A special Labour Weekend easy trip to Mangatainoka Hot Springs in the Kawekas
24-27 October 2008
A party of 15 set off from Wellington at varying times on Friday 24th October, bound for Hawkes Bay. Gloria had arranged for us to stay in two houses belonging to her friend Marion, and Marion’s daughter in Hastings. A comfortable start to the weekend was much appreciated, particularly when we heard the torrential rain in the night.
On Saturday we were up in good time ready for the two hour drive ahead of us and only slightly daunted by the continuing bad weather forecast. We were a little anxious about the road leading to the start of the track. Gloria had mentioned a single lane road with sheer drops and we knew we had to negotiate a ford. The level of this latter proved to be just below the impassable level. Whew!
Arriving at the car park at Mangatutu we enjoyed a quick morning tea of Lesley’s delicious home baked biscuits before setting off. Almost immediately I was struck by the magnificence of the scenery we were passing through. The sheer sides of the gorge reached down into the tumbling rapids of the Mohaka river and above us, mountain peaks towered. Fortunately it proved to be an easy walk into Te Puia Lodge, with only a few tricky bits.
Rather surprisingly the hut had only a few other occupants, mostly hunters. A majority decision was made to stay here and continue to the Mangatainoka Hot Springs in an unencumbered way. As we were preparing for departure, Kerry and Bruce Popplewell arrived. They had come down from Makino Hut and it was nice to have their company.
It was a 45 minute walk from Te Puia Lodge to the Hot Springs. When we arrived we found two pools with decking surrounding them. Well done DOC! Figure heads had been carved out of pumice and provided a decorative backdrop to the scene. It was delightful having a soak after the day’s exertions. In such a remote area some of us didn’t even feel the need to wear togs – a liberating experience!
The following morning the promised southerly hadn’t arrived and so another sortie to the hot pools was proposed – an excellent decision. John Henry had time to sculpt a pumice head to add to the collection.
The southerly finally arrived around lunchtime but didn’t have much bite initially and the showers didn’t spoil our walk out to the Mangatutu roadend where we planned to camp.
Some of us discovered an impressive natural arch made of pumice, and only a short distance from the track, thanks to Jenny Lewis’ careful research.
That evening it certainly rained, but luckily there was a shelter where we were able to cook. The campsite at Mangatutu is delightful with lots of little grassy areas separated by bush. To make it even more wonderful, there is another hot pool here. The more public location meant we all wore togs this time, even though after the last experience, it felt rather as if you’d accidentally gone into the water with all your clothes on!
I woke at 6.00 a.m. to a frost and immediately thought of the hot pool. I wasn’t the first to arrive though and soon others had the same idea. It was wonderful lying back in the warmth with the cold air all around, in a magical bush setting, the Mohaka River far below and looking across the valley to the mountain peaks on the other side.
It was hard to leave such an idyllic location, but there was a long drive ahead to Wellington. Most car groups took the opportunity for a leisurely drive home, exploring the cafes and culture of the places we passed. This started with a visit to a fascinating museum on the road out. Some party members remembered the same old chap in residence they had met many years before and we all had a chuckle over some of the ancient gadgets on display.
Thank you, Gloria, for taking us to your special place. It really was a unique and unforgettable experience!