The variety of vegetation on this walk is memorable and can only be gleaned by witnessing the different altitudes and slope aspects. The conquering of the gradient is enough to work up an almost unbearable desire to get into the hot pool at the end of the walk. The more the need, the more the appreciation.
The start of the track is signposted to the right, 3 minutes from the main entrance and pools complex of Morere Hot Springs.
Morere Springs are 8 km north of Nuhaka and 58 km from Gisborne along SH2. The springs are signposted by the large parking area near the Morere Store
In places this is a steep and treacherous track. It should not be underestimated, especially after periods of rain.
The ascent of the ridge passes through a luxuriant forest of kohekohe and puriri, with nikau and kiekie providing tropical-like drooping foliage. The greens of the large leaves are intense, especially when moist.
After 45 minutes is the junction to the lookout (Nga Rakau Iti), an optional side-trip. The track becomes grassed as it weaves between kanuka and bracken at the edge of the scenic reserve. It borders the farmland to a signpost at the lookout (15 minutes), which is unfortunately surrounded by tea tree. Climb a short distance to the fence to gain the views of the farmland and distant coast. Retrace your steps to the Mangakawa Track and turn right.
This is the steepest and trickiest section to negotiate and requires a lot of care to navigate safely. The very steep spur crest is a lattice of roots and hollows, which are slippery and uneven. The vegetation is noticeably different with mahoe, tawa and black beech colonising the steep slopes (30 minutes).
On reaching the Mangakawa Stream your legs will be like jelly and aching for the hot pool. The vegetation is ample distraction and the dense greens envelop the mini-canyon. Nikau fronds drape in arches and every available surface is cloaked with moss. The uneven track is muddy and slippery and involves occasional stream crossings. The stream has exposed the bedrock and in places pours over small waterfalls. Small bluffs line the walls of the stream.
After approximately 1 hour the main spring becomes evident by a faint sulphurous whiff and a red leachate that tarnishes the clear water. A small pipe, which feeds the pools below, appears and the track surface improves as you descend to the Nikau Plunge Pools.
North Island ▷ Out East ▷ Wairoa
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