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The entire track network passes through a forest of nikau palms. Their abundance lends a jungle-like quality to the forest and you almost expect snakes to dangle from the branches and monkeys to dance around the tree tops.
Morere Springs are 8 km north of Nuhaka and 58 km from Gisborne along SH2. The springs are signposted by the large parking area near the Morere Store.
The track starts from the main entrance complex.
The Nikau Loop Tack is the hub of the track network at Morere Springs and most other tracks radiate from the loop, like spokes.
The initial 10 minutes to the Nikau Pools is tarsealed and well furnished with benches. The naming of the track becomes immediately apparent.
From the picnic benches by the pools, skirt around the bathhouse and cross 2 bridges, passing the junction with the Mangakawa Track and Ridge Track. The surface becomes a little more uneven with occasional tree roots to negotiate. The undulating sections are aided with steps on the return to the main complex.
The nikau is the most southerly naturally growing palm in the world, with leaves up to 3 metres long and 2 metres wide. The coral-like flowers grow on spikes below the crown and above the trunk, ringed by closely spaced leaf scars. In his definitive book The Native Trees of New Zealand, Professor J.T. Salmon contends the selection of nikaus at Morere is the finest in the country.
The 363 hectare scenic reserve at Morere is a rare tract of indigenous forest on the East Coast and is characterised by a preponderance of nikau palms. These exhibit all stages of maturity, from ground dwelling bushes with arching fronds to majestic trees shading the forest floor. Kohekohe and tawa also prevail in the dense green forest, with a noticeable change to rimu and beech on the ridges.
Although the hot springs at Morere had been known for centuries by the Ngati Kahungunu tribe for therapeutic and healing purposes, European ‘discovery’ was only recorded by the Lands and Survey Department in 1889. In 1895 the Nuhaka Thermal Springs Reserve was gazetted.
Early analysis of the spring water revealed it contained over 1700 times the quantity of iodine found in sea water and was a tonic for the relieving of minor ailments. It’s drawback was the fact the spring was sited up a steep gully prone to slips and located on a road which was notoriously impassable, especially during winter months.
A.S Wohlmann, the first Government appointed balneologist, reported mud of a metre deep on this first visit to Morere, but concluded the setting was so fantastic, any development should be in keeping with the surroundings.
In 1904 the rather basic initial bathhouse construction was superseded by a small building sponsored by the government and lit with natural gas collected from the springs. Storms frequently filled the pool with silt and slips often severed the pipeline to drinking fountains further down the valley.
A women’s bathhouse, with 2 tiled baths, was built in 1919 to complement the main Number 2 bathhouse which boasted 3 baths. Morere holds the distinction of being the first spring that permitted mixed bathing (with costumes God forbid!), however policing the changing facilities to thwart peeping Toms proved a problem for Mr E. Kennedy, the government appointed caretaker.
The swimming pool near the entrance complex was constructed in 1936 but faced periodic closure due to slips and floods washing paths and pipelines away. It is now used as the small swimming bath, the larger one being commissioned in 1963. The present Nikau Pools occupy the site of the former lower bathhouse.
The pools have been sublimely landscaped into their surroundings. Although sanitised with stainless steel tubs and formal changing areas, the baths themselves are shaded by a timber awning with the vegetation creeping in around the perimeter. This is a harmonious balance between decadence and nature. Each of the 3 tubs is of varying temperature.
The pools occupy the site of the former Number 2 bathhouse, which was fed via wooden pipes from the spring further up the valley.
North Island ▷ Tairāwhiti Gisborne ▷ Wairoa
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Thanks to all the good people working for the NZ Department of Conservation - for all your hard work - making NZ more beautiful, accessable and healthy! Cheers 😍