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Blowhard Bush is a delightful forest enclave in an otherwise bare landscape. Administered by Forest and Bird, there’s a network of tracks with an orchestra of dulcet birdsong around. Chances are it will be a windy day on your visit to Blowhard Bush, which has been named in the same imaginative ilk as Sandy Bay, Rocky Point and Avalanche Peak. The wind funnels through the saddle near Kuripapango and is accelerated by the venturi effect to hammer exposed ridges like this.
A network of tracks lead through this interesting remnant of podocarp-broadleaf forest, much of which escaped the fires of last century. Intriguing rock formations of Waitotaran limestone nestle among rimu, miro, kahikatea and fuchsia trees. The rocks and boulders are weathered by water into fascinating shapes and there is a maze of tunnels, passages and caves between them.
11 km south of Taradale turn into Taihape Road at Omahu. This remains sealed for 42 km. 2 km after the seal ends, turn right into Lawrence Road, where a parking area with flash new toilets is on the left after 500 metres.
A signpost at the carpark leads to the start of the track network.
Bounded to the south by Otakarara Stream, the reserve is lovingly managed by the Hastings/Havelock branch of the Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society. The track network is well-trodden and the impeccably marked tracks feature good interpretation.
From the carpark head a few minutes over the regenerating kanuka past the junction with the Troglodyte Track to the shaded forest interior. Take a few minutes to familiarise yourself with the track network and admire the artistic talents of Roy Peacock, who painted the sign.
The track network can be explored in any order you wish and there are no real advantages to following particular routes.
The Troglodyte Track (pink markers) branches from the initial access track from the carpark and traverses low kanuka to a junction, from where a 10 minute loop begins. This follows the arching overhang of a limestone outcrop, presumably eroded by a stream. This is the place where the troll awaits his supper. Crossing a natural bridge is the apex of the loop and a small cave, presumably the troll’s lair.
Following the Tui Track clockwise, weaves through a bizarre landscape of Waitotaran Limestone. These boulders and blocks lie in geometrical patterns and create a labyrinth of passageways among the shaded podocarp/broadleaf forest. The faces of the blocks have been weathered to fluted ripples with interesting textures. Large sink holes (or tomo) are present, so it is best to stay to the marked track.
After approximately 20 minutes climbing, the track exits the forest at a harsher area of kanuka regrowth. The pumice fields a little further on were replanted with the help of local school groups. A look at the surrounding hillsides shows areas of similar texture, where previous removal of vegetation cover has exposed the pumice soils to the ravages of the elements. Without human assistance and replanting, regeneration is a battle.
The 5-minute return detour to the Kaweka Lookout summons a vast and desolate panorama. Mount Kaweka, The Tits and the Kaweka Range fill the horizon, with lesser ridges and plateaux in between. The isolation of this forest remnant is strikingly apparent.
On the descent you shortly pass Lowry Shelter, built by members of the Hastings/Havelock Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society. There is typical Kiwi imagination in the use and re-use of discarded building materials. It formerly occupied a site lower down the reserve, but was moved to its present location in 1993 by Periodic Detention Services.
The small Pakiri Cave announces another labyrinth of passageways. This is just before the Rewi Track (blue markers), which passes a large rimu tree and rejoins the Tui Track by some monolithic matai.
An alternative return can also be accessed by continuing past the junction with the Rewi Track to the Rakaunui Track (yellow markers), which joins the Tui Track 5 minutes above the signpost at the start of the track network.
The pine plantations, logged areas and regenerating remnants on the surrounding hilltops are parched, dusty, exposed pumice soils, fried by the intense summer heat and eroded with the fall of rain.
Bird calls fill the forest and you can expect to be approached by daring North Island robins, who inquisitively spy your movements. Diminutive whiteheads flit between branches and the flap of kereru wings whistles on the air.
Blowhard Bush was gifted to the Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society in 1962 by Mr and Mrs Lowry of ‘Oreka’. Their memory lingers in the naming of Lowry Shelter, along with other plaques in the reserve commemorating the work of other Forest and Bird Members.
North Island ▷ Hawkes Bay ▷ Napier
Great easy track with much diversity of bush with awesome views over the Hawkes Bay. Many birds through great pest management and great stable tracks. Best on a fine day.