Pouakai Crossing / Circuit, Egmont National Park

A lesson in the challenges of a weather dependent pastime, as I spent a couple of days exploring the Pouakai area by Mt Taranaki, the iconic 2,518m high volcano at the heart of the Taranaki region.dsc00288

The plan was to do the 25km Pouakai Circuit, a loop from North Egmont visitor centre, with the first day via Holly Hut to Pouakai Hut forming the majority of the one day Pouakai Crossing. Adapting to the highly variable weather conditions (visibility varied from 10m to 50km!) I ended up walking the Pouakai Crossing section both ways.

After some very wet days the forecast wasn’t too promising for the weekend either, though more cloudy than rainy. Mixed blessing as though the majority of my walking time was spent in thick cloud, there were very few other people around.dsc00132The cloud was quite atmospheric, felt like diving with poor visibility, as rocks loomed out of the grey.dsc00123 dsc00127

Holly Hut made for a good lunch stop, if a little odd being in 32 bunk hut by myself.dsc00152

Couldn’t see much crossing Ahukawakawa Swamp other than one of the most beautiful bridges I’ve come across in a national park, a lovely curved piece of woodwork.dsc00176

A relentless series of steps, past erie trees, took me to Pouakai Hut, visible at the last moment in the cloud.dsc00191 dsc00194dsc00195 dsc00201

After a couple of hours the clouds miraculously lifted and from a short walk back up the track revealed Mt Taranaki in all it’s spectacular glory.dsc00221 dsc00235

I’ve seen a lot of impressive things walking around New Zealand and this ranks high on the list. The colours, the shape, the setting. Perfection.dsc00300

Which improved as the sunset and a beautiful cloud hat formed around the summit.dsc00313 dsc00316 dsc00332

And behind me were views back toward New Plymouth, 20km in the distance.dsc00306

Reading up on the rest of the Pouakai Circuit via the Kaiauai Shelter, and taking to locals in the hut, it is mostly bush, losing views of the mountain relatively early on. So given the ability to now see the mountain I thought it’d make more sense to retrace my steps.

The morning was promising as I caught the sun rise, such a spectacular spot.dsc00359 dsc00350

As are the nearby tarns for reflections of the mountain. I wish I’d ignored the signage and gone last night though, it’s more like a half hour return walk than the 1.5 hours advertised.dsc00380

Unfortunately as I got going again the weather closed in again, though I could see more today, and was good opportunity to see these mighty trees again, if the mud was less welcome.dsc00394 dsc00397 dsc00396

After an early lunch at Holly Hut the weather turned for the worse though and I spent three hours drudging through driving rain on a relentlessly upward path up the mountain side. I past the inviting but private Taurangi Lodge before reaching the empty Matawawa Hut to spend the night. Those doing the circuit or crossing would finish at North Egmont visitor centre.dsc00422 dsc00428 dsc00436-tahurangi-lodge dsc00445

Few tips if what I’ve said sounds appealing. Normally February is the best month to walk in Egmont National Park, I got unlucky, but it shows the importance of going prepared. A decent waterproof jacket and change of dry clothes for the huts is a must.dsc00455

The Pouakai Circuit is easiest walked clockwise (via Holly Hut) and do make a visit to the tarns from Pouakai Hut if the weather is good the evening you stay there. It may be worth bringing a tent or travel mattress if you do the circuit over holiday periods or even weekends in summer. DOC have put up a handy tracker in each hut, this is from the sixteen bunk Pouakai Hut will give you an idea. It varies from empty to over Auckland Anniversary weekend 32 in the hut, 4 in tents and 3 on the hill!

The Pouakai Crossing is easiest walked from North Egmont to Mangorei Road. There’s a couple of uphill sections at the start from the visitor centre and after the Ahukawakawa Swamp but they’re relatively short compared to the mostly relentless ascent the other way. While the Tongariro Alpine Crossing is doable (on a good day) in trainers, for the Pouakai Crossing you’ll need better shoes for dealing with mud, slippery boardwalk and rocks, and you will probably get your feet wet. The track is clearly marked but can be narrow in places.

Author: jontycrane

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