Photography, Joanna Walden.
Hidden in the depths of the Wairarapa is an absolute treasure for adventure enthusiasts of all ages. A short drive from Martinborough takes you to Patuna Farm and the start of a four-hour intrepid journey.
We set off after being piled into the back of an open trailer with 16 antique cinema seats strapped in and a giant steel pole to brace ourselves with. We were tossed around for 15 minutes as the four-wheel drive towed us to the start point, where we hopped off for a small briefing with farm owner Alan.
The track starts with a gentle bushwalk past striking limestone features before descending a cliff-edge path enclosed with makeshift scaffolding and ropes, to the riverbed where you spend the next 1.5-2 hours navigating slippery stones and dodging eels as you explore the cavernous underworld.
We waded upriver in ankle deep water, a little brisk in autumnal temperatures, leading to a stunning waterfall adorned with vibrant green mossy ledges, glistening with a profound sense of magic as the water fell through the rays of sunlight peeking through the bush high above the canyon.
Heading back down the river towards the depths of the chasm, we traversed knee-deep rapids and tested our balance on the slimy mid-river rocks. Making our way in and out of the gentle whitewater, we continued downstream, passing the carcasses of unlucky farm animals who had fallen into the ravine.
The terrain is varied and slightly dangerous, which ensures you always keep your wits about you, so as not to end up in the drink. Climbing giant boulders embedded with fossilised scallop shells, heading down makeshift ladders and navigating through darkness and waist-deep water all solidify the exhilaration and mystery of this incredibly adventurous journey.
From the get-go, the group was buzzing with anticipation of the optional 1.5 metre-deep river crossing at the end. Grand speculation and readjusting of clothing and bags at many points en route ensued, however a small arrow scrawled with “SWIM” pointing further downstream, alerted those who wished to walk back instead to exit the river.
The rest of us continued on to find ourselves neck-deep in the freezing water, clamouring to keep our bags above our heads for the breathtaking last 10 metre finale of the chasm walk. Just amazing!
15 minutes’ drive from Martinborough.
Bookings open 1 September 2021; new season opens 12 November 2021. $30 per person. Allow 4 hours from arrival to departure. The walk itself lasts 2-2.5 hours.