Heat wave! The sea, lakes, rivers, and swimming holes are beckoning us as we attempt to avoid melting today. Luckily, there's a perfect tramp for this kind of weather, one of our favourites for summertime: Rapurapu Kauri Track. It's mostly shaded by native forest and provides exceptional (and unavoidable) foot cooling as you navigate the 16 stream crossings. The track starts just south of SH29 as you reach the bottom of the Kaimais on the Matamata side.
We'd heard about the predicted heatwave, though struggled to believe it was coming as we drove through the gentle rain and mist nestled along the tops of the Kaimai ranges this morning. As we reached the carpark, clear skies prevailed, but the heat of the day hadn't yet begun. At the start of the track, we washed our shoes, then walked the first unsheltered kilometre until we reached the cover of the bush. Some of the kids started a game of Hide and Surprise, running ahead to position themselves behind the trees before shouting, "Surprise!" as the somewhat suspecting parties passed. We ambled along the track, listening to the birds and cicadas and spotting mushrooms and tiny moss trees, the kind likely to be used by fairies playing Hide and Surprise. Our bare feet be were used to the moist, cool ground by the time we came to the start of the stream crossings about 1.5km later.
The first of the stream crossings went well. The bigger kids (8 and 9) got themselves across the stream with ease, practically leaping from rock to rock. Jack, the only one among us still wearing shoes, hopped along the rocks to the other side, pleased that he'd kept his socks dry. Other sure-footed adults took turns helping the younger children (5 and 6) across. It turned out that sure-footed and dry-footed wasn't something to count on on this tramp. As I tried to position myself on some submerged rocks halfway along the second stream crossing, I slipped and landed like a turtle on my shell, temporarily unable to get up as I (accurately) envisioned my backpack flooding and drowning my phone, my spare clothes, and my lunch. Tramping lesson #373 - pack things that need to stay dry in a dry bag. Jack didn't slip, but soon realised he'd need to get low to help the little ones rock hop through some parts of the streams where the boulders were further apart and sacrificed his dry socks and shoes.
Six stream crossings later, we mounted the steps to picnic under the giant Kauri trees. We forgot the mandatory group shot and dried mangoes, distracted by a drone capturing footage of the Kauri trees from above.
On the return trip, the sun was noticeably stronger and we began to feel the heat even through the small gaps in the forest ceiling. Those who wished dipped in a stunning swimming hole. On another day, the water might feel icy, but today the chill was only refreshing for a few moments and we retreated quickly from the sunny stream to the shady bush.
After heading up Wairere Falls barefoot yesterday, my tootsies were feeling a wee bit sensitive so I popped my shoes on for the final exposed section of the track, unable to cope with the killer tiny stones awaiting.
The Department of Conservation (DOC) deems this to be an advanced tramp, and I agree that it is challenging for most levels of trampers. Crossing the stream, even in low water levels, can be slippery and nerve-wracking. The first time we tramped here, Nanny came, too, and while she didn't complain, she didn't like it much and dreamed aloud of the café we would visit afterward. While not appropriate or enjoyable for everyone, for my kids (6 and 8), it's just the right level of difficulty to keep them motivated and eager to try new things and short enough to leave them wanting more. Even when comparing their experience on the way in versus the way out, the children went from cautious to confident and learned to take greater measured risks, better able to judge their own abilities. By the 16th stream crossing, our littlest member (5) was crossing between rocks on his own, willing to get a little bit wet along the way. A huge milestone compared to the first crossing when he needed two adults to urge him along offering both hands for balance along the way.
With the Kauri die-back disease management ongoing, you'll need to check the DOC site before you go to ensure it's open. Please remember to wash your shoes to protect our trees!
Rapurapu Kauri Track
Distance: 5km (round trip)
Time: 2-3 hours
Difficulty: Moderate considering the stream crossings. Toddlers, young children, and those with unreliable balance may need help or might be better at Puketoki Reserve.
Buggies: No. Backpack child carrier okay. Avoid carrying baby on your front as you'll want to be able to see where to put your feet.
Dogs: No. Only with hunting permit and Kiwi aversion training.
Barefoot: Bare feet can add extra traction and sensation for stream crossings. Most of the track has large stones, leaves, and some mud. Small stones on the first section of the track can be uncomfortable for sensitive feet - shoes are recommended for this section; the rest is doable for the determined beginner.