Taranaki Mountain Trek: The Pouakai Crossing
WORDS BY STEPHANIE FOOTE
On the western tip of New Zealand’s North Island lies the quietly picturesque region of Taranaki. Garnering attention as a hub for the arts, world-class events and unspoilt natural beauty, it is also being recognised for an incredible hike: the Pouakai Crossing.
The 19-kilometre trail through Egmont National Park is being heralded as the country’s newest ‘great walk’, as it ascends the two peaks of Mount Taranaki and the Pouakai Ranges by way of dramatic vistas and landscapes.
We started on the Friday night heading for Stratford for the night. Thanks to Daphne for hosting us for the night then it was off to meet the rest of the group.
We started off after introductions to our party of 7 and the group photo from the Kaiauai carpark at 9.15am. The sky was clear no wind and the perfect winter sun at just the right temperature. It started as a gentle climb with a shallow stream crossing just into the trip. We were treated to the occasional glimpse of the mountain through the bush and the occasional peep of a fantail or call of the tui and we heard the wood pigeons wings flapping through the air. We stopped for lunch before tackling the ‘lovely’ Henry peak which seemed like never ending steps and occasional ladders. When we finally reached the viewing platform at summit of the Henry peak we were able to see Mt Taranaki in all it’s glory. We then made our way down Henry and around the base of Maud peak and up onto the Pouakai track where we reached the Pouakai tarns at approx. 4.30pm. We decided to set up the tents and camped approx. 150m from the Tarn. We had dinner at the viewing platform by the tarn and sat here for approx. 3 hours watching the sunset and the stars come out along with the other photographers who had made the short trip up a different track. It was a truly majestically site and we were very lucky to have perfect viewing conditions. We walked over to the edge of the ridge and saw the lights of New Plymouth and other towns nearby. Then had a cosy sleep in a tent.
Up early with a slight drizzle, we had breakfast and packed up the gear and headed to the Pouakai hut to re stock our water and use the toilet.We were pleased to have camped out as the hut and camp site had 70+ stay there the night before. We next headed out to Holly hut taking our time along and down the ahukawakawa track passing through the swamp along board walks enjoying the views along the way except when my boot went in knee deep in mud. We made it to Holly Hut for lunch. Then the party decided to head to the Bells falls. We ditched our packs at the hut and made an afternoon trip to the falls. Back at the hut we managed to dry some our gear our and sleep in bunks for the night.
After hearing rain fall throughout the night I knew we were in for a wet walk out I layered up with merino and we set off. This part of the trip was the most challenging mentally for me as I was over analysing my steps as the rocks were wet and mossy and the wooden steps were slippery and a majority of the track had surface flooding. We had to negotiate a few rocky valleys such as the boomerang slip. We finally made it to the razor back for the decent down to the north Egmont visitors centre carpark I had tears of joy we had made it! What started out as a crazy idea between cousins after our summit trip turned into a very memorable trip of a life time. I’m truly grateful for every person in the Masterton tramping club that came for the trip for all your experience and knowledge and support when I needed it, from just the general chat at the dinner table to one party member who helped me negotiate the wet rocky valley where I began to experience my first ever panic/anxiety attack.
Members were Stephanie, Tracy, Jason, Barry, Paul, Mike, and Laura