Central Te Hoe Hut, via Te Hoe River
Saturday/Sunday January 26-27 2013
The drive into the airstrip, where the tramp begins, is through a private forestry block called Maungataniwha, for which we were fortunate enough to have permission and an escort. Maungataniwha Native Forest comprises 6,120 hectares of native forest straddling the ridge system between the Te Hoe and Waiau Rivers in the Northern Hawkes Bay. It is bordered to the north by Te Urewera National Park and to the west by the Whirinaki Conservation Forest, both administered by the Department of Conservation.
On reaching the airstrip, we met with Charlie, and he offered to take our packs down to the river start point in the trailer on the back of his ATV.
Thus, six of us once reunited with our packs headed off upstream for what turned out to be a wonderful ‘spot the whio’ weekend. Whio, commonly known as Blue Duck, is highly endangered, threatened by predation – mainly by stoats – and loss of habitat. It’s a localised species holding territories on fast-flowing mountain rivers in forested areas.
The river is an easy walk, although not many riverbank options as the manuka has grown and it proved to be just as easy to stay on the river. The early wide riverbed became narrow, with medium-sized boulders, but the river levels were low, and we made numerous crossings whilst winding our way upstream. The high-pitched call of the whio alerted us to some groups, and others we just disturbed briefly.
After two hours, we had our lunch stop, and then reached one of the major incoming streams from the true left. We turned a few more bends, and then reached the gorge that we had fun with last time we did this trip.
This time, due to the river clearing out the logs, and low river levels, we had no problems and as Les put it, it did not reach his temperature gauge.
From this point, the river travel is easy again. At the point where on the true right there is a higher river flat, we did not see the marker, but we did see a clutch of nine whio, which we assume to be mum, dad and offspring. We reached the swingbridge which crosses the side stream five minutes upstream from the hut. We clambered up to the track, dropped our packs and checked out the views from further up on the Upper Te Hoe track. The track winds its way uphill with several bluffy bits which have been blasted out from the rock. Last Easter, a group of us did a four-day walk in the Whirinaki Forest Park, and came this way from Mangakahika Hut, through to Upper Te Hoe Hut. This trip report is on our website.
The sound of the morepork sent us to sleep, although a possum performed a few tricks on the roof as well.
The next morning was a blue sky day, and we packed and cleaned up the hut. The walk back downstream is supposed to be easier, however as I use a walking pole it is all the same to me. We had an official count of the whio numbers, and our tally was 31!
When we told Charlie, he was over the moon, as it made his task of making up and checking the stoat traps all the more meaningful. The Whirinaki FP has also had a 1080 drop, which has also helped, although ground-feeding birds have suffered.
We had a cuppa with Charlie, and then made our way back home with our escort. Many thanks to Robin for granting us permission and guiding us through the maze of forestry roads. They are logging at the moment, so Robin was essential to our trip.
We all felt privileged to have been granted access, and to see for ourselves the high numbers of whio that are now inhabiting the Te Hoe River.
Trampers: Paul Exeter, Ted Angove, Les O’Shea, Jennie Porter, Dorothy Sole and reporter Julia Mackie