This southern girl went north to have an adventure and hike another Great Walk – Lake Waikaremoana. As I was walking and enjoying this area I was also aware that I had this story to write and wondered how on earth I was going to pull all these thoughts, experiences and feelings into one article.
Here are the highlights and the reasons why the reader should definitely consider adding this walk to their Bucket or Must Do list:
- The legends of the Urewera National Park and the formation of the lake.
- The scenery while you are walking and in particular from the Panekiri Ridge.
- The lush and rich rainforest that is definitely different to the South Island.
- The great company of fellow walkers and their stories.
I was picked up at about 8am from my accommodation and then as we drove around Rotorua - the van gradually filled up with the team that was going to spend the next 4 days together.
The adventure began with a 3 - 4 hour journey through to Urewera National Park, but with an important stop at Ruatahuna for scones with cream and a cup of tea. As we travelled our guide Rob told stories of the land, the history, place names and how they came to be and what we were to expect in the next few days. We arrived at the track end and then just carried our day packs with lunch, camera and a rain jacket for the - “just-in-case” and we set off. It was not long until we arrived at the lake edge.
Rob told us more stories of the local people and the characters they are; both now and in the past. After lunch at one of the DOC huts we continued on through a mixture of beech, podocarp and other trees that this southern chick didn’t recognise, until we arrived at our destination. It was one the best DOC huts I have ever stayed in - complete with changing rooms for males and females and each individual person had a sleeping berth all to themselves! Drinks and nibbles arrived and we sat down to a delicious two-course meal.
This is the longest day of the trip but it is flat and easy walking and again you are just carrying a day pack as your other luggage is all transported for you by water taxi. The forest in parts is amazing with towering Red Beech trees with their distinctive buttresses. These trees would take about 4-6 people with arms outstretched to try and hug them - they truly are giants. We also went through Tawa forest plus other vegetation that is just not present in the South Island.
We stopped for a mid morning cup of tea and had time for a quick dip in the lake. The Korokoro Falls are well worth the detour and two of us scampered down to check them out at close quarters. We even managed to walk behind them for a short distance.
The sunset was amazing with lots of pinks and oranges reflecting in the lake. Dinner was enjoyed with NZ wines.!
This is the up hill day and the day where you have to carry your pack. The pack is reasonably light though as you just take what you need to sleep in and a change of clothes. For the last two days we had been looking at the Panekiri Ridge and it looked imposing. However, the gradient is gradual and before you know it you are getting views back down over the lake. There is a great place to stop near the top to soak up the views and eat your lunch. A final 20-30 mins push and you are on top. We were at the hut by about 2pm and felt we deserved the drinks and nibbles.
Another great dinner and a game of cards rounded off a rewarding day.
We woke up to cloud cover a long way below us and completely over the lake. Along the ridge we had lots of time to take in the views and take photos. Eventually we come out to Bald Knob and we could see the snow-capped mountain of Ruapehu in the distance. The cloud over the lake lifted and we were blown away with views of the sparkling lake far below us - blues, greens and purples.
We took our time going down hill. The vehicle was waiting for us and the champagne and nibbles were a fantastic way to celebrate a great few days.
On the journey home various people nodded off but all with contented smiles on their faces. Not for me, my mind was full of the scenery, conversations, good times and stories and it all added up to one very pleasant adventure that is highly recommended to all.