Event: Mag­nif­i­cent foot­prints on a stun­ning col­lec­tion of tracks

Walking New Zealand - - Contents - By Jim Robin­son

Whakatane is a pop­u­lar place to get ac­tive in the out­doors — wit­ness ma­jor events like Ox­fam Trail­walker and, in 2018, Whai Ora Spir­ited Women Ad­ven­ture Race.

The eastern Bay of Plenty town’s trail pop­u­lar­ity is long­stand­ing, with the an­nual Toi’s Chal­lenge run and walk cel­e­brat­ing its 25th edi­tion on 12 Novem­ber 2017.

Toi’s Chal­lenge fol­lows the course of Nga Ta­puwae o Toi (Foot­prints of Toi), a stun­ning col­lec­tion of tracks and beach walk­ing, tak­ing you on a rig­or­ous 17km loop from Whakatane to Ohope and back.

The first half of the loop is near or right on the spec­tac­u­lar coast­line while the sec­ond half is fur­ther in­land, twist­ing high through a for­est in­clud­ing gi­ant po­hutukawa (and in­hab­ited by many wild kiwi).

Nga Ta­puwae o Toi surely rates as one of this coun­try’s great­est coastal walks, with the bonus of be­ing both eas­ily ac­ces­si­ble and eas­ily split into shorter ef­forts of fiveto-10km.

Toi’s Chal­lenge is def­i­nitely rec­om­mended, but if you can’t make that, the track is a trea­sure all year. Com­mon places to start are at Rex Mor­peth Park, Whakatane town cen­tre, or over at Ohope Beach. Park­ing and toi­lets are avail­able in all th­ese points.

Toi was once the para­mount chief of the area and af­ter the stiff climb from Whakatane, you pass just be­low Kapu-te-Rangi, pa of gen­tle breezes.

On Toi’s Chal­lenge event day, run­ners and walk­ers will be fo­cused on swift for­ward mo­tion, but if you walk or run Nga Ta­puwae o Toi at other times of the year, make the 100m de­tour from the main track. It’s worth it!

The pa site has real his­tor­i­cal sig­nif­i­cance and the view is sen­sa­tional.

Beyond that first climb from Whakatane, you fol­low the up-and-down ridge­line, so there are lots of steps, some steep, and re­peated coastal panora­mas. The track might be su­per pretty but it does need treat­ing with re­spect: it’s not easy. Wear good footwear and take warm cloth­ing and some re­fresh­ment.

Otarawairere Beach gives you a kilo­me­tre of sub­lime, un­tracked walk­ing. At low tide, this sec­tion is straight­for­ward but at high tide you need to make your way over un­even rock for­ma­tions (Otarawairere is im­pass­able in a storm).

Just as Otarawairere’s wave-bro­ken-shells and soft sand start to tire your legs, there are steep steps up and over an­other head­land, and down to Ohope Beach and vil­lage. Ohope’s sand is firm, a mas­sive east-west sweep; of­ten there are swim­mers and surfers, shar­ing space with oys­ter­catch­ers, terns, gulls and other birds.

At Ohope vil­lage, cross the main road (Po­hutukawa Ave/ Ohope road) onto the Fair­brother loop walk. This track forks af­ter about 100m, both op­tions are pretty climbs, though the left fork is a bit less steep; the two tracks re­join at the top of the hill. You now tra­verse a heav­ily forested ridge, cross­ing his­toric Burma road on the way. The steps con­tinue.

Stay alert on this last sec­tion, as in a few places it’s easy to miss the track mark­ers and go awry, though it’s all log­i­cal if you keep your eyes open!

Af­ter a steep de­scent there’s fi­nal track fork, where you can take a short­cut to White Horse Drive and Gorge Road. Other­wise, to com­plete the full loop, turn left for a last, solid climb, a long de­scent, be­fore you exit back near Rex Mor­peth Park, 1km from the town cen­tre, and a well-earned stop in one of Whakatane’s ex­cel­lent cafés.

The main road from Whakatane to Ohope is only 6km with a good road­side path all the way, so you can use this to break Nga Ta­puwae o Toi into shorter loops, still re­turn­ing to your start point. Or, catch the bus.

The Toi’s Chal­lenge run record is 1hr 16min, with most tak­ing about one hour 45 min­utes to two hours 45 min­utes. Walk­ers should ex­pect to take between four and seven hours. Prob­a­bly longer if you take a cam­era….

. Above: Look­ing back at the town of Whakatane from the track.

Left: The board­walk track goes through na­tive bush.

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