Sunday, 11 October, 2020
Administered by the Department of Conservation, The Kauaeranga Forest Park is an ideal playground for hikers, mountain bikers and, of course. us Naturists. The rugged hills, which include Table Mountain (846 metres) and the Pinnacles (759 metres), provide a spectacular backdrop. Clear streams run through the valleys and at Sleeping Gods Canyon there's a magnificent 300-metre waterfall.
The Kauaeranga River was once named Waiwhakauaeranga, which means "waters of the stacked-up jaw bones". Historians from the Ngati Maru Maori tribe claim the name originated from a famous battle - members of Ngati Maru stacked up the jaw bones of their defeated enemies in rows on the banks of the river.
The Kauaeranga Valley was once filled with magnificent Kauri trees. From the 1870s to the 1920s, this area was extensively logged for its Kauri. At first the easier slopes near Thames were logged and the kauri milled locally. During the 1890s the kauri timber industry slumped and many local mills closed down. Around 1910 the industry revived and plans were made to extract the remaining stands of timber in the rugged area above Kauaeranga Gorge - the area now traversed by the Kauri Trail. In the main river valley and its tributaries, contractors worked from bush camps supplied by packhorse track. Using axe, saw and timber jack, they felled thousands of massive trees, which were trimmed, cut to length and transported to streams, and rivers via log chutes or along skidded roads. Dams were built in the valley and often tripped in sequence to send timber down the river. One such dam is the Tarawaere dam, a rafter-type dam built in the 1920s by Jim Angle. Now almost unrecogniseable, the dam spanned the Tarawaere Stream 24.5 meters across and 8 meters high at the waterline when full.
Kauaeranga River, Coromandel Forest Park
By 1928 most of the kauri had been logged, and the dams, bush camps and other relics fell into ruin as Kauaeranga forests slowly recovered. In 1970 the remaining native forests of the Kauaeranga were protected as part of the Coromandel Forest Park. The Kauaeranga Valley provides an extensive variety of walking for all abilities.
Rok and Julian begin the Tarawaere Dam Loop Track
On Sunday 11 October, Julian and I set off up the Tarawaere loop track to view the dam and enjoy a 3 hour naked hike through the forest. Just prior to beginning the hike, DoC staffer Melanie warned that the under-canopy temperature would be quite low for being unclothed, given the slightly overcast conditions. However, ascending the shorter but much steeper Eastern side of the loop, we were thankful for the pleasantly coolish 17 degrees. This trail does require a reasonable level of fitness as the track is very steep in places - some parts requiring a scramble up near-vertical banks using projecting tree roots as hand and foot holds. We also found some of the track buried under fallen trees and slips from recent heavy rainstorms.
Anyone making the trip just to view the dam will certainly be disappointed. All that remains of the structure are a few foundation beams. However, put in context with the history and the surroundings, it's hard not to be impressed by the determination and ingenuity of the loggers who
were faced with the enormous logistical task of getting the logs out of this remote spot and down the river to Thames.
Finally we reach the summit.
Just a short descent down to the dam from here.
Julian investigates the rather dilapidated information board on the dam ruins.
On the return loop, we found the going much easier. It was the longer side of the loop and so decended the valley at a lesser gradient than the climb up. The only other people on the track were a middle-aged couple and their teenage son with their dog, who we overtook on the way down. They were completely unphased by our lack of clothing as we exchanged greetings and agreed that it was a fantastic day for a bush walk.
The track criss-crossed the Tarawaere Stream many times on the descent, requiring some stone-hopping skills. We decided to stop by the stream for a lunch break and to take in the bush sounds - the birds, babbling brook, and gentle breeze through the canopy above.
After a few minutes the family group caught up with us again.
"You're very fortunate," the lady remarked as the group passed, "that you can enjoy the bush naked - just the way God intended you to be!"
"Absolutely!" I replied. "There's nothing quite like it!"
After finishing lunch we set off again and it wasn't long before we caught up and passed them once more. I was very impressed with the lady's progress along this trail as she didn't appear to be very agile.
Rok scrambles down from the dam ruins.
After another 20 minutes of easy walk we arrived back at the Kauaeranga river at the point we departed from, where we again had to stone-hop across the river back to the carpark.
The Tarawaere Dam Loop Track is just one of more than twenty hiking trails through the Kauaeranga Valley. They range in length from 15 minutes of easy walk, to a day of challenging but thrilling hiking. A great way to keep fit while embracing nature in all its glory! If anyone is keen to give it a go, just CONTACT me and we'll set up another hike.
12 October 20202