Two carloads left Hastings @ 7.30 am Friday morning, stopping at Norsewood to collect Murry. It was a long trip over to Taranaki in perfect weather with stops at Bulls and lunch beside the lake at the gardens in Wanganui. As we neared our destination we had wonderful vistas of the snow clad mountains- Ruapehu, Tongariro, Ngauruhoe and Taranaki. The leader had swapped our tramping plans from around the North Egmont area to walks from the Dawson Falls side of the mountain where there would be less pressure on the huts and tracks.
We arrived at the visitor centre early afternoon, collected our keys and encamped at Konini Lodge ( 38 bunks)- this lodge costs $25 pp per night, with 2- 3 person and 4-8 person bunkrooms ,men’s and women’s shower rooms, drying room, large equipped kitchen and two living areas plus large deck . After settling in and a cuppa, we wandered along the Kapuni Loop track which weaves its way through forest to a viewing platform overlooking the 18 metre falls- spectacular rock formations on either side of the falls. we continued up and just before crossing Manaia Road, the party split with some doing the Ridge/ Wilkies Pools tracks, whilst the rest visited the historic power station which still contributes power to the private Dawson’s Falls Lodge.
Saturday saw all nine of us leave the visitors centre and begin the climb up to Kapuni Lodge and the Upper Round the Mountain Track, initially through forest to the Hillary Seat, then scrub, leatherwood to the Hooker Shelter, where boardwalks were being installed. Came across our first patches of snow, melting and making muddy conditions. The overnight group left us and we watched their progress and also watched an alpine party slowly wending their way up to Syme Hut and the summit. It was a clear day with a slight breeze and not a cloud anywhere to be seen, great views of the mountain and the towns of Eltham, Stratford and Inglewood as we lunched on the deck of the Alpine Club Lodge. Returning the same way, we passed several groups kitted out with all the alpine gear going to Syme Hut ( it would have been overflowing as it only has 10 bunks). Fred and Marion left us and 3 of us started along the lower round the mountain track, which needs some maintenance as it is slightly overgrown, some ladder steps in urgent need of repair ( some short legged person had real trouble with these coming back), our destination Hastie’s Hill. After 3/4 hour we made the decision not to continue and returned to the Lodge. The evening after dinner was spent star gazing and enjoying the sunset from the nearby viewing platform.
Sunday , we donned our tramping gear and set off on the Willkie’s Pools track- the first 300 metres is wheelchair friendly, before crossing the stream and heading up towards the Stratford Plateau where we were greeted by a very cool wind. Looked up towards the Manganui Ski field which was devoid of any snow and the Manganui Lodge – walked along to the lookout but due to low wispy cloud formation only caught glimpses of the countryside. Backtracked for 15mins to the Enchanted Walk track junction past Jackson’s Lookout, through goblin forest before descending steeply in taller forest to the Waingongoro track junction, 40 minutes from the East Egmont Car park. We were following the Waingongoro river, crossing several small unbridged streams, slowly upwards through very nice forest to the swing bridge over the gorge and it was a gentle half hour to the hut, nestled high above the river. We had a lunch break in this very nice Lockwood style hut, with several party members trying out the new log splitter- it was not as easy as it looked! Back tracked to the swing bridge, collected Sam who was fascinated with the bridge and had gone back to cross it again. We climbed steadily upwards joining up with the Ridge track then back on the main highway ( Willkie’s Pools) where we meet up with the hordes of day trippers and two of the overnight party(Murray and Mary)- walked back and 5-6 of us had a Latte at the private lodge, what a way to finish about a 6 hr tramp.
Monday morning, breakfasted, cleaned Konini Lodge and left Mount Egmont shrouded in cloud as we headed to Lake Rotokare, a wildlife sanctuary 15 kms from Eltham. We decided to walk the round the lake track and were delighted to see numerous saddlebacks feasting on the tree trunks as well as the elusive stitch birds – a highlight of the trip. Since I was last here a lot of work has been carried out, feeding stations, boardwalks and a pontoon viewing platform. We stopped at the last stream and this time were able to see the endangered banded kokapu, a native fish. after lunch we set off for Hawke’s Bay, stopping at Norsewood to let Murry off and arrived in Napier about 5.00 pm.
Our appreciation to Fred and Mary who took and drove their vehicles- a long trip about 5-5.30 hrs driving. It was a good weekend,weather, views, forest and birdlife were excellent as was the company, thanks Everyone.
Party: Mary G, Fred C, Dale B, Anne D, ,Sam D, Derek B, Susan L, Marion N andMurry A.