Friday, October 30, 2009

Mt Taranaki Area

After the drive of several hours yesterday, we were happy to have the entire day to explore the Taranaki Area on the west coast of North Island. The massive snow-capped volcano is visable from most of the encompassing circular road. We woke up at the beach and headed out early to check some local surf spots. Kumera Patch was a first choice, but wasn't really breaking right and was totally deserted.

We continued on down the Surf Highway 45 to Stent Road, which is famous for the point break at the end. We arrived to a completely empty parking area and not a soul in the water. It looked pretty big, and after six other locals pulled up and drove on, we knew we probably shouldn't chance the paddle out. Continuing south for 10 minutes further, we turned off to visit the Egmont Lighthouse at the end of the road. While the lighthouse was cool, the real highlight was that a couple of surfers were tow-in surfing (when you use a jet-ski to get into really big waves) at the end of the road, and only then could we tell how massive the waves were out there. No wonder no one wanted to get in the water at the other spots. Without the scale of a person, we had no idea the waves were triple-overhead.

With the surfing idea ruled out, we went on to Egmont National Park which contains Mt Taranaki. The drive in wove up and up a narrow mountain road until we reached the North Egmont Visitors Center. It took awhile to decide on a trail as they do not give you any of the hiking distance information. You simply get the amount of time it would take an average person to walk that particular track, or trail. We thought the four hour Maketawa Hut loop sounded like the best option and packed up all our gear and headed out.

The trail crossed over many small wooden bridges and entered a world where you expected to see fairies and elves and goblins around every twist and turn of the track. It looked like it should be a tropical rainforest with moss and lichen dangling off of every limb, but there was actually still snow on the ground in most places, and it was pretty chilly. So chilly you could see your breath. As we hiked up and up through the Dr Seuss landscape of strange plants, we rose above the treeline and saw Mt Tranaki towering in front of us, it's peak misted with clouds. We hiked on to the Maketawa Hut which sleeps 16 people, had four rooms, a huge fireplace, sink and toilet for backpackers. Up the ridgeline we climbed, with less trees and more snow with every step. At the end of our hike we reached the summit track which looked very long and steep all the way up to the 8,512 ft summit, and turned to finish the loop trail back down to the camper.

After a beautiful hike, we headed for Fitzroy beach to check the surf once again. Erich ended up going out in the cold bombing surf, while I enjoyed the sun and watched people get long barrels from the sand. We drove south of town and found a spot to park for the night at the end of Ahu Ahu Road, right on a stream and the black volcanic sand beach.

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