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Waitāwheta River

Part 1: Dickey Flat to the Crossing

The magnificent Waitāwheta River flows from a point south-east of Mount Te Aroha in the Kaimai Range, skirting the small settlement of Waitāwheta, through the narrow Waitāwheta Gorge with its sheer rock-face cliffs, and down to meet the Ohinemuri River at Karangahake around five kilometres east of Paeroa.  This walk took us along the section of river from the Dickey Flat campground to a short way beyond the river crossing at a small stream.  It takes around 1 hour 45 minutes each way.

This is an excellent track for people of average fitness.  While not dead flat, it never rises more than around 20 meters above the river level as it follows along the east bank.  There is an abundant variety of native trees and plants to check out along the way, and it is great so see some bird-life returning.  A Kereru honoured us with his presence, as did a number of Piwakawaka darting around looking for bugs that may have been disturbed as we walked along.

The track itself is well defined most of the way, with short sections where orange markers provide direction.  It varies from a well-formed metaled surface to sections that are a mix of river stones and tree roots.  Some of the track has properly constructed timber boardwalks and staircases.  The most challenging part of this walk for some folk would possibly be the river crossing.

Like the Ohinemuri and Kauaeranga Rivers, the Waitāwheta River also has its fair share of swimming holes.  On the day of this walk


The track is well-defined as it meanders through native forest along the banks of the river


On the day of the walk the river water was considerably colder than when I'd taken a dip the week before!

the water temperature was a little chilly, yet only a week before I found it quite pleasant and refreshing.

Five of us met at Dickey Flat at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday 14th May to enjoy this hike.  The first few minutes of the walk cross over some farm land and alongside an adventure camp, before passing through a DoC sanitizing station.  It's critical to the survival of our Kauri that footwear is cleaned and disinfected when entering the forest parks.

From here, the track is a mixture of gravel, rocks, tree roots and forest litter, some of which has been made easier by the addition of wooden boardwalks, bridges and staircases - many of them recently built.  As mentioned, the track is undulating, but rising not far above river level.

The notice at the start of the track advises 50 minutes to the crossing, but it was just over an hour for our group, as we were not in a rush and took the time to soak in the forest atmosphere.

At the river crossing, we took a few moments for each to decide whether to remove shoes, go barefoot, or wear other footwear.  The crossing involved negotiating very slippery, moss-covered boulders and river stones and quite cold water up to knee height that was fast flowing!  It was certainly a challenge to your sense of balance and surefootedness if you were to avoid a sudden dunking!

By the time we all arrived safely to the other side, only Terry had managed to undertake a baptism!  The rest of us were relatively dry.  Time chexk: 12:10 p.m. - we elected to carry on for another 20 or 30 minutes to find a nice spot for lunch.

The track on this side of the river is less defined and the direction is indicated with DoC's orange markers.  We saw sunlight breaking through the canopy up ahead and it appeared to be a clearing.  Just then we heard a female voice.

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Dawei picks his way carefully across the river.

"Oh shit!" she cried.  We had reached a small stream where a young woman was bathing.  Terry reassured her that we were all naked too, so nothing to be alarmed about.  With her embarrassment allayed, she was happy to chat about her 7-day trek along the North-South track, all the way from the Kaimai Road - something I just might do next summer!

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Dawei, Terry, Rok and Murray at the river crossing

We met a couple of groups of clothed folk on our way back, who gave us a friendly greeting as we passed.  It was around 3:10 p.m. when we arrived back at the Dickey Flat campground.

There really is nothing like spending a few hours deep in the forest, communing with nature, made even all the more intense without the trappings of cloth!

Some of us were a bit reluctant to get their feet wet again, so it was just Terry, Dawei and I who decided to cross to the little grassy area in the sunshine to eat lunch, while Linda and Murray opted to stay and chat with our "Unexpected Star of the Show."

Rested up, it was time to head back to the river crossing.  It seemed easier going back - perhaps we'd learned the best route across the stones and were a little more practiced at dealing with the slippery moss.


We felt privileged to have met this Kereru up close and personal

In the near future we'll be back up the Waitāwheta River valley to explore the old tramline that leads through the Waitāwheta Gorge.  It's another easy, flat walk of about 2.5 hours each way, with a lot of fascinating relics of the old logging days still visible.  so if you're keen, drop a comment below!


19 May 2022

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