Since the Whakatāne Staycation feature in the spring issue, we have been flooded with people telling us they’d been over there to enjoy the walks, sunshine and ice creams. OK, OK, we get the picture, you like WALKING! We send new Tauranga locals, Kseniia and Alex, to explore three of the best walks in the Bay.
WORDS KSENIIA SPODYNEIKO PHOTOS ALEX SPODYNEIKO
Who knows how many interesting walkways have been uncovered by those hunting for gold and kauri trees in the early ages? Kauri grew long, straight and strong and were considered the perfect material for shipbuilding.
To reach the largest and most valuable trees, entrepreneurs hacked through impenetrable bush to form highways with bogies, horses and rail tractors operating round the clock. In doing so, they created a bizarre amusement park for later generations to enjoy, following the trail of their endeavours. There are so many walkways recreating the past activities in the Karangahake Gorge that choosing one is no easy task.
Among all those historic tunnels, quarries and roads, the Waitawheta Tramway is probably the most exciting and definitely the longest at 15 km. Today the preserved logging track is an outdoor museum filled with informative signs, actual tools and replicas of logging bogies used in that period of time when people were more concerned with profits than the survival of rare plants. Thank goodness there are still several kauri trees growing in the area!
The adventure begins way before you enter the tramway, because finding the start of the walk is a bit of a quest itself. It is located 25 minutes away from the car park, right behind a private farm. So be prepared to meet the friendly owner, his dogs, sheep, and cows, and to find several fences with stiles obligingly placed to help you over. (Seriously, who needs gates?)
Walking through the Waitawheta Tramway is like searching for the Wizard of Oz in his magical land. Hills are replaced by suspension bridges leading towards rocky beaches; waterfalls hide in the dense thickets and there are green valleys in shades of emerald. The only difference is that you always follow the Waitawheta River instead of the yellow brick road.
Length of walk: 15 km
Time needed: 3 hours
TE PUNA QUARRY PARK
What is a now a popular destination used to be an ugly mark on the landscape. From 1911 to 1979, Te Puna Quarry provided the region with over half a million tonnes of construction materials needed for roads, breakwaters and other important logistical needs of our modern world.
How do people from the rest of the planet deal with the wasted resources after construction is over? Just leave them like that forever? What do New Zealanders do? Organise a group of volunteers to turn the quarry into one of the most picturesque parks in Tauranga. This process started in 1993 with the Park finally opening in 2000.
Today, Te Puna Quarry Park offers over 1.5 km of beautiful walkways with a gorgeous view towards The Mount; the largest outdoor collection of cymbidium orchids; a wide range of sculptures from realistic animals to really crazy modern art; and about four minutes of a pretty impressive workout (when you’ve finished, you are rewarded with a seat on a bench at the top, with stunning views towards Tauranga), all of which was made by volunteers.
Besides enjoying the well-groomed park, anyone can become a volunteer and help with its development. Te Puna Quarry welcomes help with cleaning and planting every Tuesday morning and Thursday afternoon. Another way to become a valuable participant in Te Puna Quarry Park life is to make a donation either in cash by the main entrance or online at givealittle.co.nz.
Location: Te Puna
Length of walk: 1.5km
Time needed: 1 hour
KATIKATI HAIKU PATHWAY
Tiny at first sight (the walkway takes no more than half an hour, unless you include the countless hours you spend, stopping every few steps to dive into the Japanese culture), this Katikati stroll appears to be a very well-kept secret. Did you know that this is the largest collection of traditional short poems embossed on stones outside Japan? Neither did we!
The Haiku Pathway was proposed and organised by a single person – local poet Catherine Mair. She collected over 30 poet, from all over the world that in some way reflected the vibes of the Katikati area.
Catherine promises every visit will become a unique experience, as the meaning of the haiku changes according to current weather, your mood, your companions and your age. ‘clouds seen through clouds seen through’ by Jim Kacian is definitely something I had to read twice to understand!
Mair’s own haiku can also been found at the park: enter the path from SH2, just across the bridge over the Uretara stream, and the first stone you come to is the one you are looking for! The others include wise words from the United States, Australia, Canada, Great Britain and many other countries.
Length of walk: 2km
Time needed: 1 Hour
Difficulty: Very easy
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