In the west of New Zealand’s North Island lies the Egmont National Park. It is famous for Mount Taranaki, a 2,518 m volcano that provides an impressive backdrop. The region offers some of the best walks in New Zealand and was our next destination.
But first we made some detours on the way there:
Gollum’s Pool and Waitonga Falls
After we visited “Mordor” from “The Lord of the Rings”on the Tongariro Alpine Crossing the day before, we went to the Tawhai Falls the next morning. This is also one of the filming locations of “The Lord of the Rings”. The Tawhai Falls are the waterfalls where Gollum catches and eats his fish. This is why Tawhai Falls is also called “Gollum’s Pool”.
It was only a short walk from the main road to the waterfalls, which still had an amazing amount of water considering the long summer.
We then continued and drove to Waitonga Falls which are located near the small village Ohakune. The hike to the waterfalls was a bit longer here, but the view to the snow-covered Ruapehu compensated us for the constant up and down of the hiking trail.
The Waitonga waterfall unfortunately had very little water and the sun was quite unfavourable to take pictures of it.
Wairoa Reserve – Cave Beach
Unfortunately there is no direct way from the Tongariro National Park to the Egmont National Park. Therefore we drove south to the city of Whanganui, where we replenished our supplies and afterwards stayed for free at Wairoa Reserve. When we arrived there, it was already dark, but the next morning we were really surprised by the location and the view!
There are simply places where you would like to spend three or four days. But our must-do list was still quite long, so we left the campsite after breakfast. The weather was supposed to worsen in the next days and we wanted to explore the Egmont National Park in good weather.
Mount Taranaki and Pouakai Circuit
We went to the North Egmont Visitor Centre, which is located at an altitude of 950 meters at the foot of Mount Taranaki. Here we talked for a while with a friendly staff member about possible hikes and the weather forecast. Unfortunately we were advised not to climb Mount Taranaki, as the route should be icy and slippery in places 🙁
I had previously also looked at the Pouakai Circuit as an alternative, but this is actually a two-day hike (with overnight stay in one of the mountain huts). The weather forecast for the second day was however really bad with strong rain and wind 🙁
Finally we decided that I hike the Pouakai Circuit alone and all in one day. We could spend the night on the parking lot directly at the visitor centre. And in the evening the clouds finally opened the view to Mount Taranaki.
So I started early in the morning. The sun rose slowly and the first half hour I had to walk with my headlamp.
A part of the Pouakai Circuit was unfortunately blocked by a landslide and so I had to take a detour to start the ascent via an alternative route. For almost an hour it was downhill (I wanted to climb up the mountain) until I finally reached the starting point of the Kokowai track.
Afterwards it went only uphill, at first through densely overgrown forest.
After about an hour I passed the tree line and had a first look at the impressive Mount Taranaki.
Despite the great weather, the hiking trail itself remained really wet and resembled partly a lake or river.
Around 10 o’clock I reached the Holly hat, took a break and tried to dry my feet and socks a little.
I had the hut for myself and would have liked to “check in” here and make myself comfortable.
But for me it went on in the direction of Pouakai Hut. What looked more like a fairly flat route on the map turned out to be a slow descent, followed by a very crisp ascent. And of course my feet didn’t stay dry for long.
The Pouakai Hut was well visited and therefore quite loud. What a contrast to the silence of the first 5 hours of my hike, where I didn’t meet a soul.
So this time I only took a short break before heading back to the visitor centre. But the supposed descent was abruptly interrupted by Mount Henry. Here we went up the ridge again. Also the weather changed slowly and low clouds blocked my view. So it was time to put on a jacket again.
From now on it went steeply downhill over what felt like a thousand wooden trail steps – that was not exactly good for my knees. The steps were replaced by rocks and roots over which I had to climb. Metre-long mud holes rounded off the hiking trail 😉 And just so that it doesn’t get boring, it went up every now and then, only to go down again afterwards. And still it was just fun for me!
Around 15 o’clock I was again at the junction of the Kokowai track, so I had closed the circuit. Now I “just” had to go back to the visitor center. So the same route uphill, for which I had needed about one hour in the morning, but that was downhill and I was rested at that time 😉 A very hard piece of work that kept me busy for another 80 minutes.
And so at the end of this day my pedometer indicated a distance of about 30 kilometres with 1,900 m ascent and 1,900 m descent. And that in the “best” track conditions. Compared to this, the hike to the Colorado River down the Grand Canyon was almost a walk in the park 😉