Friday, 23 March 2018

Lake Walk & a Scary Exit


There are quite a number of shorter walks and tramping tracks (other than the Great Walk) around Lake Waikaremoana settlement and nearby Aniwaniwa (now DOC workshops but where the old visitors centre used to be). 

I wanted to walk the Mokau Tarns track but that was a 6-7 hour return tramp and David wasn't happy about walking that one with me so we settled for the 8km/2hr return walk to Lake Waikareiti. The sign says private boats aren't to be used on the lake. Private boats? I wondered who would be keen enough to cart their boat 4km uphill to the lake.

The walk is stunning through some magnificent bush, thick with luxuriant emerald green ponga and ferns beneath the beech trees and mighty rimu towering above. The wide gravel track winds steadily upwards- rising over 300 metres in altitude by the time we reach the end- and after a few hundred metres we're both breathing heavily. 

Our lack of regular walking lately is showing and we're thankful for the strategically placed bench seats where we take the occasional breather for a minute or so. Sitting quietly, it's a great place to listen to the birds too; we see and hear all the usual suspects including the North Island Bush Robin/ Toutouwai and New Zealand's tiniest native bird the Rifleman/Titipounamu.

Finally, just when we're wondering if we'll ever reach the top, we catch a glimpse of water through the bush and then a boat shed and several aluminium dinghies appear below us. A boat shed? Dinghies? In the middle of nowhere? These we were not expecting to see.

Just past the boats is a viewing platform...

...and day shelter...

...and out in front, a beautiful lake view. Lake Waikareiti (rippling waters) is one of the most pristine lakes in New Zealand, 900 metres above sea level and deep inside Te Urewera National Park the lake is far from civilization and browsing animals and the water and surrounding bush are pristine.

The lake itself isn't that big but it's still large enough to have six islands of various sizes in it. One of these islands, Rahui also contains a small lake. It's one of the rare New Zealand islands that has a lake in an island, in a lake in an island. Some of you will remember the blog I did on the more famous of these unique islands Mou Waho, a beautiful island in Lake Wanaka. In fact Mou Waho had one extra step! It has a tiny, tiny island in the top lake (make sure you click on the link to see the magic).

People can hire the dinghies from DOC and row over to Rahui (as long as you book it at the visitor centre  before walking up here, otherwise you'll have a long walk back to get the key!). There's a short track up to the top of Rahui where you can see the smaller lake. You can also row across Waikareiti to Sandy Bay where there's a DOC hut. The walk around the lake takes 4-5 hours, rowing on a good day about 30 minutes. 

It's hard to believe but hire boats have been available on Lake Waikareiti since the 1950s when they were hired out by THC's (Tourist Hotel Corporation) Lake House Hotel to their guests to use while staying at Lake Waikaremoana. Hireage was transferred to Urewera National Park Board (and now Te Urewera) in 1970.

This must be one of the more unusual DOC walks we've done; it feels a little like an abandoned, slightly shabby, lake-side resort up here, where there's no people and not a hotel in sight!

We are bit miffed that the nearby flash bio-toilets are locked...

...and we have to make do with crappiest (pun intended) long-drops we've ever come across.

It's time to head off back down the track. It's a great feeling knowing that it's downhill all the way! Even if our knees and toes start to complain long before the half way mark.

For one of the few times on a walk, I put my camera away in my pack on the way up- it was easier to concentrate on walking than taking photos- so now I have it out and take photos on the way down instead. 

We hear them approaching long before they pass us; four guys chatting away and laughing with each other. They're obviously on a high as they head to Sandy Bay Hut for a few days fishing (via the track, not by boat). They're loaded up with a lot of fishing gear, chilly bins and packs and they still have a very long way to go. I wonder if they'll be in such high spirits by the time they reach the hut.

 I take my time, stopping to take photos of the beautiful tree ferns along the way. David strides off ahead of me, he's keen to get back to the carpark. I'd highly recommend this walk if you're in the area.

After the walk we drove around to the Waikaremoana settlement where there's a store, fuel, marina and a holiday park.

It's also where the new (2016) Tuhoe Tribal Office & Visitor Centre is located. This replaced the old Aniwaniwa Visitor Centre (the one I remember visiting a very long time ago), it closed in 2008 after being deemed unsafe and was later demolished, some of it's timbers were used in the new building. The controversial Colin McCahon 'Urerewa' triptych also hung in the old building. It now resides in Tuhoe's head office in Taneatua. 

On the way back to camp we took a side road which runs alongside the Aniwaniwa River, a sign post pointed the way to another waterfall. We could hear the roar of water as soon as we pulled into the carpark but couldn't see the waterfall through the bush. A short track led us to the edge of a deep pool and the spectacular Papakorito Falls.

I'd have to say the waterfalls we're seeing are magnificent, there was another one nearby which we didn't check out because I was going to return with my tripod at a later date. But as I have learnt time & time again, it's best to do things then and there because you never know when your plans are going to change or the weather is going to pack up.

And pack up it did! The forecast was for heavy rain and storm conditions approaching; we decided to head off the next day before we were forced to sit the storm out due to road closures. The rain arrived earlier than expected and we woke sometime in the wee small hours to torrential rain and thunder. 

It bucketed down for the next 4 hours and by 6am we were getting a little worried we'd not be able to pull up and out of the Mokau Landing track, even with 4WD. We were also concerned the road out to Wairoa might become blocked with slips and trees so we made the decision to quickly hitch up and head out as soon as we could. Thirty minutes later we were ready to go, the track out was one muddy waterfall but we got out of there fine. We tooted farewell to our caravan neighbours, but saw no sign of life; they must have woken up later, looked out and thought "What the heck, where did they go?"  

There were a number of minor slips, small rocks and tree debris on the road around the lake but generally there was just a lot of water flowing. It took us an hour to drive the 20kms from Mokau to the top of the hill overlooking Tuai.

And that's when we nearly came a cropper heading down the otherside. This behemoth of a truck came powering around the corner ahead of us, jammed on his brakes and skidded to a halt with inches to spare between us. For the first time, that I can recall, David had to back up to let him past, not only back up but back up hill for a hundred metres or so. Size won this match hands down. 

With that scary encounter out of the way, we weren't even to the bottom of the hill before the next obstacle rounded the corner. Luckily we'd seen the flashing light through the gloom further down and had pulled up to await their approach. 

We made it to Wairoa without any further interruptions although once there the rain bucketed down again and the wind was horrendous. We had to get groceries and dump before we carried on to our next stop; we looked like like drowned rats by the time we'd finally finished the chores and climbed back into the ute. The weather didn't ease up either, as we headed north to Mahia passing the wild surf at Black Beach.


  1. Lovely write up. A few changes since I walked to Waikare-iti, no viewing platform or fancy toilets at all back then, but they did have the hire boats back in the late 60's

    1. Thanks hydronut, glad you enjoyed the blog, thanks for the memories. I think the long-drops must have been there back then! They certainly looked like it :)


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