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Walking the Great 9 - Lake Waikeremoana

New Zealand over recent years has grown increasingly popular to people far and wide who come to explore it’s truly amazing parks and coastlines. Spending 2 years in the South Island, I had become familiar with the quiet roads and parks, knowing I could venture into the wilderness without really having to travel enormously far from my doorstep. The North Island it had always seemed for me, was a place I wouldn’t be able to find the wilderness so easily, or so I thought. With the main attractions of the North island being presented with it’s central volcanic activity, my move to Wellington had opened my eyes to new places which were otherwise, less explored.

The 9 Great walks of New Zealand cover the most iconic settings of New Zealand, some of which are more popular than others. My 4th great walk was to be that of the Lake Waikeremoana, located in the Te Uruwera national park. In all honesty, I didn’t know much about the walk or it’s history before setting foot on the trail, only hearing that it’s setting was to be very secluded and a very quiet place to venture. Travelling to the heart of this park it became increasingly isolated, tribes and communities alike living off the land with the sight of the modern world and its technologies nowhere to be seen. The damage of the floods back in Easter present with the state highway seemingly only just getting back to normal shape; huge stacks of boulders and trees at both sides of the route.

The trail has 2 ends to which you can start/ finish it, and depending on logistics, you can have a water taxi pick you up at the finish and bring you back to the start point (details on those at the end) I arrived at the start of the trail at Onepoto Bay Landing after a 3 hour drive from Roturua, beginning the trail at midday to a foggy/ overcast setting. The trail didn’t hold back in providing an incine and as soon as I turned the corner it was to be a 3km uphill slog up the looming Penekire bluff. With the fog becoming thicker the higher I ascended, the forest provided an eerie feel to it with a thin mist running along the trail. Reaching the top of the ridge was and is the big highlight of the whole trail, providing a lookout over the whole lake; seemingly almost as if it were birds eye view. Level with the clouds up here, it was an amazing sight.

I pressed on, going up and over the bluff dropped down the steep side over countless steps and rutted routes I arrived early evening at my first overnight stay, Waipaoa hut. I set up camp here for the night, and being sheltered the ever-present bluff overhead, it was a calm and settled night upon the lake. It was an overcast night and yet I had still not seen anyone to be walking the Great Walk, up to now I had experienced relatively busy great walks but this was different, tranquil even and I liked it.

The next day was to be a big day of hiking, I awoke with the morning sunrise to open my tent door to an amazingly calm lake with the rays of sunlight breaking over the Penekire bluff, summer was on it’s way! With my belongings packed into my trusty Macpac Cascade pack, I set off to Korokoro falls, a 30 minute diversion off the main track but definitely worth it. A 10 metre waterfall in the heart of the Te Urawera forest, it was here I realised how much solitude I was experiencing here. Sometimes on the busy trails you lose that sense of wilderness and so the appeal for me, is lost. I find it’s often the trails and routes you take which are far more detached from civilisation providing that sense of wilderness which provide a more exhilarating feeling.