at the locked gate. The walk had taken 6.5 hours.On the way back to civilisation, we stopped off at the power station to view the white water slalom canoe course. Michael had been a major contributor to the provision of this facility.
The cafes and coffee stops were all closed along the way so, apart from a comfort stop in Woodville, it was straight home to Napier, dropping off Sue in Norsewood and Les in Maraekakaho.
We could not have done this without the help from Pam and Michael as well as Ted. The logistics of moving vehicles from one end to the other would have been totally impractical. So a big thank you to them and to Bruce for organising it.
Trampers: John Stairmand, Marie Deroles, Bruce Hodgson, Ted Angove, Amy Hutchinson, John Burrell, Robyn Smith, Barry Ridler, Tony Pluymers, Pam Dransfield, Clemence Calland, Sue Trotter, Les O’Shea, Julia Mackie and reporter Kelvin Shaw