Waikanae River Headwaters
14th December, 2019
Just prior to 8.30 a.m. we were leaving the South Mangaone Road carpark. There had been light precipitation overnight and significant rain earlier in the week, so the sight of clear water below, as we crossed the footbridge on the Pukeatua Track, was reassuring. When we reached the second crossing it became evident that although the water level was up, it was not dangerously so. The intended trip could proceed.
We turned left at that crossing and headed up the water course. Just over 100 metres upstream we scrambled out of the stream bed on the true left and followed a well-defined logging road to the junction of our streambed and a significant tributary on the true left. Back into the watercourse.
As we made our way upstream there were several small waterfalls that required careful scrambling in the greasy conditions, and one waterfall that required a short, scrambly sidle on the true left. In dry, summer conditions I have no doubt this sidle would be unnecessary. The water was not cold. The clearing sky allowed us to experience sunny-ish conditions for a warm drink and nibble respite.
Shortly after resuming our watery plod, and having noted the second of the two significant small streams on the true left, we came to our first major objective – the significant tributary that originates on the ridgeline near pt. 535.
As we had approached that junction, the sides of the stream had become increasingly steep, as evidenced by the contour lines on the map. As we headed up the new watercourse, the sides became increasingly vertical. Several hundred metres up from the junction our plans for the day changed.
We were 'canyoned' – the walls of the stream side closed to within three metres of each side. A water fall of about four metres in height was steep, greasily moss-covered and flowing too significantly for us to consider clambering up. Perhaps on a warm, dry summer's day!
On the true left the vegetation showed promise of security, so it was with finger-gripping and toe-kicking we ascended out of the watercourse. Once the precipitous section was passed we found ourselves on a recognisable 'spurlet' and so continued up to an altitude of approximately 440 metres on a broad, irregular spur descending in a NNW direction from pt. 535. A welcome lunch was taken.
Then we headed west, and shortly thereafter south-west down a spur into another un-named branch of the Waikanae River. Travel downstream in this watercourse was comfortable. We came across the abandoned bulldozer that has been in-situ long enough for trees to be growing up between the engine block and the lugs. Travel continued downstream to the main branch we had accessed first in the morning and hence back to the car.
Travel time was 6 ½ hours … comfortable medium grade time; but the terrain we encountered at times was more akin to bush mountaineering.
- Party members
- Bill Allcock (leader and scribe), Tricia French, Sieny Pollard