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Taupō walks: From Huka Falls to the Timber Trail

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Taupō’s Monday Walkers tackle Maramataha Bridge, the third longest swing bridge in Aotearoa.

Last week, the Wednesday Walkers went around one of its favourite loop walks, where hikers never have to retrace their steps.

Beginning from The Hub on Wairakei Drive, near where the helicopters park, we walked down to Huka Falls, across the river, downstream and over the bridge on State Highway 1 and up the hill back to the starting point.

We also passed through the Cathedral Gully, which has been made passable again after the incredible damage caused by last year’s cyclone.

The size of the fallen trunks in many cases is more than a metre in diameter. It seems incredible that they were brought down by gusts of wind.

All the way around, there were interesting things to see and also to hear; the roar of the falls which echoed over a wide distance, the bird song, the frightening hammering as huge trucks crossed the bridge and perhaps best of all, the sound of the streams tumbling down the hillsides.

Often, the falling water is hidden but its magical, somehow joyful sound, suddenly surrounded us like laughter.

We passed the pond where the pesky clams have been found.

There is very little distance between this and the great river.

The task of holding the invasive species at bay seems enormous, but perhaps it is possible if everyone co-operates.

It is a reminder of just how vulnerable our wonderful environment is and how everyone needs to play their part in keeping it that way.

At the very end of our walk, right beside the car park, there is a stand of several edible chestnut trees which are packed with tight brown nuts in their spiky cases.

They are free to be picked but not without strong gloves as the spikes are incredibly sharp and penetrating.

It is so scary that it might be best to let the nuts fall and open up by themselves.

Wednesday Walker Contacts: ph 07 377 3065; email

On Rāhina, we began with a long but scenic drive to the Piropiro Campsite in the King Country, past a ridge of candy-floss cloud swirling over Miraka Dairy Factory, through a pea-souper and finally out into open blue skies.

Not warm enough for sunbathing, but perfect for shinrin yoku or taking in the forest atmosphere.

We planned to walk the section of the Timber Trail up to the Maramataha Bridge and then continue at our own pace enjoying the forest, spotting remnants of the logging industry and learning a little about the area’s history from signage boards.

The Timber Trail is 85km long and part of Ngā Haerenga or the New Zealand Cycle Trail.

It opened in 2013 and although purpose-built, it used the old bush tramways and even included a tunnel at Ōngarue.

The track to Maramataha Bridge is wide, gently sloping and through bush including tall rimu and tawa.

The bridge is certainly a marvellous structure.

It is 141m long, hangs precariously 53m above the river, is the third longest swing bridge in New Zealand and yes, it does swing.

During the years the forest was logged, the gorge it spans was a barrier to extensions of tramlines and roads.

Without its construction, a more circuitous route for the proposed cycleway would have needed to be found.

Building was no easy project. Footings and towers needed to be built, large amounts of equipment helicoptered in, and complicated mathematical calculations made to ensure the correct drape length for the pre-stretched cable running between the towers and the vertical suspenders.

With all the hard physical and mental work done for us, we simply enjoyed the view down to the river and forest canopy below.

A nearby pair of kererῡ took offence at our presence and with a flash of metallic green and iridescent purple thudded off to quieter surrounds.

Safely across the river, we continued up through the forest.

Here, tall trees supported their own gardens of epiphytes, and the puddles were deeper and muddier, rutted by the many cyclists who use the route.

Chattering calls had us looking up for pōpokatea or whiteheads but they are very tiny, quick and hard to spot.

Beside the track, discarded pieces of machinery and cables could be seen and remains of old sleepers and spikes poked out of the muddy soil.

An open area marked the end of Ōngarue tramway and the end of the Ellis and Burnand timber concession.

Some walked on further before we all reluctantly turned back at our designated cut-off time.

A sprinkle of rain hastened our return walk but did not dampen our spirits.

There is something rejuvenating about taking the time to be quiet and simply absorb the peace of your surroundings.

Although this is a bike trail it is a most enjoyable place for walkers to share.

Next week, we will probably be getting very wet feet while enjoying a bush walk.

To join us or for more information please email or follow us on Facebook at “Taupō Monday Walkers.”

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