Old Wire Track to Wentworth Conservation Camp

Apparently (according to a real person we met, not Google), the Old Wire Track gets its name because during The New Zealand Wars (or The Maori Wars if you’re into Retro History), the only way to get a telegram to Auckland from Wellington was to avoid the chaos of the King Country and divert the ‘wires’ up the side of the island through the hills at the base of the Coromandel Peninsula.

The wires used to travel over the track we were to take on day 53. Our route was sitting there in Fiona’s GPS and marked in fluorescent ink on her paper maps.

Up until that day we’d pretty much walked a series of documented tramping routes. Sure, there were a few road stretches here and there, but they generally joined well known tracks with huts and orange triangles and stuff like that. Most of The Spine of the Fish is already sitting there waiting to be walked.

The Coromandel, our last section, is different.

I took a photograph of Fiona planning the trip a few months before we left. In it she’s sitting on the floor of our lounge with about three metres of A4 colour photocopies taped together. This was to be the basis of our Coromandel route.

Compared with most of the North Island’s Forest Parks, the Coromandel is a mess. Many of its sections don’t join and many of its tracks have fallen into disuse. If you wonder why I get so uptight about the state of the tracks in my local Forest Park, The Ruahine, it’s because I don’t want it to end up like the Coromandel.


with heaps of research that included hours of reading, googling and talking to people, Fiona finally found what looked like a route through. Some of it is pretty fanciful but it’s all we’ve got.

The Old Wire Track was one of the first times she would get to test her research…

We woke to a very heavy dew, ate our breakfast, packed our tent then headed down the road.

As we’ve come to expect, the weather was perfect. It was ANZAC Day morning so we figured we wouldn’t see many people out and about. We left the road about a kilometre along it and followed the Garmin up a marked motorcycle trail…our first. It wound around itself for a while before going over a stream and following a fence line through some nice regenerating forest.

I was impressed and Fiona was hopeful…until the track took off up a hill while the GPS told us to go sideways into thick Supplejack. We wandered around for ages trying to find the historical trail.

The Maritoto track that we’d walked on the day before was so well benched and cut that we’d assumed it was an old bridle trail. We’d figured The Old Wire Track would be similar.

But the more we tried to find it the more confused we got. Sometimes it’s just best not to over think these things so we set ourselves some parameters and went back to the ‘obvious’ track that we’d left because it wasn’t on the GPS.

It took us on a bit of a meander but a meander that slowly dragged us to our destination – a four wheel drive track that would lead us up and over to the Wentworth campground.

The 4WD track

Leaving the 4WD track

The big clay 4WD track was a breeze. Vehicle tracks look more convoluted on maps but that’s usually just because walking tracks are too convoluted and small to fit all the curves in on a Topo 50. We sailed up it. Just before the top we had to duck into a siding as a couple of motorbikes gingerly made their way past.

We met Garth and James just before we got to the top. They’ve just got into offroad bikes and weren’t to sure of the track. Their racing machines were overgeared for the conditions too.   

James L and Garth R

Although they weren’t locals they had motorbike info for us that trampers don’t have. They told us about ABC Rock, Slippery Rock and an unmarked and unofficial hut. It was all info that will find its way into our route notes…along with instructions to avoid the lower section of Old Wires Track which is no longer public.

We soon found ourselves picnicking on ABC Rock. We knew this because the rock we ate our cheese and crackers on has ‘ABC’ scratched into it in 80cm high letters.

ABC Rock

Slippery Rock was also pretty obvious – because it was slippery, and yes, there is a little three walled hut at the top of the climb where the 4WD track ends. It had a picnic table inside it and two foam mattresses outside it for some reason. It also has a fire circle and plenty of tent space. It sits right beside the Tairua River crossing.

The track down to the DoC camp was easy but rough. People (not Garth and James), have ridden it on motorbikes so there are quite a few long, deep, wheel-width gouges cut through it, with some so bad that large sections of the track have been detoured around by walkers.

An hour before the campground things get pedestrian. There is a scenic waterfall that drags tourists up to it so the track has been widened and graveled.

It’s an easy way to end the day.  

We pitched our tent in the sun and were soon chatting to the camp warden, Niki, an Australian and self confessed Bird Lady. She’d just released a rehabilitated Kereru into the beautiful forest that surrounds the park and is still visited by a tui that her and her boys rescued as a featherless baby. It had been so needy as a youngster that they’d taken it to the movies with them. The bird often comes back to visit with a mate and sometimes a juvenile.

While we talked, the place was a riot. Tui chased each other like dogfighting aircraft, bellbirds ding donged and Kereru feasted on the last of the berries in the trees above us.

It was the most active birdlife we’d seen since we’d left Wellington’s Krazy Kaka a couple of months before. There was plenty of food and the park’s large number of campers probably keep the stoats away.

We spent a long evening talking about politics, religion and blue meanies with our neighbours, Terry and Della, before turning in well past our usual bedtime of seven.