Sunday, 8 February 2015

Kuripapango DOC Camp, HB

Here we are arriving at the large & deserted DOC camp at Kuripapango which is located on the banks of the Ngaruroro River at the base of the Kaweka Ranges on the outer reaches of inland Hawkes Bay.

And here we are (top left) four days later on the Friday of Waitangi Weekend when nearly every flat area, alcove and nook &cranny in the large campsite has slowly been taken by arriving campers for the long weekend. And campers in tents & caravans were still arriving during Saturday and into Saturday evening.

And the trout have no chance- well actually I think they have a whole heap of chance, they will have been spooked into hiding- every camp site has at least a couple of hopeful fishermen and in some cases 5 or 6 men & children with fishing rods. Dad’s and their sons and daughters have been passing by morning and night on their way to the river, ever hopeful of catching that elusive fish. So far all we’ve seen is one little tiddler being paraded back past on the return journey.

Kuripapango is at the base of the infamous ‘Gentle Annie’, a steep climb over a range with many sharp switchbacks on the Napier-Taihape Road. We have yet to haul the van up the Gentle Annie, that’ll be when we leave in a few days time. At least it is sealed now, the last time I drove over the Gentle Annie it was gravel and a slow haul up and across the Central Plateau.

The road into the camp passes through a large field where a group of beehives (I wonder what the collective name for them is?) are strategically placed so the bees can harvest the highly sort-after & lucrative manuka honey from the surrounding bush.

The sign at the beginning of the track is a bit misleading, it indicates that the campervan site is near the beginning of the track when in fact motorhomes can set up camp throughout the area. I wonder how many don’t venture any future on through the narrow, bush covered track thinking they might not be able to turn around further down.

It always amazes us as to how many people believe the rules don’t apply to them; ‘Light No Fires’- there are old fire pits throughout the camp, ‘No Motorbikes or Four Wheelers’- a quad bike & a motorbike are somewhere in camp, ‘No Dogs’- we’ve seen at least three this weekend (correction seven, we just had a walk through camp. And a further correction now on Sunday; there have been at least 15 dogs scattered throughout the camp) Admittedly most have been on leads and well behaved but we’ve seen a few wandering including this black lab who, while only trying to say hello, frightened this toddler.

I’m not sure what the answer is, dogs are an important part of a lot of families and the Kiwi tradition of going camping in the great outdoors is taking your pet with you. I know some DOC campgrounds allow dogs & perhaps they should re-visit the Kuripapango restrictions as what they have in place now certainly isn’t working.

And as an aside one camping party had a pet magpie in a cage with them. I could hear a magpie calling but thought it must have been a wild one until our neighbours told us about it squawking all day (we were out so didn’t hear it much) As they said it’s all very well bringing the bird with them but they wondered if they realised that it’s squawking would have chased the native bird life away.

*Rant Over!*

Now back to us arriving last Monday. Being the only ones in camp we had the pick of sites and we found a reasonably level one near the road, facing east-west for all day sun and with a sheltered area on our outdoor side and also protected by bush from behind. Perfect!

A rainbow followed by a full moon greeted us on our first night.

Kuripapango camp is also known as The Oxbow. An oxbow is where a river forms a loop around a land mass and here the Ngaruroro River forms the loop around the campsite. Unfortunately the land mass the camp sits on is about 100 metres above the river and it’s a steep walk down to the river bed. This wouldn’t be so bad except that it’s the only water source in camp and as we’ve now been here for the better part of a week, we’ve had to make the trip down and back a few times carting 20 litres at a time for our tank. It’s all part of our lifestyle but still tough work sometimes.

The river is running very low at the moment but there are numerous deep pools to swim in and to fish. A helicopter has been flying in fishermen & hunters on a regular basis and a Taupo guide and his Australian client were camped for a couple of nights at the back of the camp earlier in the week. They, by all accounts, had a successful time, catching over 30 fish within a kilometre length of the river. We did see some photos but we wondered at the number. Their next stop was the Mohaka beyond Glenfalls for the holiday weekend. After complaining about the inconsiderate campers he comes across I wonder how he (the guide) got on with the influx of campers there over the long weekend.

At the end of the oxbow the river sweeps around and under the road bridge at the foot of the Gentle Annie heading east passing through the famous Gimblett Gravels wine area on it’s way towards it’s eventual exit into Hawkes Bay near Clive. I’d love to raft the river all the way down, I’m sure there can’t be too many Grade 5 rapids along the way?

After three nights virtually by ourselves- the first night totally on our own and the next two with just a couple of others camping out of sight- the promise of a fine long weekend had a steady stream of vehicles arriving to set up camp from early afternoon on Thursday. A large group of people set up in the dip across the road from us getting their tents up just in time before the rain arrived.

And well after dark we could still hear the odd vehicle passing by. In the morning a few more tents and vans had sprouted in the empty spots around the edge of the camp.

Friday morning dawned cold and wet, the sun made a brief appearance before disappearing and the rest of the day was spent dodging passing showers and heavy downpours. The weather didn’t seem to dampen the campers spirits though, especially the kids who, on a free reign, were off exploring, riding bikes, fishing or fighting battles with their water guns.

Other than a walk around camp and a trip to the river for water we stayed in, ever thankful for our warm & cosy home and, going by the queue & stench emanating from the long drops, our very own loo!

The sun came out on Saturday and so did the people, with nearly every available camping area taken, the overflow of campers were setting up in another clearing back near the road and beside one of the tramping track carparks (middle right) And look another dog bounding out to say hello- in fact there were two at this camp.

It’s now Sunday afternoon and it’s very hot & very still, most people have packed up and headed home although I can still hear the familiar ringing metal pipe sound around the camp as people pack up their tents. There’s still a few families about enjoying the last of the holiday weekend and we’re just about to go for a drive to find a signal so we can download and I can upload this. I suspect when we get back later in the day we’ll be just about by ourselves and the sounds of nature will slowly descend over the valley once again.

We're now sitting in the ute 13kms from camp, with the air conditioning on full and 4 bars of Telecom reception. We're parked in a gravel pull off area, high above and overlooking a vast expanse of Hawkes Bay's crisp dry farmland. Technology is a wonderful thing; I've been able to send this blog from my computer to my live blog on the internet via my phone's 'hotspot' and upload the photos and post it so you'll have something to read this evening! Enjoy- although excuse any errors as it's rather hard to proof read with my large laptop perched on my lap in the cab. 

Still to come from Kuripapango…
The Lakes
Climbing Mt Kuripapango
Up The River Without a Paddle
Avian First


  1. Yes.....well errors that I can spot...but then I'm pretty illiterate....I get the feeling your all peopled out?
    Lots of em in the you know!

    1. Thanks Mr Proofreader, much appreciated! You wouldn't believe it but after the weekend and a quiet day on Monday, 50 kids & 6 adults from a Hastings school arrived to camp for the week! You wait until you see the photos *eye roll* :)

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  3. An interesting read. Have just stayed at this campground having read your blog before we went. Accurate & informative, we had the space to ourselves & 2 other m/homes - in total only 6 people in camp. Magnificent scenery & toilets didn't smell - a bonus.

    1. Thanks for your comments Rex, glad you enjoyed Kuripapango, it's a great little spot.


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