Monthly Archives: February 2014

Forgotten World and Taranaki

After finishing our big walk we arrived back at the van to find we couldn’t open the sliding door from outside and inside. A trip to a large town gave us the embarrassing news that the kiddie lock was engaged. We needed to get away from modern technology and headed for the Forgotten World – a highway through an area of past glories by pioneering farmers and rugged railway builders. The  now unused railway track has over 20 tunnels as it passes underneath the hills that the road winds its way over giving views over the countryside.

After two days we arrived in Stratford at the foot of Taranaki (Mt Egmont) and drove up the mountain side to check out Wilkies Pools, a river scoured by water and pretty Dawson Falls.

We found a very helpful lady at Stratford i-Site and decided to head for North Egmont to walk the three day Pouakai circuit, a loop track that took us across the side of Taranaki and then around on a ridge of encircling hills. The first day took us straight up via a well made stepped path and then we traversed the side of the mountain with lots of boulders to scramble over and one landslip that advised us not to loiter (as if we would!) and not to disturb the stones (impossible!) Then it was down to Holly Hut where we camped outside and enjoyed the company of four other walkers – three on a circuit of the mountain. Two of them had also climbed to the summit that day. A side trip to Bells Falls completed our efforts.

The second day was down across a swamp and then up a ridge dotted with sculptural cedar trees. We decided to do the side trip to Pouakai Trig as our whole day’s walk was only 4.7k. The cloud had closed in and we hoped for a break but it wasn’t to be. The cloud started lifting about 4pm when we were at Pouakai Hut so I took advantage and went on to Pouakai Tarns to get photos with reflections of the mountain. At night we felt on top of the world as New Plymouth on the coast below us lit up.

Our last day was all in wet cloud and I was pleased I had visited the tarns the previous day. We climbed up lots of steps to a high point where the sign described the glorious view we couldn’t see. It was then down, down the mountain hanging on to roots and trees on the eroded track. Crossing one stream on wet rocks made us appreciate that the last river crossing was bridged ( even if it was a swaying swingbridge made out of just wire with views to the fast flowing water way below.) Ray gallantly walked the last 40 minutes up the road to the car while I nobly minded the packs.

New Plymouth gave us a chance to wash and also get the minor fixes done on the car that were supposed to have been completed before it was handed over. We took the day to complete a coastal walk complete with horse riders for local colour and then climb the volcanic rock that overlooks the harbour. It began with wooden steps and ended up a steep rock face while I hung onto the chain for dear life – definitely a step up from Mt Warning!  We finished the climb with a celebratory loop the loop by two passing planes. Our caravan park also overlooked the harbour from the other side and provided some nice sunsets.

We headed on around the coast visiting a shipwreck and lighthouse for our last views of Taranaki.

The many faces of Taranaki – a classic mountain.

Tongariro Northern Circuit

After finally picking up our van we headed down the coast to a little village called Raglan. The weather put paid to our plans to climb a mountain so we carried on to Waitomo, home of limestone caves full of glowworms and lots of adventurous activities. We were boring and I chose a nice walking tour on which I could take photographs ( most cave tours don’t allow it, you have to buy their pictures.) I was told the 9am tour wasn’t happening and I could wait for the 10am one but the guide didn’t feel like sweeping and took me on my own personal tour. We went down into a deep hole and I was shown glowworms and told all about them and got to ask lots of questions. I also got to take pictures and though they didn’t turn out as well as the postcards, I enjoyed it. The weather report showed a big high in the Tasman sea and looked promising so we booked in to walk the Tongariro circuit, camping rather than the huts as one of them was full.

The first day saw us walking in mist and drizzle and I started to wonder if this is what mainly fine meant in the mountains – it wasn’t raining! However as we headed over to the eastern side of the range mountains started to appear and so did the sun. By the end of fifteen kilometres we were pleased to see the hut and it was a mansion, recently built up to new building regulations. Even though we were camping and paying much less ($14 as opposed to $32) we still had full use of the kitchen and dining area complete with hot water, gas cookers and solar lights. We were quite pleased to escape to our cosy campsite by the river at the end of the day.

The next day dawned without a cloud in the sky and the mountains in full view after hiding for the previous week. We felt sorry for the walkers going the opposite way to us on their last day after miserable weather previously. We had an easy stroll of 7.5 km to the next hut though it didn’t fell that easy as we went up and down over ridges but always with glorious views, especially of Ngauruhoe as it loomed ominously closer. We felt very weak when we met two girls strolling by doing the whole circuit in a day ( we also met many others skipping huts and powering on through but we enjoyed our leisurely pace.) The next hut was much smaller and very cosy for the full house of people but it did encourage everyone to chat. We were treated to a colourful display of clouds over the mountains at sunset with the full moon rising in the opposite direction.

Our big crossing day started early but everyone else seemed to be up to see the sunrise too. The walk took us across a rugged volcanic landscape to the foot of the ridge that would take us up. We joined with a group of other walkers there as they also puffed their way up. At the top we were rewarded with the sight of a well named Emerald Lake and a daunting climb up yet another ridge to the top. It was hard going as the surface was very loose. Finally the top was reached and we enjoyed the view with all the other hundreds of walkers up there on their way to completing the Tongariro Crossing, New Zealand’s most famous day walk. We took the side trip out to Mt Tongariro after deciding I would not make it up Ngauruhoe though the others we were walking with did. It was then lots of downhill on a well made and stepped path to our final hut.

The last day was just a gentle stroll apart from all the eroded gullies that definitely need fixing.

Auckland and surrounds

We’ve arrived here in Auckland and are in the process of buying a van for our trip around the North Island. Auckland is a sprawling city set around the harbour with numerous headlands and islands in the gulf and small remnant volcanoes poking up through suburbia. We visited two of these peaks, travelling by bus to the first and boat to the second. Both gave excellent views back to the city and improved our fitness as we climbed them ( along with being on the second floor of the hostel at the top of a hill!)

We have also discovered the marina at the waterfront that was completely revamped for the America’s Cup back in the 90’s. It is now a very attractive area with great views back to the city and is very well patronized, especially in the evening.

Queen Street, the main drag, has become very well known to us as we walk up and down up to three times a day. We sidestep the beggars and people sleeping on the street (an eye opener!) and stop at our favourite hole in the wall shop selling $5 kebabs. (I was actually glad to have Subway for lunch as a change!!!) We watch amazed as people willingly get slung into the air on a giant bungy ball that they are strapped into and finally visit the homemade ice cream shop after lots of sidelong glances.

While our van was being readied for sale to us we were loaned another van and took the opportunity to get out of Auckland visiting the east and very dramatic west coast.