I’m presently in Taranaki, where Stacey’s family lives, so I’ve been going for walks around here in the last short while. A few days after I returned from a 2 night solo walk around another part of Egmont (which I’ll write up later), Barry (Stacey’s dad) took me for a quick walk up to Pouakai Hut this morning. I’ve been there before and it’s not really a daywalk so much as a before-lunch walk, but haven’t really written much about it so I thought I might note some things here for the record.
Date: 1st January, 2009
Location: Egmont National Park, Mangorei Road end to Pouakai Hut.
People: Barry and Me.
Huts visited: Pouakai Hut (0 nights).
Route: From Mangorei Road up to Pouakai Hut and back.
We drove to the end of Mangorei Road and left the car at about 10am. Egmont National Park gets a lot of rain, which results in a lot of mud in the tracked areas where people walk lots, which might explain why vast amounts of the official tracks are covered in boardwalks and pre-built steps. The track up from Mangorei Road is one such area, with boardwalks everywhere, but it’s easy to come away with the impression that the mud is winning. Reasonable boots (or mud-worthy shoes) should be fine, but expect to be rinsing them off afterwards.
The track is sign-posted as 2 hours and 15 minutes to Pouakai Hut, but it can be done comfortably in 1 hour 15 minutes at a reasonable walking pace without stops, which is what we did. Crazy mountain runners (of which Taranaki has many) will get up in about 45 minutes. We reached the bush-line after about an hour, after overtaking a couple of people on the way up, although the surrounding cloud meant we weren’t able to see further than the nearby parts of the Pouakai Range. Mount Taranaki/Egmont was completely covered, as so often happens.
Once out from the trees, the track continues to wind around the side of a couple of things before coasting up to the hut. Nearly the entire thing is still boardwalks, although there’s much less mud this high up. The surrounding area is full of dead corpses of trees poking above the greenery. At first glance it looks as if an old fire might have raged through the area, but the same kinds of scenes exist in many places around Egmont National Park. Since I first saw it when visiting a couple of years ago, I’ve been under the impression that it was all possum damage (I can’t remember how I came to this conclusion), although Barry (Stacey’s dad) commented that he thought it might have been left-over destruction of Cyclone Bola, which hit the entire region very hard in 1988. That’s something I’d never thought of and from my own limited experience it seems at least as plausible as the possum idea, but ultimately it’s something I’d like to learn more about.
We arrived at Pouakai Hut at about 11.10am, had a quick look around and reviewed the hut book. Pouakai Hut’s been getting a lot of use in the last few days over Christmas and New Year, with its peak apparently being on December 28th when 21 people slept there. This included a group of 8 from the North Shore Tramping Club, whom I’d met at a different hut on my other trip a few days before. The hut’s stocked up well with coal and pre-cut wood, and it’s all sitting there in a way which gives a strong impression that DOC wants to give people no excuses to go outside and find their own dead wood or branches.
15 minutes after we arrived, we were walking down the hill again, and about 5 minutes later we passed the two people we’d overtaken earlier, saying hello again. Getting down was marginally faster, only taking about an hour. Ironically the biggest hazard seems to be the wooden steps and board-walks, which can be slippery and wet and, when filled with mud, might be much easier to trip over than if they weren’t there at all. The built steps mean that water pools in flat areas that probably wouldn’t have been flat otherwise. I’m not sure what the reasoning is for this, but I suppose the popularity of this kind of track and the amount of rain it gets means that measures have to be taken to make sure it’ll erode less quickly than it might otherwise.
It was a nice morning walk and I didn’t get too muddy. It’s a nice bush-walk, and not that far to get above the bush-line. It’s also a good kind of staging walk for a bigger walk — people who are fit and properly equipped would comfortably be able to get over the swamp to Holly Hut and back, or possibly do a day-walk around to somewhere like North Egmont (via Holly Hut) if it’s feasible to arrange transport. Maybe I’ll try that some time if the opportunity comes up.