Midwinter approaching. Cabin fever creeping up on me in the apartment. Yearning to smell the sweet fragrance of the damp forest…so I contacted my old tramping friend, Steph, and we decided to take off to Maungatautari, near Arapuni, 3 hours drive south of Auckland.
Sanctuary Mountain Maungatautari is a remarkable mainland ecological island protected by the largest predator-proof pest in the world ( finished in 2011- 47km long) , and revealing an ancient tawa-dominant forest within which we glimpsed, and heard the songs of, precious native birds like kiwi, kokako, kaka, hihi, tieke, popokatea, piwakawaka, pitoitoi and miromiro.
Other highlights were the startling orange flowers of northern rata in the treetops, seen from the 16 metre tall canopy tower, and the colourful funghi sprouting all over decaying logs on the forest floor.
We started our exploration of the forest with an informative 2-hour guided tour with local Daniel.
Then early next morning we took off to hear the glorious dawn chorus in the forest, followed by a late afternoon loop walk ending with the call of the North island brown kiwi at dusk. (There is also a night walk available.)
And on our final day we did the walk to Pukeatua Peak and return- part of the 6 hour, 11km Te Wairere cross-mountain trail.
Each night we arrived back to our homely accommodation at family-owned “Out in the Styx” (www.styx.co.nz) for a nourishing dinner beside the fire, then a dunk in a hot spa pool before bed.
Maungatautari provides the best winter tonic one could imagine!
Sanctuary Mountain Maungatautari is an ambitious world-class conservation project, protecting 3400 ha of ancient forest. It is managed by a charitable trust, with 14 staff and 400 volunteers. It includes the Manutioriori Visitor Centre and Educational Programme and guides.
It is well worth a visit, and the Trust deserves our support.
Happy walking, botanising and birdwatching, wherever you are!