And running

Te Mata Peak and Waiohine Gorge, new and ancient forests.

I haven’t done any running posts for ages, but doesn’t mean I haven’t been out there. In new and old forests.

Te Mata Peak, under which I live, had whole forested hillsides destroyed over lockdown early last year. This is a good thing and was planned, but still has been a shock. They were old pine forests and pine doesn’t sit well in this hot, tinder-dry climate. I’ll miss the familiarity of those trails – you run a stretch often enough and get to know the rhythm of the corners, the rocks, the knobbly roots. It’s been odd running the same paths, smoothed now, over slopes razed and parched under the relentless sun of Hawke’s Bay. No shade. There are little cardboard sleeves dotted across the hillside marking the thousands of new trees that have gone in, all natives, all destined to fill the hillside with bush and birds. I’m not going to get all nostalgic about the old path. This is all good and in ten years will be wonderful. I’ve made a pledge to be running there, still.

There are new trails, too, a fantastic community project that culminated in hundreds of us planting trees on newly acquired land on a stretch called Tīpuna Footstep. My tīpuna passed by when they arrived in Napier in 1872 and walked to Norsewood. Perhaps they paused for a stroll on the hill first before heading south. I like to think so.

So yes, lots of running on the new Peak trails. Never get bored of a Peak run. And one day I hope Hawke’s Bay will again be covered by native forest, because running in native bush has it all over running through pines.

In the search for native bush, last week I took my shoes camping and went for a run up the Waiohine Gorge. From the campsite you cross a spectacular swing bridge and the choice is along the river (beautiful) or up the hill to Cone Hut (also beautiful but with 500+m elevation).

I took the hill. Walking, the track says it’s two hours thirty minutes from the campsite, I guess that’s with tramping packs. I didn’t go right to the hut but to the fork in the track and it took me about half that. It’s spectacular forest. Ancient, full of birds and with breathtaking diversity. There are epiphytes scrambling over massive old pillars of the forest community, whole ecosystems in the folds of their branches, creepers and vines and trees growing from the dank rotting bowels of fallen comrades. The track is relentlessly steep but there’s nothing sloggish about it: it’s a leap here, a couple of light steps there, a dodge around a puddle and a ladder of roots to climb up. Can’t imagine anyone running the first stretch without blowing out. The lovely part comes about 40 minutes in where you come out onto a flat shelf. There’s a dip and then another plateau – soft underfoot, birds everywhere, moss and ferns and dripping forest. Running on top of the world. Hard to beat.

There’s a drop down to reach the hut. I didn’t do that but turned around at the fork in the track and ran back, leaping and bounding down the hill to dive in for a swim in the deep pools of the fresh, clear Waiohine river.

The Waiohine campsite is less than two hours drive from Wellington over the Remutaka hill. Perfect way to spend an afternoon.

Author: cristinasandersblog

Novelist, trail runner, book reviewer and blogger.

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