There are several walking tracks starting at or near Aongatete Lodge, on a short access road near the end of Wright Rd south of Katikati. The tracks are in the Kaimai Mamaku Forest Park. One of the tracks provides access to the North South Track, which runs along almost the whole length of the Kaimai Range. The other tracks provide walks through regenerating native forest, and access to a popular swimming hole in a local stream.
There is a parking area on the lodge access road, and a toilet nearby. Although there is also parking by the lodge this should not be used, as the gate on the access road may be locked at any time.Although there are no viewing points along the tracks they all provide a pleasant walk through the forest, with forest canopy covering almost the entire length of the tracks.
There are four tracks starting at the lodge, providing options from a very short nature walk to a longer loop walk. Information about some of the tracks can be found on the DoC web site.
The Aongatete Long Loop Track runs mainly in a north-south orientation, with an eastern leg and a western leg. The eastern leg mainly has a gentle gradient, and with long straight stretches looks as if it may once have been a tramline track. The western leg runs through more uneven terrain, and includes 3 stream crossings. Even on a winter day after two days with rain they could be crossed without getting wet feet. It is marked as a walk of 3 hours 30 minutes.
The Aongatete Short Loop Track shares the northern part of the Long Loop Track, with a connecting track between the two long loop track legs. Walking time, according to DoC, about 1 hour.
Near the lodge there is a short Nature Trail, a loop starting and ending near the lodge. A 15-minute walk.
The Aongatete Link Track runs from the lodge to the North South Track. On the way there is a branch leading to a swimming hole, which is apparently very popular on hot summer days. The walk to the swimming hole is marked as a 30-minute walk each way. The North South Track is about a 1-hour walk from the lodge.
The description here is for the long loop was walked in a clockwise direction, the short loop link track walked in both directions, the nature trail in a clockwise direction, and the swimming hole access track in both directions. Total time about 4 hours 30 minutes, including a 15-minute lunch break, and a total distance of about 12.5 km.
The parking area on the lodge access road, with the start of the long loop eastern leg (and the short loop eastern leg) being the stile across the road from the parking area. The track then crosses the grass area and enters the forest above the toilet. The lodge is hidden behind the trees on the far right, about 400m further along the road.
The road leading to the lodge, with the gate which may be locked at any time. Information about the lodge and contact information is found on the sign.
The start of the eastern legs of the long loop track and the short loop track. The sign on the stile reads “Kia Ora. Weka are back at Aongatete. Dogs kill Weka. Please be a responsible dog owner for our sake. Thanks, Wiremu Weka.” No weka were observed on the walk, but one was heard.
Looking down from the forest entry to the carpark and the mountains beyond.
Some of the trees and plants have information panels. A few are on the short loop, but most are on the short nature trail.
The short loop branches off the eastern leg of the long loop, and crosses over to the western leg before heading back to the lodge.
The eastern leg of the long loop is mostly straight with gentle gradients. The track is not wide, but could have been the location of an old tramline from when the forest was first felled and milled.
There is a large patch of regenerating rimu by the long track. Here some of the smallest seedlings. Others were up to 3 or 4 metres tall.
Although fairly innocuous to look at, the ‘bush lawyer’, a climbing blackberry plant with small hooked thorns on the stems and leaves that snag clothing and rip or prick the skin, can be uncomfortable to run into. See Wikipedia for further details. This one was hanging by the track near the southern end of the long loop, and grabbed my clothes as I was passing.
There is an active predator trapping program in place to catch or poison possums, rats and stoats. This trap has an egg as bait, and can catch stoats or rats.
The first (southernmost) stream crossing on the western leg of the long loop track has stepping stones, and is easily crossed without getting wet feet.
A small clearing provided a suitable place for a short lunch break, although there were no seats provided.
There are a few large trees alongside the track. The height to the first branches would be about 12 to 15 metres. Immediately behind this one a similar one had fallen over across the track.
The second and third stream crossings, only about 50m apart, were more difficult than the first, with more water in the stream. But still possible to cross without getting wet feet. The boulders and tree trunks indicate that during flooding the stream size can swell to a torrent.
The short loop track intersection with the western leg of the long loop track.
A large puriri tree near the track.
One end of the short nature trail joins up with the western leg of the long and short loop tracks a few minutes walk from the lodge.
The nature trail has numerous panels with information about the trees and plants.
Near the lodge there is a swing, suspended from a tall puriri tree, with a small stand used as a launch pad. Three of the puriri tree stems had already fallen, so no playing on the swing this time to avoid a fourth broken branch.
Adjacent to the lodge there is an information panel showing the expected walking times for the various tracks. The walking tracks are all marked with orange triangles.
The first part of the Aongatete Link Track is wide enough for a vehicle, but with clay base very slippery when wet.
The branch to the left leads to a swimming hole. The Link Track continues to the right, joining up with the North South Track.
Although this could look like the swimming hole, the stream is crossed here to the final short track leading to the actual swimming hole.
Many of the rocks here and in other locations have distinctive holes in them, many of them almost perfectly round. Although not a geologist, my theory is that they were formed when trees remained standing while covered with ash and lava from volcanic eruptions. The lava and ash then solidified and was compressed to stone while the tree trunks rotted away.
There are not only slippery rocks, but the track itself is narrow and rough, with a steep dropoff down to the stream and rocks below.
The swimming hole with a few small cascades.
A small waterfall in the stream below the swimming holes.
Some of the buildings at the Aongatete Lodge. The information panel and tracks are hidden in the shadows under the trees at the far right.
The track leading to the lodge has a short loop. Use either branch when walking from the carpark to the start of the tracks by the lodge.
The GPS tracklog shows the various locations along the tracks. Point A is the parking area, B where the short loop joins the eastern leg of the long loop, C the southern tip of the long loop, D the intersection of the western leg of the long loop and the short loop, E the location of the lodge and the start and end of the nature trail and the start of the Link Track.
Approximate times and distances were as follows:
A to B: 800m, 15 minutes
B to C: 2.5km, 45 minutes
C to D: 2.8km, 1h25m including 15m for a lunch break
D to B and back: 1.4km, 30 minutes
D to Nature Trail: 750m, 15 minutes
Nature Trail: 700m, 15 minutes
Lodge to swimming hole: 1.4 km, 25 minutes (each way)
Lodge to carpark: 400m.
The tracks were walked on July 5, 2015.