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
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.
Sunrise from Manuoha Peak.