Into the Urew­eras

The Urew­eras have been get­ting more than their fair share of press over the last few years, next to none of it pos­i­tive, but – don’t be­lieve the hype – for the tram­per the Te Urew­era Na­tional Park with its ever-un­fold­ing ranges of thick pri­mor­dial for­est

Element - - Lifestyle - By Gra­ham Stride

Te Urew­era Na­tional Park is the largest area of na­tive for­est re­main­ing in the North Is­land, and nearly all of New Zealand’s na­tive birds can be found be­neath its canopy. The en­try point for most vis­i­tors is the mag­nif­i­cent Lake Waikare­moana, and for most tram­pers the five-day Great Walk around its shores the des­ti­na­tion. But out in the rugged, mist-clad hills a com­plex net­work of paths and huts ex­tends the length of the park. For those who hunger for the re­mote it rep­re­sents an un­par­al­leled op­por­tu­nity for truly los­ing your­self.

For the week­end wan­derer one of the most sat­is­fy­ing routes is the three-day Man­uoha-Waikare­iti Lake Cir­cuit, un­usual for the views it af­fords from atop its ridges, not least from Man­uoha it­self, the high­est peak in the park. The pull up from the shores of Waikare­moana is not in­con­sid­er­able, but takes you through a rich di­ver­sity of for­est; riwa and

“For the week­end wan­derer one of the most sat­is­fy­ing routes is the three-day Man­uoha-Waikare­iti Lake Cir­cuit”

tawa giv­ing way to beech that be­come in­creas­ingly stunted and laden with lichen as you climb. The fi­nal leg traces a mag­i­cal path, wind­ing through a tun­nel of gnarled, twisted ‘goblin for­est’, cast­ing a truly af­fect­ing and eerie scene in the fad­ing light.

On a clear day more won­ders abound with stag­ger­ing 360-de­gree views across the park from Man­uoha, and not a sin­gle sign of hu­man habi­ta­tion can be seen ex­cept for a wel­come night’s ac­com­mo­da­tion at Man­uoha Hut, which lies just be­low the sum­mit.

Day two is classed as a ‘route’: sim­ply nav­i­gated it none­the­less presents a long day’s for­est travel with oc­ca­sional glimpses of the next night’s stop, pris­tine Lake Waikare­iti. Dis­ap­point­ment at the path’s tan­ta­lis­ing dis­tance from the area’s wet­lands and la­goons once down from the ridge is tem­pered im­me­di­ately by your ar­rival at the lake. If there is a more per­fectly sit­u­ated hut than the over-lit­eral Sandy Bay Hut, this writer has yet to find it.

Chances are you’ll spend a good pro­por­tion of your time at the hut sim­ply gaz­ing over Waikare­iti’s re­mark­ably clear wa­ters. Dawn presents a mag­i­cal scene es­pe­cially when morn­ing cloud cloaks the lake’s sev­eral motu – one of which, Rahui, has its own tiny lake, a rare NZ ex­am­ple of a lake within a lake.

Waikare­iti is some 880m higher than Waikare­moana and the fi­nal day’s walk is a sim­ple but pretty af­fair, skirt­ing the smaller lake be­fore fol­low­ing a well-graded path down to the shores of the larger, end­ing this won­der­ful tramp at the im­pres­sive two-drop Ani­waniwa Falls.

Lake Waik­ere­iti

Pho­tos: Gra­ham Stride

Sun­rise from Man­uoha Peak.

Lake Waik­ere­iti

‘Goblin for­est’

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