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Evan Hunter's Round The World Diary


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Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Walking in Waipoua Forest

This morning, I had a slight pain in my stomach when I woke, and also a sore back (my bedroll wasn't inflated properly). After changing, I packed some gear in my day pack and walked around to the visitors centre. Yesterday, I'd seen a map there which indicated that the Yukas track was closed, and now I confirmed this. It was a bit annoying, as that was the track I'd come here planning to walk, and the others were much shorter.
I decided to walk a one hour (each way) route to a lookout. The track was very rudimentary, and went through ferny rainforest with the occasional young (probably still 100's of years old) Kauri tree. I soon found that it was probably just as well that I couldn't do the other walk, as I wasn't felling at all well, and had to sit down for lengthy periods several times, as my stomach was hurting.
There were some slightly muddy sections on the track, as it wound it's way up the ridgeside. On the way, I managed to discover what a Silver Fern looks like. They are a tree fern, and the underside of the fronds are a powdery white, however, they are difficult to identify, as most were quite tall (>5m) and the light shining through the leaves from above makes the undersides look green. You can only see the silver by turning over a frond near ground level, or by using a light like a camera flash.
After several breaks, the rainforest became scrub, and I emerged at the lookout. Unfortunately the lookout was not overly scenic, overlooking forested hills into the distance, only on one side. It was also a lookout that you could drive to, so, while I was there, resting, several groups drove up, disturbing the peace. There was a small tower house which you could look out from the second floor balconies.
Walking back down the hill, I again needed several breaks, but this time took closer to the posted 1 hour (on the way up it took 1.5 hours). On reachign the road again, I walked about a kilometre out to the highway, where I crossed the bridge, and walked the short, but scenic "Rickers" trakc, which had many younger Kauri.
Back at the campsite, I lay in my tent, reading about Maori language, then fell asleep for a couple of hours again, before cooking dinner and going to bed properly.


Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Waipoua Forest to Auckland

I woke late today, and started slowly packing my gear, after showering and changin.
The sandflies and mosquitoes were bad, and seemed to be attracted to the underside of my tent fly even as I was taking it down.
Eventyally I was packed, and walked over to the visitors centre, where I sat writing my diary waiting for the bus. Waipoua is really designed for those with a car, especially with the track closure.
The bus arrived, and soon took me out of the forest, back into grassy farming country. After a while, we stopped for lunch at Dargaville. I got lunch, and still had no effects of the sickness. The water of Kaipara harbour was very muddy, where I sat on the bank. A group of ducks decided I looked like I'd give them some food as I was eating, and came right to my feet looking expectant.
We got back on the bus, and headed for the Auckland highway. We arrived at the cafe I'd stopped at on the way to Paihia, and waited for the connecting bus to Auckland. After some time, we got news it had had a blowout and was running at least half an hour late. After just over aqn hour, the bus arrived, and made up a little time on the way back to Auckland.
In Auckland, I rushed arround, trying to organise a bus to New Plymouth and accommodation for tomorrow, as well as getting dinner, and using the internet.
There was loud music playing at the bar in the basement, which was very audible on the 3rd floor, but I had no trouble getting to sleep.


Thursday, February 24, 2005

Auckland to New Plymouth

After rising, dressing and packing fairly early, I booked the bus to New Plymouth. I then used an internet cafe, and burned my photos to CD. I bought an early lunch, and grabbed my pack from the hostel, and walked up to the bus terminal.
The bus left at 12:30, and we seemed to be driving through Auckland for ages - practically all the way to Hamilton, where we had a short break. From there, we drove through farmland which was flat except for the occasional small hill, to Te Kuiti, where we had another break.
The road from Te Kuiti to the coast (Mokau) was quite interesting. The sparse hills crowded closer, then joined up, into a low mountain range. The bottom of the range was grassy pastures, and the top was native bush. There were hundreds of branching spurs on the flanks of the range. The road followed a river deep into the range, where there were no more pastures, just very steep sided hills and gorges, covered in bush.
We soon came to the coast, and after a while, I could see what I guessed was Mt Taranaki, but it didn't look anything like I'd expected. I could see a mountain wreathed in cloud, with an attached mountain range. As I got closer, the summit of Taranaki poked through the clouds. It was about twice as tall as the attached mountain range (which I soon found out was the Pouakai Mountains).
Pulling into New Plymouth, I walked to the nearest hostel (1 block) and found they were full. I rang, then walked to another, and found it was nearly empty. I then set about trying to organise a lift to the mountain for tomorrow. Eventually I organised to be dropped off when the bus operator picked a person up from the mountain at 4:15pm. This was better than going up with him at 7:30 the next morning, and was still fine for hiking, since the first day of the "Round the Mountain Circuit" was only 3 hours.
I managed to find a good deal for dinner - a big hamburger (knife and fork big), chips and a coke for NZ$6.50. After this, I went back to the hostel and watched a little TV before bed.


Friday, February 25, 2005

Taranaki AMC Day 1, North Egmont to Holly Hut

I rose at 8am, dressed and packed, I phoned the mountain shuttle bus operator to confirm a booking, and he said the person he took up in the morning was staying the night, so he wouldn't be going in the afternoon as planned, but he said he could still arrange to take me, so I organised for a 1pm pickup.
I walked out to the rocky coastline, and followed a coast walk to the visitors centre, where I got directions to the DOC (Department of Conservation) office, where I bought a map and hut tickets. I then had an early lunch before going to Woolworths to shop for hiking food.
After packing my food, I waited for the shuttle bus. It soon came and I got in. As we neared Taranaki, I could see that cloud obscured the top, but I could see that the sides looked quite steep. It loomed larger and larger, until we entered the Egmont National Park, where there was now dense (almost impenitrable) rainforest surrounding the road. We soon came to the North Egmont Visitors Centre where I got out and paid the driver.
After a quick look in the visitors centre, I started the walk up the mountain, past "The Camphouse" historic hut, into low bush, on a good stepped track. The track went up a ridgeline, and there were occasional views back out over the plains. It looked rather strange. The national park is primarilly a circle of radius about 9.5km around the summit. The national park had dense forest, while beyond that was grassy farmland. I could see all the way to New Plymouth, and the Tasman Sea.
I soon came to a lookout which gave excellent views of the whole northern part of the Taranaki area. The track from here was not in as good condition - it was much rockier with few stairs. Still climbing, the bushes slowly became shorter and shorter. At one point there was a small landslip, which had taken part of the original track. During the climb, I was hot and sweating despite the cloud and altitude, as there was absolutely no air movement to cool me.
Eventually, I reached a junction where the track to Holly Hut started contouring westward. The track wound in and out of many creek gullies, whilst contouring the steep side of the mountain. At one point, I came to "The Boomerang Slip", which was an enormous landslip which the track crossed. This, and the steep rocky creek gullies did not feel entirely safe. Above the track, at some points there were several layers of cliffs.
After some time traversing the mountainside, I had come to the northwest flank, and had excellent views of the Pouaki range, and the Ahakawakawa swamp between it and Taranaki. The swam looked very much like a grassy farmers field. In the surrounding area, there were a lot of standing dead bleached trees, which had apparently been chewed to death by possums.
The track soon started descending, and kept descending almost to the swamp, and "The Dome", at which point, I turned the corner and found I was at Holly Hut. It was fairly old (30 years), but with a huge number of beds (38) and solar powered lights.
Not long after I arrived at the hut, two German guys arrived.
Toward evening, the clouds broke and gave excellent views of the summit towering behind the hut. The sunset was spectacular, and tinged the clifflines and ridges of the upper part of the mountain pink.
I cooked a pouch of Thai chicken soup for dinner, which wasn't extra filling, then went to bed fairly early


Saturday, February 26, 2005

Taranaki AMC Day 2 - Holly Hut to Waiaua Gorge Hut

The weather didn't look good when I woke this morning, cloud surrounded the hut, and everything else. By the time I'd packed slowly, at 8:30, the cloud wasn't quite so thick, but it was misting a fine rain.
The Pyramid Track, which is the high route, was closed due to severe errosion, but it didn't really matter for me, as the weather dictated that I would take the lower route.
Setting off, the track plunged into low wet forest, following a creekline downward, but tending to be high above it on "The Dome". Soon I came to a track junction to Bells Falls. By this time, it was raining properly, but I dumped my pack and spent about 15 minutes to go and see the falls. The falls were OK, but not great, as it was raining pretty heavilly, and as you couldn't get to the base of the falls without several hundred metres of river walking.
Back on the main track, I followed the river in the forest for a while, before suddenly breaking out into a huge open river valley. A tributory of the Stoney River, which flowed from near the Pyramids, joined the main river. The river was composed of very wide (~200m) open riverbed of grey rock and volcanic ash, with only a relatively small stream flowing down the middle. The banks of the river were either very steep hillsides, or tall eroded soil cliffs. The Stoney River gained the same character after this point. I crossed the tributory, and continued following the Stoney River, now on the riverbed itself.
Soon I came to the point where the track left the river, and climbed steeply up the hillside, to the junction with the other end of the Pyramid track. It was still raining, and, by this time, I was getting wet under my rain gear.
From here, the track led through the rainforest, and consisted of a seemingly endless series of short flat sections between extremely steep banked creeks. Toward the end of this section, I was finding it a bit tedious and miserable in the rain. Eventually though, I came to a track junction, then a swingbridge which told me I was almost to the hut.
On a short side track, the Waiaua Gorge Hut stands almost right on the edge of the gorge. There are great views of the gorge below from the grass in front of the hut. There are probably also great views of Taranaki, but I didn't see any.
The hut was very nice after the day of rain. I was the only person there, so I relaxed and read after putting on dry clothes. I cooked my dinner, and went to sleep, still with the occasional bit of rain outside.

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