Upper Whirinaki – Central Whirinaki
Wednesday November 21 2012
The destination was Whirinaki Forest Park, about two hours drive from Napier. It was a glorious sunny day although the mist hung low in the valleys as we drove north.
Turning off State Highway 5 just north of Waipunga Falls, the road surface deteriorated somewhat, as we negotiated a number of turns on the network of forestry roads. A minor detour to a fallen pine was quickly reversed; a little test (failed) of navigation skills!
Our party of 16 in the minibus and John’s car arrived at Plateau road end in good spirits and by 9.30 am had set off into the forest. Whirinaki Forest Park is 55,000 hectares of magnificent indigenous forest sitting between the massive exotic plantings on the Kaingaroa Plains to the west and the vast wilderness of the Te Urewera National Park to the east. It is one of the finest remaining giant podocarp forests in New Zealand, recognised internationally for its ecology and biodiversity.
Colin led our party as we descended into the Whirinaki River valley. Once across the river, we paused for morning tea and then climbed to Upper Whirinaki Hut. Turning north, we found ourselves in the Taumutu Stream, a tributary of the Whirinaki. It was very warm so the wet feet were not at all unpleasant. We lunched in a lovely sunny clearing next to the stream.
This forest is a joy to behold with awe-inspiring specimens of totara, kahikatea, matai, miro and rimu. Other highlights were groves of toii, or broad-leafed cabbage trees along the track and native white clematis in flower.
Thirteen of us chose to complete the round trip as planned. At the confluence of the Taumutu and Whirinaki, on the footbridge, we parlayed whether to strike out for Central Whirinaki Hut or not. The consensus was that time was advancing so at 1.30 pm we began our climb and return to the car park. Jenny was leading by this time and showed a clean pair of heels on the ascent. At the wire footbridge and riverside caves, we rested before continuing on.
This was an excellent day tramp, our party arriving back at the vehicles by 3.30 pm. Colin and Viv provided a couple of ‘tumble’ highlights. There was the usual banter, good humour and company with a group of diverse but friendly people. The Whirinaki is well worth a visit.
Trampers: Colin McNatty, John Burrell, Isobel Holdaway, Kelvin Shaw, Viv Bramley, Murray White, Jenny Burns, Hilary Heath-Caldwell, David and Diane Hills, Paul Exeter, Ken Ross, John Marshall, Robyn Smith, Vic Bullock and reporter Dennis Mitchell