Let me begin with the key details for this track before writing about my own experience. The start of Kaiaraara Track forks off Forest Road (on the Port FitzRoy side, follow Aotea Road until the end. There is a parking area.) and it will take you about 3-4 hours to reach the summit of Hirakimata. The track rises steadily with a large portion of it climbing up wooden staircases that have been built to preserve the ecosystem. Whit an average level of fitness you can hike up and down the track in half a day carrying a day pack, but it might be a better idea to spend a night at Mount Heale Hut (D.O.C. Mt Heale Hut). An ideal spot to begin your adventure would be the Kaiaraara Hut (D.O.C. Kaiaraara Hut). You will experience indigenous and exotic forest, maybe spot or at least hear (endangered) fauna, cross several hanging bridges, observe historic kauri dams and be rewarded with a beautiful and extensive overview of the Hauraki Gulf and Great Barrier Island. In addition, another rewarding factor, you will physically feel your leg muscles and remember the somewhat challenging steady climb. Add South Fork Track to your itinerary and you’ll experience a beautiful loop tramping track rated amongst the highest in New Zealand.
We began our adventure from the Akapoua camping ground and walked until the end of Aotea road, then onto Forest Road, which is pretty much the beginning of the track. We crossed the first – there are about a handful of them on the loop track – hanging bridge and had a short stop at Kaiaraara Hut, where we had a cold beer and took some pictures.
Hiking uphill besides the Kaiaraara stream I wondered whether building and using the (kauri) dams have caused as much damage to the stream bed as some say. The logging was certainly not friendly to the environment but at least the stream is strong even during dry periods.
On or trip to the summit, we only met a D.O.C. worker and regularly saw a helicopter that delivered building material. We reached the trig on the summit of Hirakimata and allowed plenty of time to enjoy and absorb the views. Again, no one there but the three of us.
That’s it for now. In the following part, I’ll share my experiences of the way down via Mt Heale Hut and South Fork Track.