Pouakai Circuit

This was my second time on the Pouakai Circuit. The last time I went, just over a year ago, the track was underwater and there was no mountain to be seen – the pictures in that trip report  say it all. While I absolutely enjoyed that trip, I was hoping for much better weather. This time, Taranaki delivered.

After a Friday night drive up, we stayed at the Camphouse on the north slopes of Mt Taranaki. The Camphouse, with fully equipped kitchen and hot showers, is definitely the luxury option for track‑end accommodation. Our first sight of Saturday morning was a glorious sunrise and views all the way out to the Central Plateau.

Sunrise from the Camphouse in Taranaki
Sunrise from the Camphouse – Tongariro, Ngauruhoe and Ruapehu in the distance (Photo: James)
The Camphouse in front of Mount Taranaki
The Camphouse and Mount Taranaki (Photo: Tracey)

The start of the circuit, the Holly Hut Track, was still closed after a landslide blocked it in April 2018 so Caryl’s Lake Dive group dropped us off at Kaiauai car park for the alternative route. We made quick progress up the Kokowai Track, with the mountain disappearing behind the cloud that it would hide behind for the rest of the day. As we neared the junction with the Holly Hut Track, we could see the slips that had necessitated our detour.

Boomerang Slip on the Holly Hut Track
Boomerang Slip – on the Holly Hut Track (Photo: James)

We made it to Holly Hut for lunch, with plenty of time for a side trip to Bells Falls. The track to Bells Falls was muddy and slippery over its 150-metre descent and we were glad we left our packs at the hut, but it was worth the trip.

Bells Falls
Bells Falls (Photo: James)

We continued on through Ahukawakawa Swamp and climbed up a few hundred metres onto the Pouakai Range. Looking over our shoulders, there were occasional glimpses of parts of Mount Taranaki behind the cloud.

We made it to Pouakai Hut mid-afternoon. There were plenty of people there, but most were just there on day trips as it’s a short 2 hour walk from the nearest roadend.

Later that evening, while we were cooking dinner and just as the sun had set, we heard from others at the hut that the cloud around the mountain had cleared. Anastasia and I went out to have a look and found ourselves at the Pouakai Tarns (about 20 minutes from the hut), where Anastasia got a stunning photo on her phone’s camera. My digital camera didn’t do so well in the low light.

The classic shot of Mount Taranaki (near sunset)
The classic shot of Mount Taranaki (Photo: Anastasia)

The next day, the cloud cover returned, resulting in a different view of the mountain.

Pouakai Tarn in the morning
Sunday morning at Pouakai Tarn (Photo: James)
Pouakai Tarn
What it looked last time I was here, in May 2018 (Photo: James)

The track continued with a relaxed descent, and then a short but steep climb up Henry Peak. The descent from here goes back down into the bush. We made it to Kaiauai Shelter in good time, and decided it was too early for lunch, so kept on going to the carpark.

Group shot on Kaiauai Track, Egmont National Park
On the Kaiauai Track (Photo: Tracey)

We made it to the Kaiauai car park and found, after a bit of phone tag with the Lake Dive group, that we still had a one hour wait until we were to be picked up. The lure of a coffee at the visitor centre was too strong, so with this mission, we were at the visitor centre 25 minutes later.

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