ON EASTER Sunday, Sue and I walked 11km of the Mangapurua Track, which is part of the Mountains to the Sea National Cycleway. It was a fascinating and exhilarating adventure.
We departed Pipiriki early in the morning in a jet boat skippered by Ken Haworth, who knew every piece of a flooded Whanganui River and was a great tour guide for the start of our journey.
We were dropped at the Mangapurua landing, or where it would have been had the river not been so high, and set off on foot to the Bridge to Nowhere in fine weather. We reached it in about 30 minutes where we again found Ken, this time with a shovel clearing a track around a slip (the first of many as it transpired).
From the bridge, we started walking again along some quite intimidating bluffs, where the track had been damaged in a number of places by the extraordinary rainfall we have experienced this summer.
Bikers would most certainly have had to carry their bikes.
By the time we reached the first of the World War I settler farms (or rehab farms as they were once known) it was raining steadily.
The valley once contained about 20 of these farms.
Returned servicemen were put here when they got back from the war - however, the lack of access (hence the Bridge to Nowhere) meant they were never viable farms, and most of the servicemen were gone by the 1950s. All of the buildings have since been destroyed, and there are only scant remnants of their lives left there, including signs indicating who lived where.
The only other real evidence of their existence are huge stands of pine, macrocarpa and lawsoniana trees near each house site.
All in all we walked for about five hours and came across some amazing geographical features, including a number of bluffs.
The Battleship Bluff really was a sight to see, and yes, it looks just like a battleship in the middle of the forest. We crossed numerous streams, which were more like rivers as a consequence of all the rain, and appreciated the many smart DOC swing bridges.
Along the track we passed a number of Scout groups and cyclists on their way to meet the boat at the Mangapurua landing to be taken out to Pipiriki. It surprised us to see so many people out despite the somewhat treacherous conditions.
Our walk on the Mangapurua Track was a fascinating experience in a beautiful part of New Zealand with an extraordinary story to be told.
Our host for the day, Raewyn West, is working tirelessly on doing just that, sharing the stories of this wondrous part of the world. Certainly a great way to spend a day, and it's within an hour or so's drive for most of us.
Sue and I both highly recommend it.
Thanks again to both Ken and Raewyn for their enthusiasm and dedication.
"A fascinating experience in a beautiful part of New Zealand.