The huge popularity of Tongariro River Trail – extending from Turangi for about 5 km south up to where a swing bridge provides walkers and bikers access across the river – is evident from the above images of Red Hut Car park on Saturday morning about 11 am.
These vehicles were not anglers – more bikers and walkers enjoying the great outdoors. Anglers were seen backing out as they could not find a park.
These images were taken on a Saturday morning, 23 September, on the last day before summer daylight saving was introduced, before the school holidays rush starts or before the tourist “silly season” starts.
This car-park is where the swing bridge provides bike or walking access across the Tongariro River, adjoining SH 1 is located about 5 km south of Turangi. A further 10 km south on SH1 is the main access road into the upper Tongariro wilderness area – Kaimanawa Road.
This leads to two main tracks – Urchins Track and Umakarikari Tracks – in addition to accessing tourist features such as the Pillars of Hercules, an underground power station (which should be reconfigured into the Caves of Mordor – to guarantee their commercial appeal and success), plus various wilderness camping grounds, etc..
It is also the main road access to the Poutu Dam where most of the Tongariro River raft journeys commence their float down to the Blue Pool. Looking over the edge of the dam we easily could count over 50 trout accessible for anglers but not an angler was seen.
This may have something to do with the licence regulations as this upper river is not available for fishing until after the spawning season – from December 1.
Some of these camping areas provide a basic “long-drop” toilet but most are just parks in the delightful natural native bush setting.
So you can see where this is leading…
Whilst this access is most popular for rafting access to the upper Tongariro River – particularly during the summer months – it has also become very popular these days when so many tourists have a 4WD van or camper wagon to sleep in. Others prefer tents.
So it was interesting to explore in this “shoulder” season before the really strong pressure from tourism starts, to measure how many use it for camping and tramping.
This Kaimanawa Park area is of particular interest as it has now become the target for selecting and developing a new “Great Walk” – initiated by the blog you are reading….
The Department of Conservation, bless them, have asked for submissions on proposals. They advised NZ is experiencing its highest growth in population size and international visitor numbers and suggested:
There are currently 9 Great Walks with another in development on the West Coast. Adding two new walks will total 12 Great Walks spread around New Zealand.
Great Walks can provide sustainable economic benefits.
Great Walks provide an opportunity for visitors to connect with nature.
This is a rare opportunity for DOC to develop two new Great Walks and create more exceptional visitor experiences in different parts of NZ.
An alternative option to the Tongariro Crossing?
As everyone realises, the most crowded Great Walk with 2-3000 walkers on a busy day – is the Tongariro Alpine Crossing – located only about 15 km from these Kaimanawa tracks. This proposal will substantially reduce the pressure on the Tongariro Alpine Crossing.
These Kaimanawa tracks are already sign-posted and maintained by DOC as confirmed by their signage everywhere. Most of the roading and camp sites infrastructure is already in place.
So all they need is linking up with the existing Tongariro River Trail to become another of NZ’s multi-day Great Walks.
The roading access and tracks are already formed from the Tongariro Power Project back in the 1970-1980’s which included construction of the Poutu Dam and Rangipo underground power station. To qualify as a “new” Great Walk it is really a “no-brainer”.
Tourists are amazed DOC even had to seek to consider other proposals as this one is staring at them as the most obvious choice. Today’s TRM Report is delighted to be the first to introduce the next NZ Great Walk.
The images tell the story of how DOC have already committed themselves to the next Great NZ Walk – a 3 or 4 day loop trail leading south following the Tongariro River and climbing loop tracks in the Kaimanawas, commencing from that most popular of tourist towns – Turangi.
DAY 1 – The first day will be a 20km walk/ride from Turangi south across on the eastern side of the Tongariro River to follow the existing Tongariro River Trail and continue above the Blue Pool where access tracks already exist up to the Umukarikari Camping Ground.
DAY 2 – The second day will involve a climb up the Umukarikari track to the 1591m summit, with great views over Tongariro National Park and Ruapehu from the ridge track to the Urchin trig at 1392m and back down the Urchin track to existing camping grounds.
DAY 3 – The third day – which could also be the second day for those not fit enough for the climb is the existing DOC track to Tree Trunk Gorge and back via Pillars of Hercules Bridge on the other side of Tongariro River.
DAY 4 – The last day would return down river along the opposite western side of the Tongariro River to link with the existing Tongariro River Trail and return via the Trout Centre. A few new swing bridges will be needed across the creeks.
Nearby there are other ‘unique’ tourist attractions with huge potential – like the North Island’s only underground power station, which will eventually be open to the public viewing once it has been bought out by Peter Jackson.
(We understand they intend to be developed as the Caves of Mordor as a natural extension to Hobbitton, but that is still confidential stuff so we cannot mention too much – yet.
That is the tourist shuttle bus vehicle entry above left disappearing down into the Kaimanawas.)
The infrastructure that attracts so many “freedom campers” includes a shelter with seating and various long drop loos around the camping spots. This loop track route was surveyed about seven years ago but delayed – awaiting settlement of the Treaty Claims on the land which was previously owned by Corrections Department – to be returned to Maori ownership.
At that time our wonderful Taupo MP Louise Upston convinced the Corrections Department who were so keen they offered to build all the new tracks for us and allowed us access over their existing tracks to link up the Tongariro River Trail with the Kaimanawa tracks.
All the sealed roads and access and parking and camping grounds are already provided in place. The main Kaimanawa Road is fully sealed and waiting for tourist traffic.
Trampers and bikers tents and gear etc can be taken ahead each day by shuttle buses from Turangi. Eventually, once the commercial success is confirmed, permanent tourist accommodation structures can be completed.
It is all just waiting for DOC’s Head Office to investigate and realise the immense potential and agree to provide another option to avoid the Tongariro Crossing crowding and delays.
It would be very difficult for any other Great Walk proposal to beat that!. Watch this space….