Trip information, past trips and contacts for Wanderers Tramping Club

Strawberry Trees 23 May 2021

I led this group of 20 people on a loop track that I had done many times before, hoping this time to see the legendary drunk tuis feasting on fermented dogwood fruit at the site of a long disappeared mining village. Carol confirmed to us all at the start of our trip that she had seen this sight before.

We soon straggled into different groups, filtered by our energy levels up the initial farm track. However I diverted from the bulldozed track after the first steep bit, on to the old track that is steadily being reclaimed by gorse but which is a much better grade and more interesting. I had secateurs, which served the dual function of clearing our way, and slowing our progress to hold back the energetic ones so we remained more as one group. The only problem with this route was where the old track joins the new one, because at this point we had to scramble up a loose mixture of dirt and tree fragments. Entertaining, for some!

Back in the open, with a little sun and good views, it was a suitable place for morning tea.

Up a short hill section again, and we left the farm track on to what had once been the main road over the hills. Wide, almost flat for hours, with points of interest and with some wallows created by vehicles. One tree, a pukatea (?) had a very odd shape, as if it had been trimmed like a poodle. The track went through a short tunnel, where boulders waited to trip those without some kind of light.  We followed a plastic water pipe till it disappeared into an old mine. A side track went to the left, and appeared to be very well used, causing us to speculate on where it went and why it would be used.

A convoy of about 6 four wheel drive vehicles caught up with us, and exchanged a bit of banter. We had what we thought was the last word when our feet proved to be much more adept than their wheels when they were stopped by a set of deep water-filled trenches dug by their predecessors.

After about an hour we reached the turnoff to the Maoriland Battery site, where some of us left to see what was there, while the rest went slowly on to the lunch stop. The group that went down to the battery site missed seeing the ripe fruit that Grant found somewhere about here.

It is almost 100m vertical distance down to the stream bed, on a track that had been cut by bulldozer to pull out the well-preserved best bits of the machinery. Much further than most of us expected. There is not a lot left of the battery – some castings, lots of steel bars, and some beams. Three of us crossed the stream and found the remains of a stove and oven made of lots of bricks. Just below this in the dense bush are the steel bands that once held together the staves of the 4m diameter cyanide tanks.

Up out of the stream and back on the track the next point of interest was the “Weta Cave”, a short, dry adit with a fine population of cave wetas.

By this time we were ready for lunch, but I persuaded the team to follow me to see a large pine tree on an indirect route to the lunch spot. Some scepticism about large trees was dissipated when they saw it. Lots of holly and some ivy was in this spot, too. A few minutes later we caught up with the rest of the party at the dogwood patch, huddled up trying to keep warm, having finished their lunch and ready to go.

There were no drunk tuis, and very few fruit. We gobbled our lunch and the whole party got on the move again.

Up a short slope, then a sharp turn to the right, and we were heading mostly downhill again. An old pine forest had large orange toadstools (Amanita muscaria, or Fly Agaric) to entertain the photographers. Then out into open gorse hills.

Our survey had shown up that an old walking track still existed, to bypass the rather steep and slippery bulldozed track down the hill. We took this route, some finding it a bit challenging, but there was no hurry and we all made it. We split into two parties after we regrouped at the top of the hill, because some were keen to visit the site of the Jubilee mine battery. I led the relaxed group directly to the vehicles.

Not long after getting back to a farm road again we had a problem. One of us slipped on the loose road metal, and twisted her knee. It seemed to be just a bruise at first, but it quickly became apparent that she was unable to walk the 1500m or so back to the van. The farm track was in good condition for vehicles, so I took off with a key and a gate-opening companion to attempt to bring a van up to where she was resting. On the way down I was looking at the grade of the road and feared that bringing up a 2 wheel drive could be difficult on the steep bits!

We got to the van in quick time, and were just about to open the farm gate when the 4-wheel drive convoy of earlier in the day drove up, with our patient smiling in the front vehicle. I was very relieved to not have to find out if our van and my driving was up to the challenge of the farm road, even though I was also forced to admit that 4-wheel drives had their uses.

Half an hour later the Jubilee mine group arrived, having achieved their objective.

Another very good day out.

Ray Hoare

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