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Walking the track to Koranga Forks Hut

A “there and back” walk to the Koranga Forks Hut in December for Gisborne Canoe and Tramping Club members started with a tricky approach. Gillian Ward reports . . .

This was one of the Gisborne Canoe and Tramping Club trips where getting to the start was part of the adventure! Moanui Road, off Te Wera Road, is narrow and winding with some rockfalls, and attentive driving was needed.

Those who weren’t driving appreciated the flowering tawari, kamahi, kanuka, and putaputaweta in Moanui Conservation Area as we followed the Koranga River on the way to the start of the Koranga Forks Track.

At the Moanui Road end — the start of the track — the Department of Conservation has erected a beautifully designed new track sign/information board, “Waioeka Conservation Area and Te Urewera”.

Our first highlight as we started this walk, was to see a family of four whio, blue duck, on the Koranga River.

Twenty-four self-resetting traps have been set up at 100m intervals along the track all the way to the Koranga Forks hut, which will be effective in reducing the number of stoats and rats, allowing whio to breed successfully beside the river.

The track to Koranga Forks Hut follows the Koranga River and there are opportunities for swimming on the way. Most of the walk is under tall tawa forest, or regenerating bush, and partly the track goes through farmland. It is mostly close to the river but climbs high over unstable slips in some places.

There is an option B . . .

On this trip, we walked “there and back” to Koranga Forks Hut, but another option is to do a two-and-a-half-day trip, staying at both Koranga Forks and Tawa Huts.

There are several waterfalls in the bush that we enjoyed along the track, while taking care on the slippery rocks. A swing bridge crosses the Koranga River just above its junction with Kahunui Stream. From the swing bridge it is a five-minute walk to Koranga Forks Hut.

In recent years the track has suffered damage from several small slips and dropouts. A team from the Department of Conservation Gisborne Office worked on track maintenance, and cleaned and repaired the hut, in February 2020. We appreciated their work of creating narrow tracks across the slips and installing a new galvanised iron chain as a handrail across a waterfall crossing, and the hut is looking fresh and smart.

However, even with this maintenance, the track now requires a higher level of capability than it used to. Several in our group slipped on rocks, or had a tumble off the track! Fortunately, there were no serious incidents. Some also had a brush with ongaonga, the shrubby stinging nettle. A brush is all you need to get a nasty sting.

We had light rain showers on and off throughout the day, and it was humid and warm — sticky weather for walking. Most of the walkers enjoyed a quick dip in Kahunui Stream near Koranga Hut. The water was cold and very refreshing!

One of the group brought a fishing rod which folds up and fits into his pack, and tried some casts over the river but without any luck. Possibly the swimmers disturbed the trout!

The club is very grateful to Gay Young for the effort she puts into her photography while on club walks. She has an artistic eye and creates outstanding photos! It is challenging to focus on fishing, or photography, when walking as part of a group.

Two senior life members of Gisborne Canoe and Tramping Club drove to the start of the track with our group, then as we set off, they planned to boil the billy for a cup of tea, and enjoy themselves for the day fishing, walking, and relaxing in a beautiful place. It was a treat to have some life members accompany us, and to hear some of the stories of many previous visits.

Koranga Forks Hut is still a good overnight tramp for families with children, but people who do this need good walking skills on rough tracks. It would be a good idea to carry a tent, or a fly and groundsheet, because the hut has just six bunks and is popular with hunters and people fishing. The advice on the DoC website is that the 8km walk to Koranga Forks Hut takes two to three hours, but with young children at least four hours should be allowed, enjoying stops along the way.

RIVER CROSSING: Gillian Ward walks across the swing bridge which crosses the Koranga River just above its junction with Kahunui Stream. The bridge is a five-minute walk away from Koranga Forks Hut. Picture by Gay Young
Care needed: A recent slip has demolished the track and Department of Conservation staff have formed a fresh sidling track across it. Derek Barthow and Gay Young negotiate their way across the new path. Picture by Gillian Ward
FAMILY OUTING: Walkers were delight to see this family of whio, or blue duck, as they set out. Picture by Gay Young
CASCADES: The hikers enjoyed the sight of several waterfalls in the bush along the track, while taking care on the slippery rocks. Some cooled off in the Kahunui Stream near Koranga Hut. They reported the water was cold but very refreshing in the humid conditions. Picture by Gay Young
There are several waterfalls in the bush that can be enjoyed along the track, while taking care on the slippery rocks. Picture by Gay Young
NEW SIGN: At the Moanui Road end, and the start of the track, the Department of Conservation has put up a new, well-designed track sign and information board, “Waioeka Conservation Area and Te Urewera”. Picture by Gay Young