A Circumnavigation of Panatewaewae Stream
10 February 2007
The Panatewaewae Stream-Waikawa River confluence is two kilometres four-wheel drive then two minutes walk beyond the end of the seal on Manukau Road. From the confluence, elevation about 180 m, Panatewaewae Stream runs two kilometres northeast and then almost straight four kilometers southeast, finally pulling up under Bump 955. Major side streams entering from the southwest and the northeast give width to the upper valley, so that the total distance involved in circumnavigating the Panatewaewae watershed is about 16 km. The watershed ridge system comprises two ridges off Panatewaewae 728, one dog-legging west and the other running southish. There is also a rather messy jumble of ridges west of Oriwa, and ridges off Waitewaewae Bumps 969 and 939. Between Bump 775 south of Panatewaewae 728 and Waitewaewae 969 the country is quite rough. There is a lot of old windfall and successful navigation requires care. A 1975 trip through the area is described by Peter Jagger on pp. 184, 185 of his compilation ‘Tramping in the Tararuas’, and problems identifying a u-shaped ridge junction are referred to. (Almost 32 years later one of the 1975 party, David Castle, was a late withdrawal from our trip).
We began by back-tracking a few hundred metres from the road end to access the logging road shown on the 1985 edition of S25. In generally good condition, it winds sedately up to the ridge crest, emerging on open land that overlooks the Horowhenua from a height of about 500 m. Thereafter, the ridge swings southeast and drops to about 400 m before rising again as Panatewaewae 728 is approached. (Care is needed to stay on the correct road; if you pass by a clearing beside which lurks a massive piece of rusting logging machinery you’re going the wrong way). At about 550 m the logging road starts to sidle. We left it at a marked point and followed a good track on up the ridge to Bump 635 where a route departs south-westish to the upper major Panatewaewae forks. We then turned northeast and continued to climb. A variety of markers including three orange bands encircling a tree trunk indicated the top of Panatewaewae 728. From here the watershed ridge drops southwest, a ground trail and markers were not always to hand but we arrived at the next Bump, 775, without any difficulty. Time for lunch.
Beyond 775 the going was considerably rougher and slower – as Peter Jagger also found many years ago. However we did manage to roughly identify the next Bump, 890, and made sure thereafter to keep the steep slopes of the Panatewaewae catchment close by on our right. We hoped this would get us onto the west arm of the u-shaped, or perhaps more accurately, inverted Y-shaped confluence of ridges and so avoid ending up on Oriwa. In conditions of good visibility we knew we had accomplished this as we saw a valley and its confining ridge developing on our left. A little later a climb and an obvious spur junction suggested we were on Bump 955. Possible supporting evidence was provided by a small bedraggled union jack that Neil sighted sitting on the stumpy mossy remnant of a former forest giant. Someone before us (quite some time before going on the condition of the flag) had thought to mark the spot, perhaps even to lay some sort of claim to it.
Time to turn west, travelling now above the west branch of the East Waitewaewae River. Our ridge began to veer northwest, at one point affording a good view of Kelleher before we were able to swing southwest and move towards Waitewaewae 969. From there we headed west about fifteen minutes to Waitewaewae 939 where a well-marked track leads back to Panatewaewae-Waikawa forks. Circumnavigation complete.
- Party members
- Neil Challands (leader), Colin Cook (scribe), Ken Fraser, Tim Stone.