Access: Nine kilometres north of Otaki on SH1, North Manakau Rd leads E for 4km, terminating at a gate.
Overview: Eight hundred metres before the gate, the huge Waikawa Picnic Ground (Topo50 BN33 898 898, NZMS260 S25 998 515) lies alongside the Waikawa Stream. From here access to Thompson is simple.
You may drive some 500m beyond the first gate to a second gate, but only adventurous 4WDs should continue any further. From the second gate, the old narrow logging road rises high above the Waikawa Gorge for 2km to the old road-end carpark which is now cut off to all wheeled traffic by a large slip 300m before the end. This slip is negotiable by a steep scramble. Twenty to 25 minutes' walking beyond the second gate, but before the slip, the route to Panatewaewae angles uphill on the L. Three hundred metres beyond the old carpark is the junction of the Waikawa and Panatewaewae Streams. From the terrace on the other side of the Panatewaewae Stream, easy travel over old logging trails leads (to the L) NE up the Panatewaewae and (to the R) S up the Waikawa. Just downstream from the forks a track leads from the TL of the Waikawa Stream to Thompson. [revised November 2017]
In older times this stream had two names, Kaitawa when it flowed in the ranges, changing to Waikawa on the plainlands below a slip. This streamside slip was the source of the 'bitter water' below that point – the meaning of Waikawa.
Beyond the ford across the Waikawa Stream at the Picnic Ground, a good logging road climbs in 2 hours or so towards Thompson. From its highest point, a rough 4WD leads up to join an old logging road coming from the Waitohu valley, which has sidled Thompson to the E. The summit, some 40m above this road, can be reached either from the N or the SE.
The road from the Picnic Ground drops from its highest point down a spur to the NE and disappears into long grass. An OT route exists from here down to the Waikawa just below its confluence with the Panatewaewae; a brief climb leads to the old logging road on the other side.
Beyond Thompson, one logging road drops to the Waitohu; another overgrown logging road branches off SE to .730. Beyond, a BN route goes over .828 and .860 to Mick. From .828, an old pack track drops E to the West Waitewaewae, and from .860 a track drops W to the Waitohu Stream. (See 15.1, Waitohu Stream.) [revised March 2016]
At the forks 300 metres beyond the old road-end carpark, cross the Panatewaewae Stream, gain the terrace and turn R. Ten minutes up the Waikawa Stream brings a clearing, a slip, and then the swampy grass of the old sawmill site. The old logging tram-line formation keeps in the bush-fringe at the clearings.
The tracks beyond the millsite are not cleared, but traces of the old logging tram-lines may be explored for some distance up the various streams.
Follow the track for 2 minutes beyond the sawmill site in the Waikawa (16.2) and drop to the forks. Either follow the stream branches up to the saddle at (Topo50 BN33 925 850, NZMS260 S25 025 467), sidling the fall on the TR. From the saddle, a few minutes brings the West Waitewaewae River – 90 minutes from the sawmill site. Or climb the spur between the forks; from the top there is a slightly longer drop to the West Waitewaewae. See also 14.14. [revised March 2016]
From the forks terrace 300 metres beyond the old road-end carpark, the old tramline formation leads L up the Panatewaewae Valley over several grass flats; however, erosion and windfalls have lessened its usefulness. From the high grass terrace at the end of the last big flat (Topo50 BN33 931 890, NZMS260 S25 031 506), an OT route leads to the old logging road on the ridge above, and thus back to the road 300 metres down-valley of the old carpark (see 16.6). The falls above the 450-metre contour may be bypassed, with sufficient time and grit, to the minor flats beyond. [revised November 2017]
Several routes exist to the Waitewaewae trig. Any of the spurs between the sawmill site in the Waikawa and those in the Panatewaewae eventually gain .708 and Waitewaewae .939. A popular route follows the spur from the Panatewaewae-Waikawa forks over .590 and .708, reaching the summit in 2 to 2˝ hours. [revised March 2016]
Twenty minutes beyond the second gate but before the slip, an old logging road climbs on the left (look for an obscured wooden fence beyond a small slip). After 1 hour, bear right at a grassy area just past another gate and note if returning the same way. After a further hour on a more recent logging road, an unmarked track leads in 45 minutes to Panatewaewae. The summit is not obvious. The ridge beyond is negotiable to the Makaretu-East Waitewaewae saddle at a BN level. [revised November 2017]
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