Te Hapu - simplicity amongst spendour
The pull of Te Hapu is strong.
Its remote and rugged landscape has cut deeply into the heart of many a wilderness seeker who has ventured beyond the gentle edges of the Whanganui Inlet.
An hour of twisting gravel roads skirting the shoreline through the Kahurangi Forest brings some preparation for the remoteness of this walking haven on the wild west coast at the top of the South Island.
For Te Hapu is just that – a walkers paradise entwined around the lives of 1000 acre property owners, Sandra and Ken Closs who have run a sheep and cattle farm here since 1980. Backing onto conservation land of the Kahurangi National Park the ability to freely explore the wild ruggedness of their surroundings is a real attraction..
Sandra and Ken have put much thought and energy into establishing a variety of walks on their property, preparing walk cards and maps of each one, as well as providing rustic, cosy accommodation to support it, allowing many single day walks from a comfortable base (“simplicity amongst splendour”, one guest commented).
Their compilation of historic material available in the cottage accommodation provides an insight into the area.
Originally part of the greenstone trail south for Maori, the name Te Hapu refers to the small limestone pillars standing at Te Hapu Bay – like a family; Te Hapu meaning family or sub-tribe.
Nowadays many little sub-tribes of Romney and Marino sheep as well as
Hereford and Angus cattle, graze these fertiliser-free hills where old-fashioned rotation ensures adequate feed.
It is the ability to wander amongst these residents on hilltop or coastal edges, as well as through the adjoining virgin podocarp rainforest, which makes this place so attractive. But with steep, exposed cliffs, and slippery wet limestone surfaces, extra caution is required.
Taking the smaller local walks initially, is a good way to become familiar with the territory and to orientate yourself to its remoteness, allowing apprehension to give way to appreciation, for this area is wild!
Along the shoreline, crevasses, eerie with the pounding and roaring of the sea surging below, create drama when a blow hole erupts within feet of the gap you’ve just leapt over, while grass-covered areas pertain to illusional safety.
High stock losses are comprehendible with secreted limestone caves within this labyrinth of ancient rockery, and dropaways frequenting the free-ranged coastline.
Along the hills, skirting gullies, crossing swamps or heading towards limestone outcrops brings rewards of sweeping views towards an ocean often heaving and thrashing onto rocks or pebbly beaches far below.
Huge wave swells and white-water spray worked up by the relentless force of the Spring winds of October and November bring atmosphere and understanding of the prostrate nature of its scrubland pockets. Lone Nikaus sway and spin while kanuka bends to the forces that control it.
But the buffeting relentless winds of some spring days often give way to calm blue seas which flop lazily upon the shores of the many little bays which dot this coast.
Fossil hunters revel in the unique rock formations, while diving for paua, surf swimming, fishing, exploring low-tide rock pools, plus seal and whale watching provide a host of nature’s opportunities to supplement the walking that abounds.
Designated walks vary from half an hour to a full day. The main walk starts at the woolshed behind the chalet accommodation (family invite visitors to
Below left: Te Hapa farmland melts into the sea.
Above left: The road into Te Hapu, through Kahurangi National Park. Above: Turtle Cove -minus turtles.