Sea of Rippling Waters: Great Walk #2

We set out to trek around Lake Waikaremoana the day after finishing Tongariro. Luckily, a series of fantastic rides and some sandy beach stealth camping made the transition pretty smooth, even if we were still without showers, laundry, or a proper dinner.

From Taupo, we went to the beach north of Napier for the night with the help of a friendly couple from
Waipukuroa. In the morning, a generous man en route to Auckland drove us all the way to Wairoa and even shouted us a coffee. From Wairoa, we drove right up to the lake with a man going on a kayak fishing trip.

The trek is much less popular than Togariro, in part due to its removed location and the unsealed roads leading to it. We were apprehensive about the lack of traffic for hitching back to Wairoa but decided to put that on the back burner as we started our hike.

The track climbs up Panekire Bluffs for 8.8km first thing. We decided to go for a swim and do a bit of laundry first, as it was a bright, sunny day, really gorgeous. We started our hike later in the afternoon, once the sun was slightly less intense. We climbed through lush beech forest, so vibrant and pulsing with–I don’t know how to describe it–life force, energy. Not just bird life and small critters, but the very trees themselves, the moss and lichen growing over them, the dense forest floor, even the cool shade and sweetness of the breeze. We climbed up and up, occasionally peeking through the dense bush to see the magnificent lake below.

We were lucky to have such good weather on the first day. We got to the hut that night, admired the darkening blue sky, and went to bed; in the night, we saw a stoat skulking around the hut, probably in his way to eat baby kiwi chicks or trample the new growth in the forest. The next morning was overcast, unpromising. We had a long day ahead of us and trekked along with dampening weather. By the early afternoon, a steady misty rain was falling. By the evening, as we arrived at our campsite, it was more of a thundery downpour. Instead of tenting, we grabbed spare bunks in the hut and slept well. We didn’t see much that day, but at least we got to put some miles in like in the good old days.

Our last day out also threatened rain all morning. Hoping to stay dry and find a ride easily, we booked it to the terminus of the trail. No cars in sight, though we had seen a few folks hiking. We wandered down a gravel road, said hello to our fisherman friend in his kayak, and waved down a water taxi to take us back to the other trailhead. That was a cool traverse, moving into the weather and watching the clouds come lower and lower, the green hills disappear under their thick veil, leaving only a thin strip of dark dense forest visible between lake and cloud. At the main road, only two cars passed us in the course of an hour, and both left us still standing on the gravel in the rainstorm that had started up. After another half hour, a German couple passed by and picked us up, taking us down the hill to Frasertown. From there, it was an easy two rides back to Napier; our last ride, with one of the rare twenty-something Kiwis, was excellent, with a delivery right to the place we were couch surfing.

Overall, a beautiful trail, only slightly dampened by the weather and isolation. I’m glad we got to get up there before we headed further south.

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