After hiking the Rangiwahia Hut Track, Pa and I decided to attack Deerford Track a few weeks later with his ole mate Bill. Deerford Track is another track on the Ruahine Range in the Manawatu Region of the North Island, though not quite as long or as steep. It was nice going with someone slightly less fitter than I was. It meant it wasn't always me asking for a breather!
Hiking time: 3-4 hours for the whole loop
Difficulty: Varies, the track starts off flat but then becomes steeper on the way up
Fitness level: Medium to high as there are some steep climbs
Access: Public road then a short walk through farmland from the carpark to the start of the track
A Rural Start
Deerford track starts with a flat walk through farmland before heading down into the bush. I got lulled into a false sense of security thinking, "well, this is a bit easy!" Just don't look up or you'll see the looming Ranges above you with a sense of dread. You just know that soon enough you'll be up in them. A lovely sweaty, slightly aching but satisfied, panting mess. Well, at least I was.
Soon after we entered the bush we stumbled upon Makiekie Creek lazily meandering down the hillside, luckily it hadn't rained much in the previous days so crossing the creek was fairly easy. Jumping from rock to rock pretending to be a frog (I would say something more glamorous and graceful, but let's face it, I am neither of these adjectives) was rather fun.
Once we passed the creek (no Trolls as there wasn't a bridge) we came to a junction. Left or right? We took the right track which is steeper. This enabled us to time our lunch break sitting in the glade beside the creek on the way back just right. Plus a less steep decline = less of a chance of falling on your bum right??
The track suddenly steepened soon after we made our big decision. Our blanket of false sense of security was quickly wiped out from under us. This was the point where I was wondering if we had made the right decision. But alas, as I was the youngest by a good 25 years, I had to keep up the pretence of being the fittest.
Dads Know Everything
Dads just know everything, don't they? One of the reasons why I love hiking with my Pa so much is that he indulges my curiosity. He is a Fountain of Knowledge, a Walking Nature Google, an Outdoors Guru if you will. I am constantly curious. I ask a lot of questions, usually whatever pops into my head. Sometimes random, other times not so much. I tend to ask a lot of questions about the bush, birds and surroundings we are in.
It must be like taking a 3 year old for a walk. "What is that called?" "Why?" "What kind of tree is that?" "Why?" "What's that birdsong we can hear?"
Curious By Nature
A striking pink and white bush lay along the edges of the track in varying stages of growth. Pa told me to bite down on one of the leaves. Now, I am a very trusting person. Sometimes that trust gets me into a spot of bother. As it did this time, I trustfully took his advice and bit down on the stiff leaf. The result was an unpleasant hotness filling my mouth and a need to down half a bottle of water. Turns out it was Horopito or Pepperwood. It suits the 'Pepper' part of its name, that's for sure.
Apparently, it is common to ground up these leaves and use them in cooking, much like you would use regular pepper. Thanks, Pa!
To The Top
We made it to the top of our loop and a well-earned sit down was in order! Unfortunately where we sat there wasn't much of a view except the tree trunk across the path. That didn't matter though, we had seen plenty of stunning views in patches along the way up. Perfect for photo (note: catching breath) opportunities. You can carry on up Shorts Track or continue on Deerford Track to complete the loop. As we had only allowed for the shorter time frame, we carried on down Deerford Track.
The Long Descent
The sharp decline was treacherous at times. Tree roots wound their way in front of our footing and logs lay stubbornly across the dirt path, tired of life. Both Bill and Pa each had a walking stick ('coz they're old, you know) (actually called Trekking Poles but walking stick seemed more apt) whilst I didn't have one. Murphy's Law had it that they both ended up with their feet in the air, while mine stayed firmly planted to the ground. Winning.
We didn't have to stop as much on the way down but we did have to tread carefully. There were times where the path had obstacles in the way or the rocky descent made it slow going.
A Sunny Lunch Time Glade
As our tummies rumbled we could also hear the trickling of the creek nearby. Yes! It was lunchtime. Lunch always tastes best sitting in the middle of the bush with nothing to assault the ears other than the gentle flow of water, rustling grass and birds hiding in nearby trees, their songs letting their presence known.
We crossed the creek and landed in a little glad slightly sheltered in the trees. Sitting on the slightly damp grass with a cup o' tea was just the ticket. Getting up again afterwards wasn't quite so easy. We took a quick 30-second detour off the track and spied a hidden waterfall. Hidden waterfalls are natures lucky pennies. Only you can't pick them up. But they are good luck. Well, I think so anyway.
We set off again and soon found the fork in the track. Once again, we headed back over the creek towards the farmlands and our car for a quiet, yet contented trip home.
- Take plenty of water. You will need it
- Allow plenty of time to stop and take in the views (note: to take a breather)
- A good pair of walking boots are needed for Deerford Track as the ground is uneven in parts
- A trekking pole will help keep your balance on the downhills
- Always tell someone where you are going and what time you are approximately expected back
- Check the weather before going, you don't want to get stuck in a storm. That's never fun.
Nothing beats being surrounded by Mother Nature in all her glory. It really is my happy place. Deerford Track is a lovely half day walk. While the climbs can be challenging, the views are worth it.
I would love to hear about your happy place, where you like to hike and any recommendations of great hikes. For more information about Deerford Track and hiking safety tips check out the Department of Conservations website.
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