Time for a hill!
Day 3: Hauturu Highpoint via Six Foot Track
We woke to a clearing sky which was good news as we had planned on walking up the Six Foot Track to Frampton’s Hut and then to Hauturu Highpoint. According to DoC and the TramperNZ blog the views northwards across the Hokianga and southwards to Waipoua are stunning, so we needed a clear day.
The track goes from the end of Mountain Road, which is about 3km north of Opononi. It is metalled but well-maintained and Vera made it easily. Just before the sign that says the road is no longer maintained past this point, there was a place that offered space to camp (Okopako Lodge) – looked like an amazing spot so one to bank for another time we are here. We continued to climb up the windy road for probably about 3km until we went past a few habitations – I hesitate to say houses as most of them seemed to be old caravans or sheds grouped together. Off to the left down a driveway did seem to be a real house – very grand it looked too. Just a bit further on the road widened and it was clear it was the end of the road. We could see the DoC sign ahead. There is space for possibly one or two vehicles if you tuck in but it is also the turning space for the people that live in the houses here.
We spoke briefly to a man and his two children who were there and checked it was OK to park.
The trail climbs gradually as it traverses along the slope through the forest. It was pleasantly cool, easy underfoot though there were some boggy sections as the path crossed streams. I suddenly realised that the sound I could hear was cicadas. Summer is here! My first cicadas of the summer – such a heart warming moment! The track is an old bridleway and you can see that it is slightly raised with clear edges for the most part but there are areas where erosion has narrowed the trail and the drop off to the edges is quite steep.
We soon arrived at a gate that marked the junction where the 4WD track to Frampton’s Hut veered off from the main trail up to the Waima Main Range Track and Hauturu Highpoint. Another ten minutes on along a narrower path and we were at the next junction. Right to Hauturu and straight on to follow the main track.
Now we started to climb! Steep and rugged in places, we made good use of trees, branches and roots to help us navigate the muddy, Rooty slopes. The forest changed as we climbed. I really need to learn my trees and plants better so I can know what I am walking through! Suffice it to say that the light through the trees dappled the way and whether it was Nikau, Manuka, Rimu, Totara and any number of ferns and mosses, it was beautiful.
The steep ground levelled off a bit and although we were still climbing it was a bit easier. We emerged into a clearing where there was a meadow of Oxeye daisies, buttercups and grasses. A sign warned to keep dogs on a lead because of sheep grazing though we saw none. It was tempting to stop and have our picnic but we decided to continue to the top. From here we climbed to a ridgeline and walked along it for a while, steep drops on either side of us. I thought that if this were Scotland or the Lake District, we would be feeling decidedly exposed. Ridgelines in forests are not nearly so intimidating but nor do you get the thrill of feeling high up and being able to see all around you. I am not sure if the glimpses you get through ‘vegetation windows’ are more tantalising or just frustrating!
Then we started to descend – quite a long way – and I was unsure if we should be going down so far. However, the time and distance we had travelled didn’t fit with having reached a summit and neither did any signs. Surely there would have been a sign!? I peered myopically at the map and thought I could see that the track did cross some contour lines down to s stream and then climb again. From memory that was what we had decided when we had looked at the map with glasses on! But I wasn’t sure so I turned around to climb back up to Nigel. He had also questioned his memory and was unsure. Nigel had the brainwave to take a photo of the part of the map we needed and then enlarge it so we could actually see the contours and confirm that we were indeed in the right place!
The climb up from the stream was again very gnarly and steep but not very long and we were soon at the sign (there was a sign!) that marked the way on over the hill to Waiotemarama and the dogleg off to the Hauturu Highpoint. It was almost a disappointing summit.
A large wooden trig in an almost clearing reminiscent of Maungatautari. Trees had clearly been felled to provide a lookout to Hokianga but they had grown again and partly obscured the view. I climbed up the trig to get a view but still had to crop it to get rid of the tree that had grown and was in the way! I spotted another orange marker pointing on past the trig. Leaving Nigel at the trig I followed the trail.
There was the view! This is when those tantalising glimpses that build a bit of a picture in your mind are worthwhile … the surprise of a full view is all the more spectacular. I ran back to Nigel and he followed me out to the lookout. We could see the Waima Range heading off to our left, the Waipoua Forest in front of us and to our right glimpses of white sandy beaches. Beautiful.
There was a trig – and trigs need handstands!
The trip back was, well the trip back. All that we had done, but in reverse. The downs didn’t seem so extreme as we had thought they might be when going up them and we were soon down to the meadow where we had thought we would have lunch. Too hot and too exposed so we continued on to Frampton’s Hut.
What a wee gem! Nestled in a clearing in the forest, the hut is an old farmstead with a verandah and a chimney and a pot-bellied stove. We explored than had a leisurely lunch on the verandah before finishing off the last section down to the van. 12km (I did a bit extra going backwards and forwards to Nigel) about 3 hours moving time but about 5 hours all up including stops and meanderings!
We treated ourselves to an Affogato in a cafe in Rawene – new since we were last here – and looked at the artwork then wandered around the village before heading back to Opononi.
Hogmanay here we come!