Into the Wild - Whangamomona Saddle

19 August, 2018

With clear blue skies and a full tank of gas, we started our journey out to Whangamomona. A trip that we have made many times before, but this time we wanted to delve deeper into the heart of Whangamomona. After a few stops on the way to get the perfect Instagram shot, we finally found ourselves at the top of the Whangamomona Saddle

Whangamomona Saddle 2

After slowly climbing to the peak of the winding road, the sudden quiet and stillness was overwhelming. This is where our adventure was set to begin. We have heard of the walking track on the saddle and driven by it many times but we had never got out of the car to explore it, so we were excited to see what it entailed. Being Whanga, we knew to expect rugged and untamed terrain and we were not disappointed.

The first section of the track was clearly untamed and sent a message that those without a good fitness level should turn back now. We couldn’t help but appreciate Joshua Morgan who had surveyed these tracks and roads back in the olden days. With such dense bush that appeared never ending, it must have felt seemingly impossible to pass these harsh hillsides. With plants growing in the middle of the track, it was clear to us that no one had walked this track in quite some time and we were completely and utterly alone. A feeling that is hard to come by these days.

Whangamomona Saddle 3  Whangamomona Saddle 6

We continued further, and the track got a little more stable and the sound of the birds grew louder. We came to a spot with a gap between the trees that allowed us to look west toward the mountain and see a side of the landscape that you can’t take in when you are driving through it. The vegetation was like no other walking track we had ventured through before. The plants have grown here undisturbed for generations. The huge fungi growing along the trees are examples of this. We were careful not to disturb the vegetation as we trekked on through. If it wasn’t for the occasional hum of a car trying to make the climb up the hill, you’d forget that the signs of civilization were so close. We were warned at the beginning of the track that there was a steep 45-minute climb back to the top of the track so we had agreed to just walk along until we had got a real feel for the place and then return to the car. However, despite our best intentions, every corner we turned and hill we travelled just lured us further and further into the bush. It was captivating and we couldn’t help ourselves from venturing on just a little bit further every time. If it wasn’t the birds singing, it was the sight of the trees that have grown without human interference that twisted and turned with the branches growing in ways we hadn’t seen before.

Whangamomona Saddle 4

I was completely entranced by the sight of a tree whose branches had grown in such a way that it resembled a baby’s cradle high in the tree tops. I couldn’t help but wonder why the branches had grown in this way instead of just going up and out like they usually do. Eventually it was time to turn back as we knew our babysitter would soon been pacing the floor waiting for us to return. Going back through where we had already been was just as eye opening as it was the first time. The trees and vegetation looked different from this angle and it was as inspiring to see this forest as it was the first time through. As we strolled through trying to soak it all in as much as we could before leaving, it was hard to believe that my father and his 10 siblings used to get out of their car at the top of the saddle and run this walkway right to the end appearing at the bottom of the saddle and getting back in the car again. I have no doubt that running through that trail with all its stunning beauty was better than being stuck in an old car with that many siblings all feeling car sick. Luckily today we have much better cars and the road has certainly been improved since those days.

Whangamomona Saddle 5 Whangamomona Saddle 1

When we got back to the car and my rubber arm was twisted to head to the Whangamomona Hotel before returning home and back to reality. We’d only be quick we told ourselves. We arrived at the hotel and were greeted with the same hospitality that always meets us there and sat down for a quick drink (being the responsible driver I had a Sprite). There was a family playing pool, someone eating their lunch and a group of motorcyclists who had also stopped in, which briefly increased the population for Whangamomona.

I tried to convince my husband to go visit the old family homestead and see the bridge my grandfather had built many many years ago, but he rightfully said our time was up. We returned home and although we have explored Whangamomona many times it still found a way to show us something new and make us fall in love with it all over again.

There are never enough hours in the day when you’re visiting Whangamomona but if you ever get the chance to walk the Awahou Ridge Track, I encourage you to do so as it will be an adventure to remember. It is not one for the faint hearted. I look forward to taking my children along it one day when they’re older to show them where their grandfather used to run along as I’m sure many of the plants he ran by will still be growing and thriving in their untouched habitat waiting for the next generation to admire them.

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