Contributed by Kim Elswood
Epilogue: Whilst training for Tarawera, Chloe and I met up a couple of times in Rotorua to do a few training runs through the Redwoods to get some kms under the belt and get familiar with the terrain. Two times out of three we got lost and ended up in places we shouldn’t, such as extremely overgrown horse tracks and, what we now know were illegal mountain bike trails. Post Tarawera we decided to catch up for another run, and so here begins the blog about our entertaining rambles.
Adventure 1: Where the f@*k is the summit?!
“Where are we running this weekend?” was the chat from Chloe that popped up in my messages on Monday . “Anywhere!” I replied, so excited by the thought of a trail adventure I was up for anything. So that’s how we ended up at the Karangahake Gorge this beautiful autumn Saturday. Chloe suggested we try the Wild Things Zeenya Challenge route of about 17kms, which sounded like a perfect test for the legs post Tarawera.
According to the description we would leave from the main Karangahake Gorge carpark, head up the Crown Track, take a right up onto Dubbo Track and then scoot up to the summit of Mount Karangahake. Seemed pretty straight forward. Famous last words?
We headed off over the first swing bridge and had to stop almost immediately for the obligatory miner man photo opp and because I was getting annoyed that my fitbit wasn’t doing what it should. Photo taken and meltdown over, we took off up the Crown Mine Track. It meandered through lovely bush, alongside the gorge, it was so scenic we were loving it! Another stop to appreciate our surroundings, and to take a jump shot on another bridge (of course). Next up was the little tunnel - out come the torches and in we go. We managed to keep the feet dry because, you know, we’re not quite real trail runners and managed to not think too much about what might happen if another earthquake hit right at that moment…
Relieved we didn’t get entombed in rockfall, out we came and off we went again up into the Dubbo Track. How gorgeous, beautiful forest, ferns, moss, a truly lovely trail. We met four mountain bikers coming the other way who said they’d started at the other end, and come via the summit track. They were carrying their bikes, it wasn’t rideable terrain, but they seemed happy in their adventures. We carried on, over fallen trees, ducking and weaving our way up. Along the way we met a mother and her son, who were out checking traps in the area. Had a great little chat, lovely people. We wished them a good day and thanked them for their work keeping the pest numbers down, and carried on. By their accounts the trapping had been pretty successful in the area.
Soon after that we got to the point where we turned off on to the summit track, or so we thought. We stopped to consult the directions, and confirmed we were on the right path. While we were stopped, a lady came running down from the direction of the summit. She looked fresh and we thought we must have been getting pretty near. Hydrated and snacked, on we went. And on. And on some more. It seemed like a never ending track going around the mountain, not really up, but just a gentle incline, definitely not the single track we thought we should be on. At this point we started to question where the heck we were. Once or twice we stopped and tried to figure out if we missed the summit track turn off, and again, consulted the directions which we decided at that point, (being details people), that they were pretty damn vague. It was about that time that visions of the café started to dominate my thoughts.
Not long after we set off again, Chloe hollered and I pulled up, to turn around to see her pointing a track turnoff. With renewed vigour and confirmation that now, finally, the description of the trail started to match the terrain we were on, we took off up the single track, run/walking our way over the tree rooted trail. At this point, Chloe started to point out that her tummy was a bit sloshy and she thought she might need a stop. A bit further on, it became apparent that the warning signs could no longer be ignored, and a precautionary nature stop was required. When Chloe said she was just going to sneak over behind this little piece of bush, I walked on a bit to give her some privacy, but kept my ears tuned back to her location as the bold warning sign we encountered earlier flashed into my mind, saying to keep on the trail at all times due to the risk of unexposed mine shafts. With visions of Chloe disappearing down an abyss with her pants around her ankles, I was pleased to see her appear around the corner soon after, declaring all was well.
Surely we must be getting close now. The air was crisper, the humidity of the gorge valley well gone and we could see blue sky through the treetops ahead. But no. We come to another turn off, signposted to confirm we are still on the right track, but with the “steep and exposed in places'' summit track nowhere in sight. At this point, we are both now thinking of the café and feeling a little over it, but neither admitted it. After some more never ending trail we finally end up at another signposted turn off, citing the direction of the summit 40 mins away!
When Chloe mentions that she’s a bit over it, I ask her if she wants to turn back, if she’s done. I got a very passionate reply to decline that offer, that we had come this far and we were going to the summit! With that being agreed, we dug in and kept putting one foot in front of the other, and not long after that we popped out on the top of a ridge with a very narrow, gorse lined single track, giddy with the relief that the trig must be just ahead. My spirits dropped a bit when Chloe said, “Um, don’t tell me that’s the trig, way over there!” I step back to where she’s standing to indeed see the trig. Over on the other peak.
The wind blew some voices across, and it was nice to know that there were other people up there, because it sure felt like we were in the middle of nowhere. We trudged on, getting spiked by gorse in every nook and cranny (don’t worry, the Zeenya are intact) and after about 10 minutes, scrambled up on to the rocky peak where the trig was planted. The other ladies (and their dog, Boris) up there were also pleased to see some more faces and regaled their story of the path they took up, and how they too thought they would never get there.
After some serious view appreciated, obligatory photo opp, a good chat and some doggo pats we decided to make our way back down as the huge flying ants up there were really getting annoying. And also we needed to make it back to the café before it closed – food reward non negotiable at this point.
We took the direct path down Scotsman Gully track, a real quick, rocky descent. Shout out to the Life in Motion Run Club Strength & Stability workouts – ankles intact! It’s fair to say the quads got a great workout on the way down, it was steep but the bonus was we made a lot of ground in little time and descended back into the valley pretty quick. Before we knew it we came to our second little stream crossing of the day, a rock hop over to the other side of the track. I almost ended up in the stream a couple of times, which would have been entertaining, but the twisted ankle that might have accompanied it, not so much.
Before we knew it, we’d popped back out at the start of the trail and cruised back over the main bridge to the carpark just over 3 hours after we began. Total kms unknown as my fitbit lies and I know that the 20kms it told me was not accurate, however it usually underestimates distances rather than overestimates, so who knows, I’m just going to say it was 17kms as planned. After a quick singlet change and footwear swap it was straight over to the road to the very quirky café for coffee, food and laughs about our adventure.
Next epic adventure location is my choice, so best get my thinking cap on. Who’s coming with?!