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4 November 2007

Old Coach Rd


(There's one of these in Auckland, too, part of the Fairy Falls Circuit)

This track runs from the end of Rifle Range Rd in the Ohariu Valley to the beginning of the Skyline Walk in Johnsonville. Basically it's a walk up a four wheel drive track - at a pinch an ordinary vehicle would likely manage easily enough - through hill country pasture on which graze some of the most neglected sheep I have seen in a while. You'll see some uncomfortable pictures later on.

There's a small logo on the big sign and it's one worth remembering

Te Araroa is "the long pathway", Geoff Chapple's project to estabish a chain of walkways from one end of the country to the other, something comparable to but infinitely better, of course, than the Appalachian Trail in the USA. Aready large chunks of it have been set in place and others are in planning and construction. From what I've seen, this is definitely one of the easier sections, uphill and all.

What looks like fog or mist is in fact low cloud. At the top, we will be surrounded in cloud with a visibility down to about 10 metres at times, and a simultaneous wind capable of taking us off our feet in a moment of inattention. This is Wellington.

There's enough bite in the wind to warrant raincoats and thermals.

The remains of a dead sheep, well weathered, fall to pieces across the way.

The gullies are steep. The water, when it flows, obviously flows quickly and savagely.

Hello. Ongaonga.New Zealand Tree Nettle. Nasty. Probably the nastiest living organism you'll meet in the New Zealand bush. It has killed - horse, dogs and humans - and can often hospitalise its victims who have brushed past on their way to somewhere else. To be strictly accurate, many are not affected as severely but it's always exceedingly painful, can last for days, and the place to find out whether you're the sensitive type or not is certainly not out in the bush miles from anywhere.

As an ironic comment here, when I did my initial researches a year or two back, the best information to be found was that on a sado-masochism site, where those accustomed to getting their rocks off by beating each other with nettles are advised not to go anywhere near this particular species, EVER!

The wind through here is fierce, and the trees huddle together for protection or crouch close to the bank. Reminds me of the west coast at home where the wind has a loading of salt to assist it in its sculptural activity.

Down in the valley the ongaonga is thick around the base of the trees.

We are sweeping around in a big broad U turn, climbing all the while.

Gorse, tobacco weed, and other pests keep company with the ongaonga in the shelter of the gullies

Another feature of this walk is the pylons

A rangiora is in vigorous bloom. The steeper roadside banks have mostly reverted to a scrubby bush cover. Rata also features strongly, though nothing of any size.

Acres of gorse and tobacco weed. They don't need much encouragement to take over once again and in turn, under their nursery shelter, the next generation of plants begins to mature.

(I heard a story about the Far North and gorse. Up that way, gorse is highly valued, by some people, as a relatively safe shelter for kiwi. The story goes on to mention that farmers up there, for that reason, need a resource consent before they can remove gorse from their property. The story sounds too true to be good, unfortunately....)

We carry on upwards and the wind, besides getting stronger is also starting to get quite a bite in it.

Down below we can see our van. Have we only come that far?


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In the Steps of Jack Leigh


Fitness Building for the Elderly and Stout

Food for Tramping

General Advice:
Specifically oriented to the Heaphy Track but relevant to other long walks for beginners and older walkers

New Zealand Plants
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