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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.

I returned onto the main track with renewed enthusiasm upon seeing another of the track highlights and pressed onward. The track had been closed throughout the winter due to the flooding damage and with the withdrawal of humans from the track had presented an oppunrtunity it seemed for the deer of the area to wonder the tracks. I found more deer prints and sign more than human foot prints; finding their sign even on the swing bridges to which they must have crossed! The track meandered around the lake edge switching back and forth to head up over ridge tops and dropped down once more. The sunlight lit the fern trees to provided an almost summer like warmth; I found myself in T-shirt and shorts for the first time in months! I took a break at Matuiti camp ground, which gave an amazing lookout over the lake with the grand bluff in the background, it’s sheer face slipping down vertically towards the far lake edge. It was early afternoon at this stage, and to the next hut it would be, bumping into the first set of trampers along the way!

Making it to Waihoruru hut, the campsite was once more calm and scenic, providing a grand lake edge view, who knew walking around a lake for 3 days could get better and better as time went on. Here I camped alongside a few other walkers who had started at the opposing end of the track, to which we shared a bonfire and discussed the findings of the track so far, everyone agreeing how great the desolate/ tranquil quietness of the track was. The big 8 hour day of hiking had taken it’s toll and a standard early night was on the cards, with the only sound being that of the native owl, the Mawpawke to be heard.

I had arranged to be picked up at Whanganui hut via the water taxi service ‘Big Bush’ who operate the trail all year round at 10am. I decided to leave in good time and with 6km still to walk before I reached the point of pick-up, I set off early at 7am that morning to reach the water taxi pick-up point. The track here mainly flat, it was easy going with several look outs over the lake which were hard to pass up and not look at, the morning sun glowing over the lake. I reached the pick-up point early and looked out over the lake, I had finished the trail. I had honestly not expected this place to be so surreal as it was, yet it was quiet of the place that was the best part, but just the lake water lapping up on the banks and the birds chirping, that was all that could be heard.

With the water taxi arriving, the journey back to onepoto providing a look-out over the ground I had covered in my 3 day walk around this amazing lake, an amazing feeling and also the completion of my 4th Great walk! The Lake Waikeremoana is a must-do, especially for those looking to take on one of New Zealand's great walks but also a trail that can be done all year round; winter most definitely providing a more isolated feel to it.

I have provided some details on gear that I used for the trip as well as helpful contacts for this trail, thanks once again for having a read of my adventure blogs!

Useful Contacts:

Te Uruwera Visitor Centre - 06 837 3900

Big Bush Water Taxi - 06 8373 777

THE GEAR

Jetboil stove kit

Since taking on a lot more adventures of late, I

feel investing in good, quality equipment is

always a good investment; it makes life in the outdoors that bit easier. Jetboil, produce a variety of different stove kits, different sizes and shapes, ones adapted for cold weather etc. These stove kits boil water at an insanely fast speed, which is definitely handy if your on top of a cold, windy ridge line and in need of a hot cuppa. I wouldn't go on a trip without one of these in my pack now, so take a look at their website www.jetboil.com and see which stove kit best suits you. I opted for the "Mini-mo" set-up which is rated for below freezing temperatures and even has simmer control.

http://www.jetboil.co.nz

Meindl Island Boots

This fabulous boot is superbly comfortable and has what it takes for those who want to explore the

countryside whether on or off trail. This 100% waterproof, Gore-Tex lined boot has integrated pronation and supination zones which promote correct posture and support. I found this boot to be super supportive which definitely helps for the winding trails we found on the circuit. An amazing back country standard boot which could tackle a number of terrains; I honestly don't think i've tried a boot more comfortable. The Meindl Island MFS Active is the most awarded boot in history and has received a Gold Medal Award at the 2009 European Outdoor Expo - voted by a panel of independent experts as the most technically advanced, correctly supportive, and proven outdoor footwear for the last 20 years.

https://meindl.co.nz/collections/mens-boots/products/meindl-island-mfs-active?variant=20053445572

Macpac Cascade 75litre Pack

https://www.macpac.co.nz/cascade-75-v2.html

Macpac Minaret Tent

Purchasing a tent is never easy, it is essentially your home in the outdoors and if you're deciding to take on much more challenging trips, you'll need one that's up to the task. Weight is always a big topic as no-one likes to carry more than they feel they should have to. The Macpac minaret is a 3-season tent built for the weight conscious. Coming in at 2.4kg and classed as a 2-man tent, this definitely was both spacious, light and it stood up to being pitched up on ridge line tops. It comes with a seam sealer which can seal the interior

fly seams to make it fully waterproof, no-one wants to put wet clothes on, right? The interior walls are lined with pockets to place ready to hand belongings and saves you digging through your bag.

Personally, I love this tent and can't wait to get out and use it more and more.

Strangely enough, I look forward to pitching it up!

Check out the link here and see for yourself. http://www.macpac.co.nz/minaret-tramping-tent.html

Macpac Epic 800 Sleeping bag

It's amazing how much the temperature drops when the sun goes down, particularly when your up on the tops. I always would prefer to be too warm than too cold with a sleeping bag, especially if the surrounds you're going to be in are those of the mountains. I opted for the Epic 800 sleeping bag from Macpac. It's designed in a 'mummy' shape which is close fitting which keep you warmer and is rated down to -20. It comes in a water proof sack which saves you the worry of pulling it from a wet pack and it being soaked as well. They come in different sizes short/tall as well to get you the perfect snug fit. Take a look and see what you think http://www.macpac.co.nz/epic-800-sleeping-bag.html

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info@jackaustin.org

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Evesham, United Kingdom

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