White Cliffs Walkway – 26 December 2011

Whenever I hear the world “white cliffs”, the first thing that jumps to mind, is the brewery. And why not. The White Cliffs Brewery makes a lovely brew.

We were visiting in New Plymouth for Xmas when Henriette suggested we do the walk. It is a fairly long hike, 14km point-to-point from Pukearuhe boat ramp to Tongaporutu. So, on the morning of Boxing Day, Deon, Henriette, Gerry and I left for Tongaporutu where we would leave Deon’s car at the picnic area next to the Tongaporutu river. On the way back to the start, the four of us were contemplating whether we allowed enough time to complete the walk, having left the house quite late, but we decided to do it anyway.

At the beginning of the walkway, a number of routes are available. A short loop track which covers a stretch on the beach, that takes you back to the start, but can only be walked during low-tide. This section can also double up as the start of the point-to-point route which we planned to do. But since it wasn’t low tide, we couldn’t do the beach section and opted for the inland route higher up. This route follows the Kapuni to Auckland gas pipeline. A third option lets you walk the point-to-point route until about halfway when you reach the Mt Messenger Track, when you make a right turn to exit on State Highway 3.

The first bit, which felt like kilometres on end, is fairly challenging and mainly uphill on private farms. Up and up and up we went in a blazing hot sun and coupled with extreme humidity, it turned out to be a bit more than a casual stroll in the park.

Grazing cows welcomed us as we made our way to the highest point (Parininihi trig) where we could also spot the gas pipeline. Unfortunately the gorse is threatening to take over in places, but otherwise some lovely indigenous forest provided much needed shelter from the sun.

At about 4 kms, when looking back on the route, you could see the white cliffs that provided the name.

At around the 6 km mark, Te Horo Stock tunnel takes you down to the beach, but this section has unfortunately been closed in recent years due to erosion and lack of maintenance. The tunnel is unstable and dangerous to use. Pity though as this would add something special to the walkway. After a fairly long downhill, you pass a lovely little beach with magnificent rocks with holes and tunnels in the cliffs.

We had two picnic stops en route, feasting on sarmies made with left-over Xmas turkey. These were welcome breaks, as the walk turned out to be a bit of a challenge, since we wanted to cram it into only a couple of hours in extreme heat. It is a tough long walk, and to do the point-to-point route and still enjoy a more relaxed walk, one has to plan travel time ahead to be able to have a vehicle on each side of the walk.

A nice outing which we’d love to do again at low tide, in order to spend some time on the beach.

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