Walking the Pouakai Circuit at Taranaki / Egmont National Park
Walking The Pouakai Circuit at Taranaki / Egmont National Park was an unforgettable experience. I am not unhealthy but neither am I very sporty and active, having done the occasional day hike but never anything like this.
Staying overnight meant I had to carry a sleeping bag, food and change of clothes as well as my camera gear. Oh and water, especially as there was a notice to say water was running low in the huts.
Always check the department of conservation website to see if there are any new updates in regards to a trek you are about to undertake, such as water shortage or route closures.
Instead of a normal daypack, I ended up taking a 65-litre backpack – great!. At the beginning, it is difficult carrying the weight because you are not used to it. Before you know it though, you completely forget about it and walk at your normal pace. So actually it just sounds bad.
The first part of the trek was challenging, in the sense that not only are you having to get used to carrying the extra weight, but you also have to acclimatise as you ascend through the montane forest. In fact, we as a group actually got caught in a rain cloud throughout the whole accent (a full 3 hours of none stop rain). Luckily I was wearing quick-dry clothing so I did not feel wet for long once we were past the rain cloud ( might be a good idea to wear quick dry clothing if the weather might be temperamental).
This walk made me feel like Frodo from Lord Of The Rings, as there were so many different environments we had to walk through. Starting with forestry and then areas covered in boulders and large rocks which we had to climb over and around. Being in a group was a real advantage during this stage because I am only 5”2 and I like to have a little helping hand to climb up and down.
The scariest part is the Boomerang slip…….. They actually had a sign saying one person at a time and do not linger, it was basically gravel on a cliff edge. I said a little prayer as I dug my feet into the ground and made sure with each step my footing was secure. If you have a fear of heights, you may have an issue with this portion of the walk as it is not for the faint-hearted, although it is only about a 3-minute ordeal.
Once you cross the slip you have more steps and eventually reach Holly hut. Here there is an open fire you can light, bunk beds to have a rest, an outside long drop toilet and sink, everything you need for a little rest.
In my opinion getting to Holly hut is the hardest part, after that, it is pretty easy. After Holly hut, you walk along the boardwalk across Ahukawakawa Swamp and ascend up again through mountain cedar until you reach Pouakai Hut. In theory, this walk is supposed to take 7 hours, it actually took our group at least a good 10 hours. With a lunch break and little breaks in between.
Start this walk early in the morning, allowing yourself ample of time to make it to the hut as the last thing you want is to be walking in the dark. In fact the night before, a rescue helicopter was sent out in the midst of the night because a woman lost her way. Something easily done, as the only signs in terms of direction are these occasional small orange triangles in the oddest of places and can easily be missed.
All through the walk, there are fun facts dotted around.
Fun fact: Hunting mountain goats is a thing in New Zealand – the idea of hunting a goat sounds so weird.
The second day was my favorite, as we made our way over the crossing. A tiny bridge in the middle of open tussock lands and ladders to climb as we made our way up Henry Peak (1220 m). Lowland forests, where the roots of the trees made the pathway and swing bridges crossed over streams. A stark comparison from the day before.
Most importantly Mt Taranaki was visible unlike the day before when it was cloudy. So for those of you who like adventure and hiking, I cannot recommend this hike strongly enough, I absolutely loved it. Just be aware that your knees will take a beating.
Point of advice: Know your outdoor safety code – 5 simple rules to help you keep safe.
- Plan your trip
- Tell someone
- Be aware of the weather
- Know your limits
- Take sufficient supplies.
For more information visit www.doc.govt.nz