Tiromoana Bush Walk
In the Hurunui district, about an hour north of Christchurch, lies Waipara, from where the Mt Cass road leads east towards the coast. A mix of sealed and unsealed, the road snakes for 10km until the unassuming car park for the Tiromoana bush walk appears. The sign at the start of the walk regarding dogs on the track doesn’t mince its words: this is not a place to come walk the pooch. The view from the car park is of rolling green hills and sheep grazing the landscape. The walk itself is through privately owned land, and is closed during the lambing season during the months of August and September.
Not far from the car park is the first spur track, a very short detour to Barbara’s lookout which gives the first glimpse of the Pacific Ocean in the distance. From here it is a steep hike downhill through some forest until a sign at Ridge Junction signals the option to take the loop in a clockwise or anti-clockwise direction. I opted to go anti-clockwise, so the route followed a ridge to Ella Pond Lookout, from where the large Ella pond is nestled amongst a dip in the rolling landscape, with the Pacific Ocean getting nearer in the background. At this time of year (November), the gorse is in full flower. Despite being an unwanted pest species introduced from Europe, it lends a beautiful yellow colour to the landscape.
Through the fence line to the left of the path is farmland, with flocks of sheep grazing nearby. Another spur track leads up to the Pegasus Bay lookout, which I was disappointed in when I got there. It is actually quite a restricted view of the ocean with trees and farmland obscuring a lot of the view. Downhill from here, the walk snakes through a forested area to the Forestry Junction. The path to Rocky Ridge is currently closed until further notice. The route to the beach continues downhill past reams of flowering gorse bushes to Ngaio Junction. This is the only place on the whole walk where there is a toilet, and it is little more than a portaloo at the side of the track. The Clifftop Lookout spur track follows the fence line of a neighbouring sheep grazing paddock and there were lots of lambs around. The path does peter out though, and the latter part is not very obvious as it weaves across the clifftop. For this reason, I chose not to continue on it, and headed back to the main track.
The final downhill section loops round to Kate Ford where a small ladder over the fence allows you to gain access to the beach. It is a sandy track winding along and across a small stream as it snakes its way to the sea. The dunes here are massive, and it is possible to explore the beach here in either direction but this is the only access point to the track. In the far distance to the south, it is possible to make out the hilly outline of Banks Peninsula. Back at Kate Ford it is all uphill from here. The path snakes up beside farmland, and at one stage you have to go through a deer gate to skirt round some private land. With the Pacific Ocean to your left, you regain altitude, passing a spur track at Kanuka South and reaching another one at Ella Peak Junction. I took the spur track up to Ella Peak where I had my lunch. Even on an overcast day like the one I had, it was a fantastic view along the coast of Pegasus Bay both to the north and the south. Behind the viewpoint, the rolling hills disappeared into the distance. This is the highest point of the walk at 346 metres above sea level.
Back on the main track, it isn’t far to Kanuka North which is connected to Kanuka South by a spur track. A little bit further and there is a viewing platform which overlooks a natural gully. Continuing on from here, and the path drops down to a wetland. At Kate Bridge, the path cuts up the side of the wetland which was home to a large flock of Canada Geese. It is then just a final slog up the hillside and through another deer fence to Ridge Junction, and then backtrack up the steep hill through the forest, past Barbara’s lookout and back to the car park.