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A little bit of paradise

Lucy Tomlinson’s pristine tramping boots get their first outing on a Gisborne Canoe and Tramping Club excursion to Mahia.

On a gorgeous day in the middle of the school holidays, I found myself in Mahia with some members of the Gisborne Canoe and Tramping Club. My mate had said ‘do you want to go for a walk on Sunday?' I was thinking Kaiti Hill or the boardwalk but I was reminded of the pristine tramping boots in my wardrobe, and that, even though we completed the Swim to Mahia challenge, I'd never actually been there.

The tramp was described to me as a coastal walk near the Whangawehi River mouth to White Rock, just around the point of Table Cape, followed by a bush walk in Kinikini Scenic Reserve. I was up for the challenge.

There is plenty to see on this beach walk. Apart from a family fishing together, there was only our group of nine. As is common in groups of walkers, we splintered off and ambled along in small groups. Parallel to the shore are two straight rows of rock that seem to be subsiding into the sea. Thankfully my walking companion didn't fall about laughing when I asked if there had been a road there. Thankfully too, my companion has a science degree and explained the rock formations were ‘emergent shore platforms overlain by fossilised beach deposits'. Apparently this is the closest piece of land to the Hikurangi Trough off the coast. I could see my brain was going to get a workout on this walk too.

Within half an hour at an easy pace, we came across massive adult seals slumped across these aforesaid platforms. They looked like great big slugs. We sat upwind for a while and watched the frolicking youngsters playing tag in between the shore and the platforms. So much energy! The adults only roused themselves to mediate between the youngsters and sort out territory disputes. With the hot sun on their backs who could blame them for snoozing. We could have spent much longer sitting and watching as well but we had another walk to do.

Quite magical . . .

We had lunch by the Whangawehi estuary, next to a boat ramp. Mahia seems to be a place where people do stuff. Boats were brought in as others went out. The back and forth of tractors and utes made me think the fishing was good. I made a mental note to have fish and chips here when I visit again.

After refreshing ourselves with food, water and a toilet stop we got back into our vehicles and negotiated Kinikini road. Steep and gravel — a combination I hadn't come across on a road for a while. For a horrible moment I thought I was going to slide backwards. A 4WD would be ideal but it is manageable without. My white-knuckled passenger certainly looked relieved to disembark and enter the relative calm of the Kinikini Scenic Reserve. There is plenty of parking at the top and just across the road is the beginning of the walk.

We followed the suggestions in the logbook at the entrance and started off in an anti-clockwise direction. This walk is a 3.5km loop down to a stream which you cross a few times until you climb up to the road again. It is heaven — great for a hot, sunny day as you are embraced by dense shade in parts, and the smell of the trees is truly intoxicating.

Apparently this semi-coastal forest is one of the best in New Zealand. As a newbie tramper, I had nothing to compare it to but can say it is quite magical. There is so much variation in the flora — native orchids, stinging nettle, tawa, rimu, rewarewa and lots and lots of ferns. Some of the bigger trees have signage at their bases and many wear metal sheets on their flanks to protect against possums.

The walk is easy but you need to stop to look around. Watching your feet as you walk is vital to avoid tripping as there is plenty of stepping up, stepping down, over and under. We took it leisurely with lots of botanising going on. What insect chewed that leaf? How old is that tree? Theories were discussed too. Did the juvenile horoeka (lancewood) evolve to have long spiky leaves to repel moas eating it or were the young leaves not getting much light under the canopy? Plenty to consider.

We followed the now familiar orange triangle track markers down to the water and stopped for a snack. The water was delicious, cold and clear. And there was definitely no sign of the dead possum upstream that some wag suggested. Anyway, the mandarin quarters offered to me would have taken that taste away.

On our ascent I found myself in the lead and had to make a mental note to ignore the dangling ribbons and just follow the orange triangles. The ribbons show where bait lines are and they certainly work as there is much bird life. Tui, kereru and fantails were all around us.

True to the time estimated, we were back up at the road two and a half hours later. My lungs felt cleaner and my legs were pleasantly weary. I felt like I'd been shown a little bit of paradise. Mahia is definitely worth a visit — these two walks alone are a great drawcard.

The shore platform, exposed at low tide, is made up of a pattern of ridges created by erosion of more and less resistant sandstone layers. Pictures by Kay Bayley
New Zealand fur seal pups on White Rock, Table Cape.
Pied shags resting on a rock on the shore platform.
An easy walk along the beach at low tide.
Nikau and wheki beside Kinikini Stream in Kinikini Scenic Reserve.