Sadly, I'd lived in Tauranga for over 6 years before I discovered the Otawa Trig track. The first time we tried to get there, Jack got electrocuted and the second time we got chased out by an aggressive steer. True stories, read on!  

Eons ago, before kids, Jack and I were marathon training and for our long run one week we planned to go from the Whataroa Falls track at Otanewainuku to Otawa Trig and back. On the day of the electrocution, we navigated without difficulty past Whataroa Falls and beyond into a farmer's field, but the track was less well-marked there and we feared we might have lost our way. We soon came to an electric fence and Jack carefully ensured that I crossed over without touching a wire before he hopped over. This caution was partly due to our substantial height difference making it impossible for me to simply step over the fences "giant-style" like he does, but mostly due to his chivalrous nature that was out in full force in those early days. When it was Jack's turn to go over, he missed and went soaring off the fence landing on the same side as we'd started. Feeling a bit flummoxed and flustered, we decided to retrace our steps back to the Whataroa Falls track and our car.  

Our first attempt to take the kids up there was also fraught with misadventure! From the Te Puke Quarry Road entrance, the track goes through just over a kilometre of private farmland before entering native forest. There are often cattle in the pasture along the track, fenced in to ensure they stay put. On this particular day, one of the steers had escaped and was clearly a bit anxious about being separated from his herd. We rounded a corner and nearly bumped into him standing in the middle of the track. We stopped, mouths agape, and then he approached. On the other side of the fence, his brothers approached, too. We knew they were secure in the paddock and he was the only one that could have trampled us, but the deep, echoing sound of 80 hoofs advancing was intimidating. As he stood his ground taking up much of the track, there was no way around him so we turned to head back to the car.

But the terror didn't stop there. He, and his brothers, kept following us. We walked quicker, he matched our pace, and they matched his pace. Running out of options, we tried a change of tack, turning around to face him, without making seemingly aggressive eye contact, we made ourselves large (it works with black bears apparently) in an attempt to look frightful. Instead of being frightened, he closed the gap. "Keep walking!" I shouted over Sadie's cries as Dan sprinted away and Jack tried to put himself between his family and the beast. Around another corner, we came to a gate. In a panic, we squeezed through and locked it shut, just in the nick of time! Finally the chase was over and there was a wall of safety between us and the terrifying steer. Perhaps it was the children that set him off? No one who has been up to Otawa Trig and met the docile steers believes our story, but as for me and my family, we remember.  

Don't let the horrors of Otawa Trig turn you off! Despite two rough starts, I've made up for lost time, visiting Otawa Trig regularly with friends and family. There are two trigs at Otawa Trig. The first is about a kilometre from the Te Puke Quarry Road start, along the trail and up a steep hill, still in the grassy pasture. The second, officially called the Wharetetarakeho Trig is over 5km down the track through the farmland and into the forest. Once in the forest, there are different loop choices and you can always shorten the trip at any time by turning around and heading back the way you came. The path through the forest is gorgeous single track, rugged, muddy, undulating, and sometimes steep, especially near the second trig. The shortest loop through the forest will lead you to the first trig and is uphill, too.

Some of the best days in the Otawa Trig bush are the wet ones when the rain and clouds spread magical mist along the base of the trees. In the bush, keep your eyes peeled for wild food. With help from our expert foraging friend, Èan, we've supplemented our dinner with wood ear mushroom and pikopiko from the hen and chicken fern. Sometimes wild strawberries can be found en route and rumour has it the Easter bunny hides eggs in the small caves closer to the second trig.

On a clear day, the view from the first trig is stunning with glimpses of White Island to the east, Mount Maunganui to the north, and the Kaimais to the west. There isn't much view from the second trig, but the magical forest, especially on a cloudy, misty morning more than makes up for it.  

Location: Te Puke Quarry Road at the junction of Reid Road South
Route Choices: Short loop or long loop (there and back to the trig) or make your own loop

Long Loop to the trig
Distance: 10km (approximate)
Time: 3-4 hours
Difficulty: Hard for children - moderate for adults
Buggies:  Rugged terrain, roots, mud, steep sections. Rear child-carrier recommended.

Short Loop
Distance: <2km (approximate)
Time: 2-3 hours meandering
Difficulty: Moderate
Buggies:  Rugged terrain, roots, mud, steep sections. Rear child-carrier recommended.

Toilets: No
Dogs: No

More ideas for tramping with kids in Tauranga?  Check out Puketoki ReserveMotuopuhi Island, or Tuhua Kauri Grove