The Lake Waikaremoana Track is a 46km, 3-4 day, hike through one of the most remote parts of New Zealand. It was the last of the Great Walks I did, mainly due to the logistical challenge of getting there. It’s either a seven hour drive from Auckland, with the last hour along unpaved roads, or a flight to Napier, two hour bus to Wairoa, and a lift from the Big Bush Holiday Park for the final hour. I did the later which was an hour faster, and allowed me to do something productive (reading a chunky History of Russia) with the time.
The original plan was to go anti-clockwise, 29km to Waiopaoa Hut, along the flat part of the track, and save the 600m ascent and descent and final 17km for day two. The weather forecast was for rain day two though so I changed my plans the night before to start at Onepoto Bay, head up, along and down the Panekire Range, and finish at Marauiti Hut, 29km later (which became 32km with a side trip to Korokoro Falls). Also took the time to explore the Big Bush Holiday Park where I stayed two nights, before and after the track, including the lake Te Whakatutu and the Mexican themed bar!
Given that I was doing the track in late April when it gets dark at 6pm, the first shuttle bus to Onepoto Bay didn’t get there till 8.45am, and the DOC time estimate for my first day was 13-17 hours, I was motivated to move quickly.
Was helped by the track bring the easiest of the Great Walks, or pretty much any walk I’ve done, with few tricky bits (particularly compared to my Easter hike in Nelson Lakes). Quickly made my way up 600m to the top of Panekire Bluff, stopping for various views of the lake, and enjoyed walking through the rich, moss covered, forest.
Panekire Hut was one of the more unusually designed ones I’ve come across. Stayed there for an early lunch and then back down the 600m I’d walked up about two hours previously!
For probably the first time ever I came across the next hut sooner than I expected, covering 8km in an hour and a half. Waiopaoa Hut was very inviting, filled with Kiwi families, as were most of the huts, bit of a change from the usual German / Israeli / British contingent, though it was late in the tourist season.
Korokoro Falls were marked as an hour return, though leaving my pack behind it only took 40 mins. Quite unusual falls, worth the detour, though I possibly enjoyed as much the rock hopping with the aid of a handily positioning wire.
Came across the bridge that recently collapsed, tipping a group of trampers into the river below, thankfully no one was injured. The new concrete blocks looked pretty sturdy though, and the view from the bridge was one of the trip highlights.
Just past the Korokoro campsite I very nearly stepped on this unusually brightly (for New Zealand) coloured frog.
More lovely sky reflections on the still lake, and half an hour later more lake views.
I assume these two places are hunting lodges, complete with a basketball hoop!
Arrived at Marauiti Hut by 5.40pm, just beating darkness, and looking forward to dinner. Managed the 32km in just under eight hours of walking, decent day!
The next day was a averagely interesting tramp in light to moderate rain for three and a half hours. Welcomed with a beautiful red sunrise, went past the huge Waiharuru Hut, saw the biggest groups of black swans I’ve seen, tried to avoid the numerous muddy patches, and finally arrived at the toasty warm Whanganui Hut for a three hour wait before the water taxi back to Waikaremoana.
Highlights: View from Panekire Bluff, side trip to Korokoro Falls, moss covered forests
Lowlights: Track views are basically the lake, and lots of forest, with the track being the easiest of the Great Walks
Route taken: One night, stayed at Marauiti Hut, though was ridiculously quick, most people take the 3-4 days
Tips: Go anti-clockwise which is opposite to the usual route taken but saves the best views for the end, and is easier in terms of the ascent (mostly staircases that way), take toilet paper as there is none on the track