Walking New Zealand
The Pakihi Track for total seclusion
every direction. One option is to prepay for a hut pass to stay overnight (a bargain at $5 per night), enjoying the woodfire and keeping an ear out for calls of weka.
This area is the only remaining natural population of North Island weka (and were a source for translocations elsewhere) – and numbers are currently rocketing, with these weka now extending as far west as Whakatane and Taneatua.
According to Livingstone, overnighters at the hut can sometimes hear the calls of North Island brown kiwi. He has also picked up the echolocation calls of long-tailed bats (with the use of a bat detector), and says they can occasionally even be seen from the hut, just on dark over the summer period.
The remaining 10km of Pākihi Track continues with the water theme, beginning with a small but powerful waterfall in a shady gully, and it’s not long before you come across the modern 35-metre-long suspension bridge that spans the rushing Pākihi Stream.
This site is where the first stock bridge was constructed in 1914 to complete the track, only to be heartbreakingly destroyed by a flood just four years later in 1918. To the frustration of those local farmers, this was the nail in the coffin for the Pākihi Track as a stock route, and the Motu Road and then the Waioeka Gorge Road became the main routes between Opotiki and Motu instead.
As you cross the suspension bridge you’ll see the wooden remains of the supports to that old bridge on the far bank, with a hole where the strong cables were anchored.
You’ll follow the boulder strewn Pākihi Stream, staying about five to 15 metres above it, on track cut by explosives into the rocky bank.
In summer, take one of the short side paths down to the river for a dip in the clear, waist-deep water. Search the mossy river banks and you might find the carnivorous paua slug, a ‘semi-slug’ Schizoglossa
gigantia found only in this region of North Island (you’ll see their tiny paua-shaped shells scattered right through the Urutawa).
When you’ve experienced the remote and wild environment of the
Pākihi Track, you’ll recognise this is true Barry Crump country: the famous bushman author spent 10 years in the Pākihi Valley, where he wrote Wild Pork and Watercress (which inspired Taika Waititi’s movie Hunt for the Wilderpeople).
In fact, you can stay in Crump’s infamous A-frame hut at the northern end of the trail: local couple Christian and Kelly Subritzky, who own Weka Wilds, took Crump’s neglected hut from the bush, which Crump built in the early 1980s and left in 1991. The couple restored it and now offer it as an accommodation option in addition to their standard guest quarters.
Weka Wilds is a great place to stay when walking the track - Christian and Kelly can whip you up a homecooked meal or woodfired pizza, and if you’re keen on hunting or fishing can advise you where to go (they’ve lived in the valley for 20 years).
There are also places to stay in Motu, Opotiki, and nearby Te Waiti.
Pākihi Track is part of Motu Trails, which is one of 22 Great Rides on Ngā Haerenga, New Zealand Cycle Trails. The other sections are, the Dunes Trail in Ōpōtiki, Motu Road, and Rere Falls Trail, which is an onroad journey to Gisborne. Pākihi and the Dunes Trail are shared use, with walkers about half the total trail use.
Mobile coverage is patchy at best on Pākihi Track, and a personal locator beacon is recommended. With a difference of 400 vertical metres from start to finish (the Motu Road Pakihi Track entrance is at 500m), dressing warm in layers is key.
Find the Motu Trails Cycleway on Facebook/Instagram, or at www. motutrails.co.nz.
For a brochure/map and booklet, posted to you free anywhere in New Zealand, just email jim@motutrails. co.nz or message the Facebook page with your address.
Skye Wishart is an outdoors-loving freelance writer who authored the 2019 book ‘The Brilliance of Birds’, and specialises in science, environment and tourism content.