EDITION 19 | AUTUMN 2022 | WORDS & PHOTOS Michael Greenstein
We are blessed here in Hawke’s Bay to have many day-walks as well as harder tramps within easy travelling distance of our main centres. This time, Michael takes us on a family-friendly walk along the Tangoio Walkway – a great place to take out-of-town visitors and to enjoy year round with your family and friends.
It’s not like I really need one, but I’m always looking for an excuse to grab my preloaded tramping backpack and head out into the bush for a bit of a ‘nature rush’, along with a dash of adventure and a scoop of exercise.
So when I learnt that some whānau from Auckland were coming to spend a couple of days with us in Napier, I pencilled in a late-morning tramp during their visit and made the appropriate ‘bring your walking shoes’ suggestion to prompt them about their potential upcoming activity. I was well aware that hiking was never on their agenda, and probably a bit into foreign territory.
The day after their arrival, we drove a short-and-scenic thirty minutes north from Napier to the locality of Tangoio. This historic area was once a thriving farming community, but half a century ago, incessant rain caused such flooding that the residents had to move away. Now, the bush has returned in all its glory.
I’ve hiked this area a couple of times, usually starting at the parking patch at the southern end of Tangoio Falls Scenic Reserve and tramping up the hill to visit a couple of stunning waterfalls. But since we had two vehicles available this time, we left my wife, Karel’s, car at that southern parking area, then all piled into mine and drove a few minutes up the hill to the White Pine Bush Scenic Reserve carpark. Carefully crossing the highway, the four of us began our tramp on the Tangoio Walkway.
Karel and our Auckland visitors, Anna and Minh Thy, quickly disappeared down the trail, the excitement of being in the forest seemed to suck them into the dense green tunnel of trees. Since the three of them are not avid hikers, it was wise to start at the top and walk our way down through the native forest of titoki, rewarewa, mahoe, kiekie and my favourite foliage, a nice big stand of nikau palms. There are even several majestic redwoods and white pines to complete this awesome bush.
It was extremely rewarding to see how the two young city girls, who have rarely been in any bush, melted into the environment – a symptom of nature that many of us cannot get enough of. Karel managed the well-groomed trail fine, even though her body is not always up to these tasks. I was nervous only on the muddy sections where the juicy hillside leaked across the path, wandering its way down to the Te Ngarue Stream. Tramping in mud, when you’re ready for it, can be fun!
A couple of kilometres into this 4.4 km hike, I realised we had only seen a few fellow outdoorspeople – a far cry after struggling to find a parking spot in the lower Tangoio parking patch. I thought it would be a busy thoroughfare but, coming from the northern end, we had avoided the crowds. I also thought the noise of the nearby SH2 would be distracting, but the air was full of the birdsong of the tūī and korimako, as well as the thumping wings of the kererū.
Out of the tree canopy, across some open and sunny grasslands, Karel and I descended to Tangoio Falls where Anna and Minh Thy had been waiting for us on a wooden platform, watching thousands of litres of water find its path in a geometric array of falls. This spot is the top end of the hike if you start from the southern end – you could sure tell as the headcount rapidly increased. There was a pleasant flow of bouncing children, steady grandparents and towel-packing mums and dads rummaging up and down the trail. A short way down and another 100 metres on, we climbed our way to the heart of the Tangoio Forest to see the beauty and feel the mist of the twenty-metre horsetail Te Ana Falls. The dancing airborne droplets were extremely refreshing and I sure wished I had brought my towel.
Our little adventure wound its way down the mountain, sometimes a bit steeply, until we reached the rushing Kareaara Stream. This was the first time on this two-hour trip we all walked together, with a time to share some pretty deep thoughts exposed by the scent of the wild.
Teenage Minh Thy found the hike mesmerising, being enveloped in green life and enormous trees, something the Aucklander would not normally get an opportunity to enjoy. She was also surprised that the city girl was fit enough to finish, with the beauty of the waterfalls and forest as an awesome reward for her exhaustion.
Soon to enter her third decade in life, sister Anna basked in the freedom of Tangoio’s lush surroundings, a big change from lockdown in the city, and a chance to heal. She wondered how being in nature could stimulate such wonderful vibes, and how this ageless magnificence just dwarfs our sliver of its enjoyment. I wouldn’t be surprised if this activity would become a new hobby for Anna.
As for Karel, she was extremely glad we started from the top and worked our way down. Her descent became even more challenging when the soles of both her boots came loose, most likely because of their age and stepping through that sticky mud.
All these experiences make this another wonderful Hawke’s Bay tramping adventure to remember.