Day 32. The storm started at 8.30pm the previous night. Rain came down in rods hammering roof and skylights above our heads, 80mph gales were fierce, rocking and buffeting all night long with no let up. The noise was deafening, at times we couldn’t hear ourselves speak. Long-suffering did his best to reassure that we were safe, I was not convinced, not sure he was either!
And then at 7am it all slowed almost to a stop and we opened the blinds to this wondrous sight…
9.16am. Wilkies Pools Loop Track, plateau to Waingongoro Hut and swing bridge.
The storm had ceased, we took advice for our planned walk from the visitor centre and were advised parts of the enchanted loop track would be impassable due to the heavy rain overnight raising the river levels. Armed with a fairly safe alternative we set off.
The first part of the track to the waterfall and pools was on a firm rigid surface, probably the first longer track we had walked being in any part wheelchair/baby buggy friendly. Sunlight filtered through the native forest, shadowed sinewy shapes across our path, lichen, moss and fern covered the edges, peeling bark glinting burnt orange.
High tree arches, nature’s natural arbours, towered above our heads, gnarled branches eerie, shrouded in their moss covered blanket.
Rushing river and Wilkies Pools
The fallout from the heavy rain meant at times the uphill track had become a shallow stream. Out from the dense bush, waterfalls cascaded out across the track creating rocky rivers to cross. A wrong turn sent us downwards, running water everywhere eventually uncrossable. A retreat and an inevitable steep climb back up.
This walk had it all magical forests, challenging climbs, waterfalls, swing-bridges – one of the parks highest.
It was here Long-suffering faced his biggest challenge to date, the sheer drop 78ft below and swing and sway of the narrow bridge with every step, was enough to make me slightly queasy. Two attempts later I was over…..three or four later, he was not, although the last he got almost halfway!
Luckily, it was not part of our route – maybe if it was, a different outcome? We made our return back up over the twisted roots, uneven rocks, surface water and steps following the marked track under cover of the dense forest.
Nearing the end just when we thought we were home and dry the constant presence of running water got a whole lot louder, as out from the bush a deep rocky river rapid appeared. At first glance it looked impossible to cross, we could see the track snaking away on the other side. Too tired now to contemplate going back we were determined to find a way over….
Precariously we did!
Drive to Tongaporutu and a surprise walk to a hidden beach….
We stopped here for lunch, the tide was on the turn, a young girl in impossibly short shorts walked by and headed along the black sand beach to the rocky cliffs. We watched as she waded tentatively, hand on rocks as she felt her way along and through the waist high water of the river mouth..
And then she disappeared around a jutting out cliff face, meanwhile a group of four youngsters were following on the same way, by this time the tide had started receding slowly away from the cliff.
Never one to miss an opportunity for adventure we were out like a shot, except as befits our age we did glance at the noticeboard warning of incoming tides cutting you off, just a two hour window either side of high tide then!
Soon we were slipping and sliding on the exposed rock shelf – we were not the only ones! Hugging the cliff face as we waded thigh high, our bare feet struggled to stay firm on slimy rocks, hampering our progress. Eventually we made it around, relieved to be back on black sandy ground.
WOW it was so worth the effort. Monolithic rocks – three sisters – only two now, one has fallen to the elements.
Vertical cliff faces towered over the smooth black sands typical of this area of the North Island.
Caves and sculptured arches….
Huge rocks, dark shadows and surf as the sea retreated.
Not too long after we also started our retreat, only calf deep this time!
Awakino holiday park…our overnight stop overlooking the black sand beach and foaming Sea…