A Great Walk – Hapuakohe’s Hiking Haven
16 May 2023
Gary maps the Matahuru Valley Walk – a newly opened private track offering a rural retreat for the weekend walker.
What’s the recipe for making a tempting private walk? I think it’s similar to baking a cake for a walker’s indulgence. First of all you need the right mix of ingredients: a good location, scenic values, some heritage, and a taste of nature. Secondly, effort is required with some ups and downs, some sweat and hopefully not too any many tears. Lastly add in a good measure of home comforts such as hot showers, comfy beds and a good night’s sleep. The icing to top the cake of any private walk is a tasty meal provided to enrich the experience. So with all these ingredients on offer at the new Matahuru Valley Walk, I cut the cake, take the first bite and begin to tuck in.
I reach the Matahuru Valley on a fine day. It’s located on the western side of the Hapuakohe Range roughly located between the townships of Huntly and Paeroa, and less than an hour’s drive from Hamilton and the Bombay Hills. My job is to map the track and to offer advice to the three farming families through whose properties the track passes. The experience is made up of a half-day walk, a cottage retreat, followed by a day of walking. I try their offering before the very first walkers arrive in a few weeks. For this special mapping trip, I sit down with the families at Tui Ridge, the original farm cottage that is now used as a walking base. Here I enjoy a delicious meal with them and hear about the journey of taking their first step into agri-tourism. It’s a fine evening for a townie mixing with these awesome country folk.
Walkers begin their trip around midday. After a briefing the half-day walk begins from just out the back door of the cottage. From here I start to map my way up through a pretty pocket of QEII Trust forest and climb towards the highest part of the range. I love the contrast of leaving the sunny rolling countryside of the cottage and entering another darker more moody world deep under the canopy. I do a little poking around and route finding to discover the best line for the track to squeeze out the highlights of the upper Matahuru catchment. As I walk I pass by the giant knobby trunks of pūriri, kawakawa and kahikatea trees. Between the trunks are the spider web-like tangles of supplejack vines, which hamper my work up the hillside. I glance down at my GPS screen and note that my meandering and searching for the best alignment looks as complex as some of the tangled vines. Soon the trees begin to part and I glimpse the green pastures and farm track beyond a rustic mossy farm gate. From here the track continues in the open to the skyline. The telecommunications tower on the ridge directs me and the station owner Kirsten towards the tops. Kirsten is a mother of two who has somehow found time to leave farm work, her half-time IT job and her commercial plant nursery to show me around the property. That’s one busy woman.
Soon we reach a fork in the farm track just below the tower. While it’s easy to take a left and head down, we take a right which leads up a few metres to the skyline to find what’s on top. The views from the ridgeline are of lush podocarp forest and across the Hauraki Plains to the sister tower on Mt Te Aroha. Those with good eyes could almost see the entire Waikato basin from here on a good day. Over my left shoulder are the steep mountains of the Kaimai range which flatten out into the Mamaku Plateau, then to the south are the rising volcanic cones of Maungatautari and Pirongia and behind them are the Bombay Hills. Up here we discover a trig station tucked in behind the tower that my GPS records as 535 metres in altitude – we have earned a snack.
Still chewing, I am led down to a second viewpoint which offers quite different views, this time of the Coromandel Peninsula as it drifts out into the Hauraki Gulf. My lips turn a smile; from here I can see last week’s mapping trip of the new private Pahi Coastal Walk. Both of these rural walking retreats are within easy reach for half the country’s population and offer something different from the local public walking tracks. These new tracks will both be popular adventures.
Our day walk ends by tramping down through the pastures of the rural valley past bouncy spring lambs that are still finding their feet. After passing the farm sheds we complete the loop and return to the cottage. This is where walkers will chill out as they complete the loop in the late afternoon and soak up the peace of this rural life. The countryside setting and the delicious meals enjoyed on the sunny deck make this a perfect overnight escape from the nearby cities. As for me, I can’t escape the need to finish my work this evening by downloading my GPS data, flicking through the day’s pics and turning in early for another big day of mapping ahead.
Second-day walkers could have a relaxed start with a hot brew and slowly wakening as the sun rises over the range. My breakfast is delivered courtesy of the local hens; their oversized eggs make a nutritional start to the day. I make a short trip down the valley and meet up with Mary, the owner of the first part of the day walk. She has farmed this land with her husband for over 40 years and has loads of local knowledge. While the walk is unguided, Mary makes an exception for me and guides me along her section of track. We cross paddocks with grazing sheep and cattle and climb over a saddle and take in different views from those of yesterday. After sidling through some forest we soon meet up with Sian who is the owner of the larger and remaining part of the day walk. The women tag team and my new guide takes me to another part of the property with large kauri trees before we descend to ford the pretty Matahuru Stream. There’s no drama on the crossing and it’s not long before we reach an appealing waterhole (there’s another one just upstream too). What an idyllic spot for lunch and a cool plunge on a hot summer day, surrounded as it is by majestic kahikatea trees and sun-warmed rocks.
We find a new track alignment with blazes above the stream, heading through a native forest block leading to the highest part of today’s walk. Here there are 360-degree views of the entire Matahuru Valley catchment. We weigh up a few options and discover a route through the forest which leads to a rolling ridgeline that we can follow back down to the waterway. We find ourselves walking between the newly planted native trees, which in a short order will mop up sediment to protect the Whangamarino wetlands downstream. Beyond a ford we complete the loop and return to our vehicle at Mary’s place. It’s been a great couple of days of walking, talking and retreating. It’s also the end of my mapping of private walks for this year. If the Great Walks on the Great Hikes App are the main course, then the private walks are a delightful after-dinner treat. Each caters for every tramping taste, they’re garnished in diversity and always have a dollop of sweet comforts. So roll out the menu and book a trip now!
Statistics: 19km, 2 days
This article is kindly provided by nztoday.co.nz
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