Another report on the tramping/bike trails in the Kaimanawa nearby. Images below were taken on an afternoon hike yesterday up the Umukarikari Track above the snow line to illustrate the views from the ridge of the range. The “there & back” distance is about 13 km or a loop track to return on the Urchins Track is about 20 km – still less than the Tongariro Crossing and achievable for a big day out wilderness experience.
But most tourists are looking for something less physical and much easier. We understand… With summer approaching and the clamour for the Tongariro Crossing increasing, this is posted as an alternative option for those looking for something different to escape from queues of tourists. In this central plateau region there are many other options not promoted and this is just one of them. The inmates’ images are just to show the views but there are much more interesting tramps without scaling the heights.
Guests often ask SWMBO (She Who Must Be Obeyed is the Manager of everything at TRM) for a scenic tourist drive and bush walk combination not requiring too much energy…? All the tourist info and brochures focus on the Tongariro Crossing which is far beyond their ability or time frame. So often tourist inmates are looking for a shorter easier walk than the 20+ km Tongariro Crossing. Something less physical as many are in the more mature category and not wanting to test their endurance. Or at the other end of the scale are family groups with young kids who quickly get bored. They could suffer anxiety attacks if they are away from their iPads for more than half an hour. This trip should be compulsory for them. Nature at its best.
They remind us that many are from large cities or urban centres where their longest endurance trek is around the shopping centres. They do not want to test their fitness but just want to experience the joy (?) of the calm peaceful charm of real NZ native bush wilderness that does not involve an all day tramp or climbing hills or wading through streams etc.
Their usual specification is for somewhere they can drive to – say within 20 km – with a pleasant easy stroll in unspoilt mature native forest and some other interesting views with a maximum time/distance of perhaps up to about half an hour.
TRM usually have two suggestions depending on the preferences of the guests. One is on Mt. Ruapehu (which will be subject to another report) with the closest and easiest from Turangi follows… Local shuttle bus operators may like to cater for this large group as we have never seen any commercial operators on this route. They cannot get lost as there is only one track.
The feedback over the years confirms this provides the perfect combination, as reported by many overseas visitors for the last 15 years, in the seclusion of the Kaimanawa forest. Access is from Kaimanawa Road – about 15 km south on SH1 from TRM. Previous reported guests’ comments have been so good we daren’t post it on our reports or tell too many as it would be spoilt by seeing anyone else on the track and the parking is limited to a couple of cars only. It is a beautiful under-rated spot.
In particular, the walk is between the Urchin car park located at the end of the Tree Trunk Gorge track to the Pillars of Hercules car park. It only takes about half an hour strolling through superb native bush. The track is well-formed and well-drained with a mossy charm all of its own. Even on the hottest days, the pace is easy under the canopy of the trees.
When we started taking guests to this region the bush used to be full of birdlife. For some reason, only DOC can explain, the Tui and Bellbird chorus has almost disappeared. So sad. Blame 1080 or global warming? At this time of the year the lost tweets are replaced by buzzing of cicadas mating calls anyway. But even the silence of the bush is deafening.
The photo images cannot do it justice. Even the road access is intoxicating – unsealed gravel with the mature bush along the very edges, more like an English park but nobody could design it. As we sometimes have to act as driver we take them to either end of the track and then drive around to pick them up at the end. The best route with more downhill gradient is from Urchins Camp to the Pillars of Hercules. This provides a view feature at the end of the tramp with spectacular outlook over the Tongariro River cutting through the chasm deep below.
These roads were originally built for construction traffic involved in the Tongariro Hydro Development. The loop track on the return can also take in the underground power station entrance and continues past Umukarikari freedom camping ground to the Poutu Dam.
Warning – the road beyond the camp ground is steep in parts with rough rocky surface – more suitable to 4WD (or rental cars?) and should not be attempted by modern low slung family cars with flat tyres.
So next time you are staying at TRM ask SWMBO the directions for Her recommended “Kaimanawa Experience”. You should be back within 2 hours but often tourists take longer as they get infected and catch the urge to explore other attractions in the upper Tongariro River and Kaimanawa Forest.