Waiorongomai Valley - Kaimai Ranges
Head for carpark at the end of Waiorongomai Road.
We start up the path to our left where we find some signage and also a junction. To the left is the Low Level Drive Track and to the right is the Low Level Loop Track. We head right. The track starts off on a gentle upwards gradient running alongside, and above the Waiorongomai Stream, down below on our right. The track winds around the side of the hill and crosses a couple of delightful trickling waterfalls that feed onto the Waiorongamai Stream.
After about 40 minutes, we reach a short tunnel in the rock on the left, whilst the track goes around it and meets at the other side. By going through the tunnel, you can miss the junction for the Kauri Grove Track as the tunnel bypasses this. Just
metres after the tunnel is a junction . The path straight ahead and around the
bend continues on the Low Level Loop Track. The path to the right heading
downwards, is the Kauri Grove Track. There is also a warning sign advising this
track is overgrown, so be warned, if you’re not confident about taking this on,
We head right and down toward the Waiorongomai Stream. Pretty much straight away we see the warning sign was accurate, there is plenty of bush growing right over the track, so you really have to keep your eyes peeled to keep on the track. After a few minutes we arrive at the Waiorongomai Stream. There is no marker visible of where to cross, so we cross where we came out of the bush. Directly across, there has been a slip and nearly hidden from view is a reasonably prominent track to the left of the slip heading steeply upwards.
Now as well as overgrown track we have a very steep track to contend with. There
is the very occasional marker, but best not to solely rely on them as there are
plenty missing. There are also plenty of fallen branches covering the track as well, which require either climbing over or under or making your way around an then finding the often hidden track again There’s a bit scrambling up and down banks too - all adding to the adventure.There is also the occasional gap in the trees where we can see the down the valley and out across and upwards to the top of Mt Te Aroha. At one of these viewpoints we stop for morning tea of a nice hot cuppa and some Peanut Brownies.
After about 1 ½ hours on the this track we arrive at a junction with a broken sign post and there are a few Kauris visible. On the right, is the overgrown Main Ridge Track and straight ahead (and still very overgrown), the Kauri Grove Track continues. We head straight and a few metres later we’re in the Kauri Grove. There are quite a few mature Kauri about and plenty of Rickers too. From here the track goes steadily downwards. At one part, it’s a steep climb down a bank with the help of a few tree roots to hang on to. After while there’s a small stream crossing and from there it’s an easy going gradient for a while before heading downwards again.
After about an hour from our last junction, we reach the beautiful Waiorongomai Stream which we cross and reach the end on the Kauri Grove Track at a T junction.
This meets the New Era Track going left (down and towards Low Level Loop Track) and right (up towards May Queen Incline). It’s here we decide to have lunch, we hear the noise of a small waterfall, so we head down stream and follow our ears until we reach a delightful spot alongside the stream with a small waterfall, water hole and also another wee trickle of a waterfall to the side. There’s a great big rock there too, making a perfect place to sit and soak in our stunning surroundings with our lunch of egg mayo sarnies.
Afterwards we head back to the junction and head right and up the New Era Track. This part of the track starts off steep and is more of an upwards scramble. It doesn’t take long to make a fair bit of height. About 25 minutes or so later we reach the end of the New Era Track at the T junction of the Piako County Tramway going both left and right. The tram tracks are still there too. We head right. After a minute or two we are at the bottom of the May Queen Incline. We look up at this tramway which is steeper than 45 degrees and is a touch intimidating looking at the steep climb ahead. We head up the tracks until we see an orange marker and a bush track to the right heading up the side of the rail tracks, making the climb much more bearable.
After about another half hour we reach the top of the bush track. We walk a couple of metres to our left to the top of the track and see a great winding mechanism that was used for hauling the carriages up and to have a look down at the distance we had just climbed. From the top we walk a few metres to our right and reach a junction .To our left is the High Level Pack Track (leading upwards and towards Hardys Hut), to the right, the flat part of May Queen incline continues (leading towards the Mangakino Pack Track) until it ends at the tunnel. We intend on heading left, but we see the suspension rope bridge and the tunnel ahead. So we cross the bridge over Premier Creek and the chasm below which ends at the mouth of the tunnel, have a look about and then back track to the junction.
We then make our way on the High Level Pack Track and it’s not long before we find the remains of the old Hardys Hut in disrepair. From here the track is pretty easy going and soon enough starts flattening out, we cross the trickle of a waterfall that is Diamond Creek and then we start to head gradually downwards. After about 45 minutes or so from starting this track we reach a flat part and a couple of
junctions. First, the Butlers Incline on the left and the High Pack Track continues on the right. Then the High Level Pack Track continues on the left and the Buck Rock Track starts on the right. With each junction we keep heading right as we intend on doing the perimeter of the valley.
We are now on the Buck Rock Track still heading gradually downwards and we pass by a couple of streams running across. We pass by a junction on the right, heading straight up to Buck Rock. As much as we would’ve loved to climb up for a look, it was not an option as low cloud had come in obscuring any view and also we were in torrential rain which would have made the climb treacherous. Something for next time then.
After about an hour we reach the end of the track at the T junction of the High
Level Pack track going both left and right. We head right. We continue on this
easy going track for about 15 minutes until we reach another junction where the
High level Pack Track continues downwards, straight ahead and the Piako County
Tramway crosses over, left and right. We head right. A minute or two later the Tramway ends at a large frame which I guess once housed another winding mechanism and also a viewpoint out towards the plains of farmland.
From here the track now becomes the Low Level Drive Track. We follow this easy downwards track and follow to the past another junction (Low Level Drive Track downwards, to the left and Low Level Drive straight on) to a dead end loop of the actual remains of the Low Level Drive where there is a large cave. We then back track a few metres and head down the Low level track at the junction. About 10 minutes or so we come out of the bush and the track follows a fence line looking over the farmland. Being Spring, there are plenty of Foxgloves lining the track too. A minute or two later we’re back at the start. Total tramp time about 6 hours.
Level of Difficulty
Moderate to Hard -plenty of steep bits & track finding
6 Hours (Spring 2012)
The Kauri Grove Track is very overgrown with markers missing.
Kauri Grove Track is more suitable for experienced trampers
Actual Route/ DoC map differs slightly from Top map.
The Topo Map omits the Low Level Drive Track.