Monday 17 March 2014

Kiwi Burn

A swingbridge, a waterfall or a hut at the end of, or somewhere in a walk, always attracts our attention when we're looking to do a tramp and if it's a loop it's even better. The Kiwi Burn Loop was three & half hours long & ticked three of the four boxes. We could have walked down the river from the South Mavora Lake but that would have added another 5 hours to the return trip so we drove the 6-7 kms down the road to the carpark beside the river.  We were rewarded with the swingbridge straight away, it's just beside the carpark and crosses Mararoa River into the Snowden Forest where it joins the track that comes from South Mavora Lake.
We could have also done the walk straight to the hut but as I've said, an out there and back track is not much fun after you've walked half of it and hey, it was only another 2 hours to do the loop. Yeah right. DOC suggested that you walk the track anti-clockwise & that it wasn't that well marked, but in fact the two bush sections, at the beginning and end, were very easy to follow. Crossing the clearings took a moment or two to locate the markers on the otherside but the burn itself was not well marked at all.
The first third of the track was a gentle climb through some of the most beautiful bush we've seen so far. Thick spongy emerald green moss covered the forest floor in all directions smothering everything in it's path. Large fallen tree trunks were great mounds of green. If you stood on or pushed a fallen log with your foot it fell apart without much pressure revealing a completely rotted centre with various fungi, mould & bugs exposed. The tiny soft foliage of the beech trees above filtered the dappled sun through to the forest floor. It looked like a fairy wonderland and we had the whole walk to ourselves.

Although I did wonder what was hiding inside the many deep dark holes that were under most of the tree trunks. I like to think it would be a kiwi asleep but I'm sure there would have been a few possums and some rats.

There was quite a bit of bird life although you had to pause awhile & listen for them (as you should do if you're bird watching) The amount of people we have come across on our walks who come crashing through the undergrowth or chatting ninety to the dozen and then complain that there are no birds in our bush!
I found some more rifleman-titipounamu-  but missed the focus again! I wanted to include these so you could see how she is digging away under the mosses, the bottom left one make me laugh, she has her eyes closed. One day I will get a good shot.

We passed through several small clearings on the way up to the top a ridge, some were quite boggy under foot but with carefully paced feet we managed to miss the deep muddy bits and come out at the other end with clean boots........famous last words!

Once at the top we crossed onto the far side of another larger clearing, crossing a couple of deeper streams before descending into the Kiwi Burn alongside the Whitestone River.  Great we thought, it's all down hill from here.

Below is Kiwi Burn, a burn is a Scottish word for a 'water course', the other smaller clearings we had passed through were actually smaller burns, hence the swampy ground underfoot. We didn't know that then, we thought it would just be a matter of making our way down the burn, maybe back into the bush for a bit, a few streams to cross and then we'd be at the hut. Wrong. A marked route led the way through the burn most of the way down to the Kiwi Burn Hut, although the posts were spaced well apart and in places hard to spot.
The burn was a good 2-3kms long and went on and on and on. That wasn't so bad. It was a hot and still day and the sun bet down on us. That also wasn't so bad. The marker posts were few & far between and there was no distinct track to follow. That wasn't so bad either, luckily a guy & his dog must have passed through ahead of us and flattened the grasses a bit; we saw their tracks in some mud.
The problem was the ground underfoot was so uneven with dead tussock mounds surrounded by deep & sometimes very wet trenches, with all the growth over the ground you could not see where to place your next step. The burn was one large thick boggy expanse with giant tussocks towering overhead & deep narrow water filled ditches criss-crossing the whole area, in between the ditches was thick soggy sphagnum moss.  

Occasionally we came up onto a shingle shelf beside the river where we took a breather before ploughing on hoping we'd spy the hut very soon. We spotted deer droppings on quite a few of these stony patches, they must rest on them too. On more than one occasion we had to backtrack a bit and try a different route. I couldn't get over the height of the tussock, it was in flower as well which didn't help as the long feathery spikes grew higher than usual.

At one stage we thought we'd come to the end of the burn, there was a narrow neck & a thin row of bush crossing from one side to the other but no out the other side the burn continued as far as we could see. Finally after what seemed an eternity we spied the hut way down the bottom of the burn, which in fact wasn't quite correct as the burn continued on for another 500 metres or so past the hut, we found that out when we continued on after a break. And while the hut doesn't look that far away here it took another 45 minutes or so to beat our way across the area between here & the hut.

Unfortunately either someone had removed the last marker posts or DOC thought we didn't need them because we could see the hut but it was extra difficult picking our way through the bog for the last couple hundred metres. We arrived at the hut worn out and covered in grass seeds & mud. With all the uneven ground my poor feet had taken a beating, I could hardly stand and I wondered how I was going to manage to walk the last hour & half back to the car. As it was the walk so far had taken an extra hour which meant that we were now running behind time by quite a bit.
Just as we unloaded our day packs another tramper arrived from the other direction. He told us he was walking the 3000km Te Araroa Trail and had just walked an hour up from the Makaroa River to stay overnight in the hut. He said he'd rather do that & have a soft bed than pitch his tent down near the track, it was just a short detour. That put us in our place!

Kiwi Burn Hut- looking more like a school room than a hut.
We sat inside and ate our lunch at the heavily engraved (graffiti-ed) wooden table while our fellow tramper told us about his travels. He had left Cape Reinga in the Far North back in November and had another 3 weeks before he finished the walk in Bluff. He would then fly home to Philadelphia  in time for his mother's birthday. He showed us some of the 147 specially printed maps that were needed to cover the track. Obviously he couldn't cart them all at once so he sent small amounts ahead of himself to collect at various points.
He had had an awesome time and had seen some of the most remote areas of New Zealand, he'd met some great people & plenty of others walking the trail from both directions. While we ate our lunch we also offered him some of our extras which he eagerly accepted; half an apple, some baking and cheese & crackers. I guess dried food would soon lose it's appeal after a few weeks, let alone a few months.
I would have liked to have rested longer but with a long walk still ahead of us we pulled our boots back on, threw the packs on our backs and headed out down the track again. About an hour later we came across the sign board for the Trail. Eleven & a half hours certainly put our walk into prospective.

We were now following the Makaroa River upsteam back to the carpark. Along the way I spied a female & male South Island Tomtit-Miromiro.  Like the South Island Robin, the SI Tomtit also have a yellow tinge to their breast feathers. The female looks rather strange standing so upright on the branch, she looks like she has feathery trousers on. And once again these are not the sharpest shots, I just have to get a handle on these small birds, dark bush shots, or I'll have to go back to shooting with the flash.

And finally after about 12kms & five long and weary hours we arrived back at the swingbridge. What a welcome sight!

Looking north towards Mavora.


  1. Love this blog. Many thanks.

    1. Thank you very much and glad you are enjoying it.

  2. Is the start of the track easy to spot?

    1. Yes, there's a DOC sign at the farm gate you drive through to the carpark. It's about 5-6kms south of the turnoff to the Mavora Lakes. About 30kms from Mossburn. You enter the forest after crossing the swing bridge which is beside the carpark. there's a sign in there pointing out the direction and times. We took the right hand track to do the complete loop.

  3. Someone must have seen your blog and updated the track. We walked it yesterday with our 5 & 6 year old children and it was well marked. It took us 4 hours to walk the loop but that included plenty of stops for snacks, rests, and checking out the hut. Well will definitely be back. It was a great first hike for our kids.

    1. Glad you enjoyed Kiwi Burn, we walked to the hut and back on the 27th Dec with the family and then revisited to check for birds on the 8th January! Just missed you by a day. Glad to hear the track was well marked; two of our party walked the whole track in reverse on the 27th and commented that it was easier than we'd indicated. I was disappointed that the mosses weren't as emerald green or as thick and luxuriant as they were on our first visit on account of it being so dry. We stayed at mavora Lakes for just over 3 weeks, were you there too?


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