Te Kopahou Reserve’s Waipapa Loop: A Christmas Day Adventure

I believe everybody should have something poignant, and/or relevant, to say about their Christmas Day.

I believe this more and more, with each year that passes.

My reasons are simple; your Christmas Days are indeed limited (please, never ever fall into the time trap – time’s finite, fo’ shizzle), and you only get one shot at each of them.

So, make ’em count.

Of course, the process of rating a thing as either “poignant” or “relevant” is spectacularly subjective, and really boils down to priorities, and personal experience/s.

Your something could in fact be anything.  A moment (or if you’re lucky, a multitude of them) with a very special someone that you haven’t seen in years.  Or, maybe you took a complete leap of faith, and did yourself proud.

Whatever yours is, I want you to know this: you have every right to choose that thing, and to assume absolute ownership.  And, you are not obliged to offer or to suffer anybody else’s self-proclaimed expertise on the matter, not ever

They have not walked in your shoes.

That is all; and quite frankly, that’s enough.

Earlier this month I posted my thoughts about Christmas Day 2015, and what I had planned.  At that stage I hadn’t decided where I might go – I simply knew that I was, and that that was enough, back then.

I finally settled upon Pariwhero-Red Rocks, and on the adventure of re-acquainting myself with ‘Te Kopahou Reserve’.

Best.  Decision.  Ever.

This hike is no low-level stroll.  No-no, you’d best be prepared to get hot and sweaty from the outset – or in my case: hot, sweaty, and covered in hives (this hasn’t happened since I was a kid), *ugh*.  More on that later.

If you consider this map of Te Kopahou, and the sheer amount of ‘whenua’ (*Māori word for “land”, “territory”, and/or “ground”) involved, then you’ll get a far more accurate sense of just how much track-and-trail we’re about to cover.  The reserve is huge, and we’re doing a few of these trails all in one hit – ‘cos we can.

– The Coastal Track –

I started at the Ōwhiro Bay entrance, and wound my way ’round to Pariwhero-Red Rocks in an easy-breezy kind of fashion (*I confess: it’s the only way I know how).  This is a gentle walk, and a fabulous introduction to the surrounding landscape you’re about to become familiar with.

Past here and around one more corner is some well-placed signage at the foot of the hill/s.  Spot this, and you’ve found your entry-point into the Reserve – well, the one I took, anyway.  Fairly well-frequented by runners and cyclists, this shizz is busy, but the most fun and interesting way of getting up this hill that I know of, period.

At the top, on a secluded wee saddle of-sorts, you can opt to go left or right.  Choose left, and climb all the way to the top.  Here, we jump enthusiastically on to the ‘Waipapa Loop’ portion of our trail.

Take a moment – hell, take a couple – and just appreciate that view (^).

– Waipapa Loop –

“The Loop” is where all the various veins and arteries of Te Kopahou connect and merge.  Choice is in abundance, and again we move left…

And down, and around.

We cover a lot of whenua, here.

Headed down into the valley floor, and up the other side.  Hands-down winner of the ‘Most Difficult Climb’ award.

This is where I chose to stop (^), and eat.  My Christmas Day lunch consisted of potato-bacon-gherkin salad, ciabatta rolls, a Pixie Caramel chocolate bar, and some of those wonderful little Angel tomatoes that you can buy these days at the supermarket.

You can see really easily in these photos the long grass that was growing unhindered all over the place.  The added necessity of having to wade through this, coupled with my insatiable appetite for the aforementioned tomatoes, resulted in my worst case of hives in a long while.  My forearms were covered – and all I could do was reminisce (*Mum used to growl me on a regular basis for eating too many tomatoes when I was little), laugh, and resolve to solve everything when I got back home.  Of course, I know my body, and I’d already taken a gentle antihistamine – apparently that wasn’t enough of a buffer, this time.

I do also need to make mention of how incredibly significant the name “Waipapa” is, in my world.  As well as being the name of this particular trail route at Te Kopahou, Waipapa is also the name of my home marae on my Dad’s side.

How’s that for poignant and relevant.

Perhaps not surprisingly, despite still feeling like I’ve only just lost them (*this Christmas is my second without Mum and Dad), I never once felt alone today…

Just wanted to acknowledge that, and give thanks.

– The Bunker –

Having sufficiently recovered and re-fuelled, this is where you get to settle-in and smash-out one last hill-climb.  Of course, like everything along these tracks what goes up literally must come down again, but IMO this downhill is one of the most intrepid on the trail.

The descent… If you’re looking at this view, then you’re on the apex of a bluff overlooking Sinclair Head.  Take your time with this one – the kupu “steep” is nowhere near sufficient or accurate enough, here.
Remains of the Rimurapa-Sinclair Head WW2 observation bunkers.

An easy (comparatively) 5 minute hill-climb leads you to the very top of this bluff, and to these observation-post bunkers (^).  I had already chosen the one I would eventually end up sprawled-out on, perched on the very tip of the bluff itself.  I can honestly say I felt extremely satisfied up here as I snoozed, sun-baked, and snacked the afternoon away.

I thoroughly recommend (*grins*).

– The Return –

This really doesn’t need to be difficult, and essentially you have two choices: (1) go back the same way you came, or (2) take the short-cut I’m about to tell you about, and pop-out along the beach right next to where you entered the Reserve initially.

For me personally, this is a “no-brainer”.  My car’s parked at the Ōwhiro Bay entrance and I’m ready to move, so I feel completely relaxed about short-cutting it down the hill.  I’m not saying you’ll necessarily have an easy time of things – the terrain’s actually pretty rugged; but this is definitely a much better choice if you’re seeking a quicker exit-route.

You start here, along this track that sits immediately off to the right of the hill with the bunkers.  The yellow track-marker is your biggest and most important beacon – prioritise, follow, chase, and do not lose this marker.

This, whānau, is the one ‘gift’ that’ll help get you out.

You’ll make your way through all sorts of obstacles – some rather intense scrub and a small waterfall, just to give you a heads-up – but every single inch is totally do-able.  And, mad-as fun.

My advice here is to simply keep moving towards the little “bach” (*or “crib”, or “beach house” – whichever term you prefer) that you see from amidst the flax and flora en-route to the bottom.  Hold on to as many leaves and tree branches as you possibly can – fuck, just do whatever, really, to get down.

You’ll know when you’re there – you’ll pop-out right next to the property owner’s wood shed, with a tell-all grin deliberately smeared across your sun-kissed beet-red face.

Well done, you.

Okay – a couple of extra tid-bits, and we’re all done here:

  • Wear shoes with traction – take your hiking boots, your gutsiest trail shoes, or whatever you use.  You will need them – I can’t emphasise this enough;
  • Take an all-day supply of fluid, food, and snacks;
  • Sun protection is a must-do, too.

Real common-sense stuff, eh.

So, at the risk of repeating myself:

I believe everybody should have something poignant, and/or relevant, to say about their Christmas Day;

And this, right here, was mine.

Peace, love, thanks, and blessings;


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