The Waimana Valley is located in the northern part of the Te Urewera National Park. Access to the valley is along Bell Road, a turnoff near Nukuhou North on SH2 (Whakatane 29 km, Opotiki 27 km). The safest place to park is at the Te Urewera Education Lodge, 27 km from the turn-off.
There is camping available at the Eight Acre Campground a further 2 km from the lodge. Another two km on and the road end is reached at Otapukawa Stream. There is ample parking here too.
Actually a 4WD can travel further into the valley to the start of the Six Foot Track, however this is across private land and at the time of writing (30/4/06) the track has actually been washed away just on the other side of the Otapukawa Stream, plus there are a number of slips on the track further along.
Having parked the car at the Education Lodge, we continued on along the gravel road. Along the way we passed the Eight Acre Camping Ground (30 mins), a great spot by the Tauranga River. Continuing on we came to the Otapukawa Stream about an hour after leaving the lodge. There is plenty of parking space here, but it's probably not the safest spot around.
Across the stream we noticed that recent flooding had washed away the road, so vehicles can no longer easily reach the settlement of Tauwharemanuka, which leads to the start of the Six Foot Track.
We forded the stream and followed the track through farmland onto the start of the Six Foot Track (1h 45 mins). The Six Foot Track is a surveyed road line that was designed to connect the settlements of Waimana, Tawhana and Maungapohatu. It now forms a handy tramping tramp into the Waimana Valley and does continue on to the Maungapohatu settlement.
The track is easy and relatively flat yet can be quite muddy in places. After about an hour from the start of the track we passed the turnoff for Te Pourewa Hut, our destination in two days time. We continued on, crossing the Otane Stream, through the land surrounding the settlement of Tawhana. Near the settlement we crossed the Tauranga river via the swing bridge and continued on along the Six Foot Track as it follows the Tawhana stream.
At this point we had a choice of continuing along the Six Foot Track or dropping down to the Tawhana Stream. As it was a warm and sunny day, we chose the stream option. We walked along the stream for about an hour, sometimes cutting off turns in the stream by walking along lovely grassy flats.
Te Panaa Hut can be spotted off in the distance, sitting up on a terrace over-looking the valley. A welcome sight after a good day's tramping up the valley. After about an hour from the swing bridge at Tawhana, an obvious track leads upwards from the junction of the Tawhana and Oireakahanui streams. 15 minutes later we were resting on the verandah outside the hut, admiring the beautiful view back down Waimana Valley.
The hut sleeps 10 and is in very good condition. Judging by the entries in the hut book, it was frequented by trampers rather than hunters, with a group of Auckland trampers passing through only a few days before.
We had got our timing perfect, about an hour after we arrived the drizzle set in and later the rain began.