Monday, 27 January 2014

Waipohatu Walk.....Tramp!

Monday morning & one week later we are still parked up at the Weir Beach Reserve! We keep saying we'll move on tomorrow, tomorrow comes & we decide to stay one more day & the "one more day" becomes two, then three, now four..... At this rate we'll never make it around the South Island!

We have been doing a lot of exploring and just enjoying the reserve. Over the weekend a few more families arrived to camp in their caravans and each night there has been an extra two or three sleeper vans, tents or motorhomes staying. And going by the amount of hire motorhomes & cars that we pass on the road it would seem that this place is a hidden gem not least because it's about the only place in the Catlins, so far, where we have been able to get phone reception.

A few days ago we visited the Waipohatu conservation area where there are a number of walking tracks. It The reserve is on the edge of the Waikawa Forest and is typical of the Catlins coastal forests. It was last logged in the 1960s but still has some remnants of the forest trees with the regenerating bush growing thick & fast underneath. The access roads are old saw milling roads and the carpark & picnic area, where an old Fordson Tractor log hauler still sits, was once a skid site where the logs were hauled to for transporting out.

There were two walks here, one a short 20 minute walking track through the bush, the other a 6.5km, 3 hour tramping track up to the waterfalls. We decided we'd walk the 20 minute track & then decide if we wanted to head further afield, which is what we did in the end as the longer track led off the end of the shorter walk. We were prepared for a longer hike although neither of us had our heavy duty tramping boots on just the easier to wear walking shoes. I also wasn't sure how my feet were going to cope. It's now been 6 months since my operation, the operation that was going to allow me to do all these long walks & tramps and I was keen to see how they stood up to it (no pun intended).

There were a number of bridges to cross and in places ponga logs had been laid as steps across boggy patches and up steep stretches. The bush was stunning, brilliant green with lots of tree & ground ferns & mosses. The water was stained with tannin that leaches out of the surrounding soil and leaf litter.

It was a steady climb all the way and the further we got into the bush the boggier it got. We were expecting it to dry out a little the higher we climbed but in just about every dip or low area the ground was a muddy mess. A lot of the time we managed to skirt around the edge of the mud but quite often the track was very narrow with a steep drop off at the edge or it was overgrown so there was no choice but to pick our way through the mud carefully placing each step in case we slipped.

With the promise of a waterfall at the end of the climb we kept on going although a couple of times we wondered if we should turn back. Until finally we got to the sign that told us there were an upper & lower waterfall. It's about now when you're totally buggered you wonder whether the steep descent down to the lower falls will be worth it (actually it's the steep climb out I was more concerned with).  And to make matters worse the higher falls was another separate climb up to & back. Ten minutes doesn't sound like much but when you're that bushed it's a bloody long time!

The track wound it's way down and around & over moss laden rocks to the lower falls which were stunning, although somebody could have removed that dead tree before we got there!

Long before we sighted the top falls we could hear the terrific roar of the cascading water, these were much higher, the water falling probably at least 30 metres into a small pool before being forced into two narrow gaps with a couple of huge boulders in the centre.

Unfortunately we couldn't see around the edge of the side rock to get a clear view of the waterfall; lean out too far & we would have been in the drink. The spray was also making it difficult to grab a quick look.

David tried to get across to the other side but the flat rocks were slippery & moss covered & the water deep, so he gave that away.

After the falls- which we rated 6/10 on our waterfall scale; 10 being "must see, fantastic, awesome" & 1 being "shouldn't have bothered, not worth the walk"- we had a rest & a bite to eat before heading on back to the car.

We were surprised at the lack of bird life we encountered on the walk although it was in the middle of the day so most would have been resting although we did get fleeting glimpses & we could hear quite a few, mainly grey warblers with two or three chicks in tow. But best of all we did get to see a couple of rare & very hard to spot (and photograph) rifleman, they move very fast and are so tiny, one of our smallest native birds. As you can see by the photo, I didn't manage to have my camera settings correct as I'd just finished shooting the waterfall when we spotted the birds. But with a bit of repair work at least I've got the evidence of a rifleman with a spider in it's bill.

After we left the waterfalls it was still a bit of climb upwards before the track turned and headed back down. And on this return leg the boggy patches became more frequent and the ponga stepping logs less so. Eventually the track broke out onto one of the old logging roads & it was all downhill from there, 1.2km straight down.

This was actually the toughest part as by then we were worn out and my feet were starting to really ache, also going downhill is extra hard on the knees. It was with much relief  when the road levelled out not far from the carpark. It actually took us over four hours in the end, in part because of how boggy the track was & stopping a number of times serching for birds. Our shoes were caked in mud but thankfully neither of us had slipped over or broken an ankle. And while my feet were very tender & sore, they came right after a night's rest so I'm thinking I'm good to go for our next tramp. Just not for a while.


  1. Lovely rifleman photo. I wonder if you have 2 riflemans or 2 riflemen - the first sounds odd and the 2nd sounds silly.

    1. I'm, glad you think so Olwen! :) It will do for now but one day......

    2. Oops..... forgot, I too wondered at the plural of the name & decided that it was just "rifleman" in both cases. I must follow that through though.


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