Thursday, April 28, 2011

Taranaki Falls

Taranaki Falls and the Mangatepopo Track: 1 hour 50 running time

Starting behind The Chateau the lower Taranaki Falls track is kept to a high standard due no doubt to the large number of walkers. The track in its entirety is a two hour loop. After 15 minutes running I turned up the Mangatepopo Track part of the Tongariro Northern Circuit. I ran out and back on this track through some brilliant tussock and shrub alpine scenery. On a good day the views up to Mt Ngarahoe and Tongariro would be superb. Back on the Taranaki Falls the track followed up the Taranaki River to the small Taranaki Falls. The track then wound through a lava field and returned to The Chateau.

Mt Taranaki

Mt Taranaki

Day One 5 hours 30 walking: After following Pembroke Road, one of the main access routes for Mt Taranaki we parked at The Mountain House about 850m. The first section of the Around the Mountain circuit was a bit of a killer as it involved a steep 45 minute grind up to The Plateau (the carpark for the local ski field) via the road. The first section of trail took us through the ski field and on a steady climb on some technical terrain to Tahurangi Lodge and our highest point of 1400m. Sadly the conditions deteriorated and our visibility was down to around 100m. Past the lodge and the track became a little easier. The final descent of the day into Holy Hut gave tremendous views over the Ahukawakawa Swamp.

Day two, 7 hours walking: The second day barely dawned; a thick layer of cloud had enveloped the mountain. That with the horrendous weather report forced us to take on the Pouakai Circuit instead of completing the AMC. From the Hut and across the Ahukawakawa Swamp the views from the previous day were a distant memory. On the other side of the swamp the track rose sharply through a series of stairs, something that would become the theme of the day. After around an hour and a half we reached Pouakai Hut and some foul weather. We then went through what would probably have been some great alpine surroundings and climbed up over 2200 pieces of wood to Henrys Peak at 1300m. The remainder of the day was spent descending through tree roots and across un-bridged streams to Mt Taranaki’s main information centre at 890 metres. Our last hour and a bit was spent walking up the aptly named Puffer track to the warmth of Maketawa Hut.

Day three, 2 hours 15 walking: More bad weather greeted us in the morning, vindicating our decision to cut the weekend short. The final walk back to the Mountain House was short but contained more steep climbs in and out of numerous dry riverbeds.

Kepler Track

Kepler Track

Day One: A nice easy start from the DOC office in Te Anau along the banks of Lake Te Anau to the official start of the track at a set of control gates on the Waiau River. This section passed through a wildlife sanctuary home to the rare Takahe and other native birds found on the track. Past the control gates the track hugged the banks of Lake Te Anau through to Brod Bay. From here we rose quickly for a good solid two hours through some great Beech Forest and past a series of limestone cliffs. After emerging from the treeline it was a further 45 minutes through to Mt Luxmore Hut. The views of the Southern Fiord of Lake Te Anau, back to the town and over to Lake Manapouri were stunning.

Day two: We woke to a crystal clear morning looking out over some low hanging cloud that blanketed the Southern Fiord below. Another good solid climb of about 400 metres in altitude gain and we reached the summit of Mt Luxmore and the highest point of the track 1472m. Below the Southern Fiord kept opening up and the track back to the Hut and beyond across a never ending ridge was clearly visible. Stunning weather followed us over the Alpine section of the track with views deep into Southern Fiordland. After completing the alpine section of the walk, a thigh crunching decent through thick beech forest had us at our campsite back in the bush outside the Iris Burn hut.

Day three: More good weather for a sedate walk meandering along the banks of the Iris Burn. The day passed through more beech forest and crossed numerous streams before we had our first glimpse of Lake Manapouri. From here it was a short stroll along the banks to the Moturau Hut, which had stunning views of the Lake. So good in fact we went for a dip!!

Day Four: We woke early and pushed the pace back to the control gates. After leaving Lake Manapouri we followed the Waiau River back to the beginning of the track and onto Te Anau and our parked car.