The Big Rata
19 August 2015
From the onset this was going to be a wet trip. As we left the Karapoti car park, the West Akatarawa River looked clear with a moderate flow. The Little Akatarawa Stream was low enough to cross with dry feet. After a steep off track climb from the river we merged with a new cut track from below which continued on up the spur to the north west. We made good pace on old bush logging tracks rounding the contours, stopping at a high point to determine the route. The chosen route was bearing to the north west and dropping steeply. Obviously the wrong choice. So back up to the high point and onto a cut track again which twisted along the top of the ridge in a northerly direction. The rain was persistent, although there was a brief lull before point 386 where we stood for a soggy morning tea. Then onwards in the rain along the cut track. It was difficult reading a GPS in the heavy rain. On further checking we had overrun the turnoff point to the Big Rata, so turned around and back tracked to point where some big rata trees were sighted to the SE. Striking off on a faint foot pad which appeared to be heading in the right direction, we crossed a small gulch and came to a standstill. The continuous rain had lowered spirits in the wet conditions. Was it time to give up on the search? It was, however, clear that we were within 100 metres of the fabled tree if we could only see through the pouring rain. David Ogilvie was sure he had seen a big tree out to our east. David and Robin shot off in that direction and in a few minutes there were whoops of delight at coming onto the giant tree.
This tree is now currently the largest recorded northern rata in New Zealand: 39 metres height with a diameter of 4.9 metres. The tree was discovered in 2008 and estimated to be more that 1000 years old. It is a huge tree but really only visible when within 50 metres as there are other large trees on this plateau area. Unlike the rata in the Whakatiki, these trees have not been stripped to skeletons by possums.
When everyone had caught up at the tree and gaped at its size there was a quick standing lunch and the donning of more clothing to combat the dampness. The trip home was much faster and followed a more direct route once we were back at the turnoff point where we had travelled to the north west in error. As we headed down hill the rain stopped and patches of sun light were showing across the valley, but it was obvious from the colour of the Akatarawa River there had been a fair amount of rain in the watershed whilst we were out on the tree search. Finally fording the Little Akatarawa which had risen was not a dry foot job, but thoughts by now were on our dry clothing in the vehicles.
I would be keen to lead another trip along the cut track further on from our turn around point in better weather. RC Mike Arnold, Robin Chesterfield (leader), Colin Cook, Tricia French, Susan Guscott, John Hill, Jan Nye, David Ogilvie, Marg Pearce, Peter Reimann, Bob Stephens, Bill Wheeler, Lynne White, Christine Whiteford
- Party members
- Mike Arnold, Robin Chesterfield (leader and scribe), Colin Cook, Tricia French, Susan Guscott, John Hill, Jan Nye, David Ogilvie, Marg Pearce, Peter Reimann, Bob Stephens, Bill Wheeler, Lynne White, Christine Whiteford.